After much anticipation, Thursday’s confirmation that the incoming Trump Administration would nominate former Georgia Governor and long-time agribusiness owner Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture was welcomed by many in the industry.
“Governor Perdue has a very good reputation within the ag industry,” Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of Agriculture, said in a statement. “USDA is a critically important partner for our department and I’m excited to continue that strong working relationship around issues of animal health, soil conservation, water quality and many others.”
Perdue, 70, served as governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011 and grew up on a dairy farm in the state. He earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1971 before going on to own grain trading and transportation businesses operating in the Southeast.
“He has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land,” President-elect Trump said in a statement announcing his nomination.
Trump’s scant campaign statements related to agriculture largely focused on the impact of trade policy and his pledges to repeal what he labeled as burdensome taxes and regulations including the estate tax and the Waters of the U.S. Rule.
Following his confirmation, Perdue is expected to play a role in a varied set of debates related to agriculture, most prominently including proposed changes to the nation’s immigration system and negotiations related to federal support for farmers the 2018 Farm Bill.
“Governor Perdue has a unique and expert understanding of both the business and scientific sides of agriculture,” said National Cattleman’s Beef Association president Tracy Brunner in a statement. “In a time of increasing regulations and a growing governmental footprint, we have no doubt that [he] will step in and stand up for rural America.”
The most prominent criticism of Perdue’s nomination came in a statement from the environmental advocacy organization Friends of the Earth, which has highlighted the lack of gender and racial diversity in Trump’s cabinet, as well as Perdue’s business ties.
“Given Perdue’s position with a global agribusiness trading company and his actions as governor, we are concerned that [he] will use his position at USDA to prioritize the profits of big agribusiness and trade over the interests of American farmers, workers and consumers,” said deputy director of food and technology Kari Hamerschlag.
Charles W. Herbster, national chair of the Trump campaign’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and himself a reported one-time candidate for the position, told Agri Investor in an interview that Perdue was an appropriate and exciting choice for the job.
Herbster spoke from Washington, DC, where he was preparing to attend Friday’s inauguration, noting he had met with Perdue just last week.
“Governor Sonny Perdue will be a great ag secretary,” he said.