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New US ag secretary grew up on a farm

The new US agriculture secretary under the new Republican president Donald Trump will most likely be Sonny Perdue, a veterinarian and the former governor of Georgia.

His announcement is yet to be confirmed by the US Senate.

George Ervin Perdue III, nicknamed Sonny (1946), has a long history in both politics as well as agriculture. He grew up on a row crop farm in central Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. He started out his career running a grain and fertiliser business, according to the New York Times.

Governor of Georgia

For two terms, Mr Perdue was governor of Georgia (2003-2011), a well-known agricultural state for its poultry and egg business, and of major importance for crops like cotton and peanuts. He was known for promoting pro-business policies, writes. He stepped down in 2011 and founded Perdue Partners, an Atlanta-based trading company.

Sonny Perdue, photographed late 2016 when arriving at Trump Tower in New York City, to discuss a position in the new Cabinet. Photo: Albin Lohr-Jones | Pool | ANP
Sonny Perdue, photographed late 2016 when arriving at Trump Tower in New York City, to discuss a position in the new Cabinet. Photo: Albin Lohr-Jones | Pool | ANP

During a record drought in Georgia in 2007, the current agriculture secretary nominee led several hundred people at the State Capitol in a prayer for rain. He also called for strict water usage restrictions.

President Trump’s statement

President Trump announced Mr Purdue, saying, “From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, 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.”

Mr Perdue’s political career is remarkable as he started out as a Democrat, who switched to become Republican in 1998. If confirmed by the Senate, he will succeed Michael Scuse, who has temporarily been acting agriculture secretary since the previous agricultural secretary Tom Vilsack stepped down on 13 January.

Feedback from the industry

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) was pleased with the announcement and called Mr Perdue ‘very good for America’s farmers and ranchers’.

NPPC president John Weber said in a statement, “Well, we don’t have a lot of pork production down in Georgia, but Sonny Perdue is from a farm family and he’s a veterinarian. You know, the last guy we had at the head of USDA was from the No. 1 corn, egg and pork producing state in the nation, and that didn’t do us much good.”

Pig Progress did visit a pork producer in Georgia – read about it here.

Weber continued to say, “NPPC believes Sonny Perdue will make a great secretary. He knows farming, he knows exports are vital to US agriculture and he knows you need to run USDA like a business, not like the bureaucracy it’s been for the past eight years. We strongly support him, and we urge the Senate to confirm him as the 31st secretary of agriculture.”

Vision from environmentalists

Environmental activists condemned the president’s choice, pointing to federal farm subsidies given to chemical companies and large agriculture conglomerates, like larger chicken farms.

Donald Trump and animal welfare

If confirmed, Mr Perdue will oversee the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), having about a $140-$150 billion budget and about 100,000 employees. The USDA is in charge of farm policy and food safety, nutrition programmes and the Forest Service. The new agriculture secretary will have to deal with the 2018 Farm Bill.

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