Sonny Perdue was sworn in as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by fellow Georgian and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas in a brief ceremony on April 25 at the Supreme Court building. The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Perdue by a vote of 87-to-11 on April 24. After Secretary Perdue took the oath of office, he addressed employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before getting to work. On April 25, USDA launched his official Twitter handle: @SecretarySonny.
“The only legacy that I seek is the only one that any grandparent or parent seeks – to be good stewards, and to hand off our nation, our home, our fields, our forests, and our farms to the next generation in better shape than we found it,” Perdue said. “Making sure that Americans who make their livelihoods in the agriculture industry have the ability to thrive will be one of my top priorities. I am committed to serving the customers of USDA, and I will be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.”
Upon nominating Secretary Perdue in January, President Donald J. Trump said, “Sonny Perdue is going to accomplish great things as Secretary of Agriculture. 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.”
Perdue joins White House “Farmers Roundtable”
On April 25, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue joined President Trump for a “Farmers Roundtable” at the White House to address issues facing the American agriculture community, as the president signed an Executive Order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The roundtable discussion allowed representatives from all corners of American agriculture to raise concerns and share ideas, just as the task force begins its mission “to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America,” according to the president’s order.
The Farmers Roundtable featured more than a dozen farmers and representatives of the agriculture community who discussed with President Trump and Secretary Perdue a variety of topics, including agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural investment and infrastructure, labor issues, and the Farm Bill. Participants in the roundtable included:
- Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former Oklahoma House member, Lindsay, OK
- Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, PA
- Hank Choate, Choate’s Belly Acres, Cement City, MI
- Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, Ohio
- Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, GA
- Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, MN
- Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Inc., Fanning Springs, FL (also farms in the state of Kansas)
- A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce, Newport Beach, CA
- James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, NC
- Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and farmer, Spirit Lake, Iowa
- Jose Rojas, VP of Farm Operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, CO
- Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, CO
- Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, NY
- Steve Troxler, NC Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, NC
“The Farmers Roundtable provided the chance for the President to hear directly from the people on the front lines of American agriculture about what they are dealing with every day,” Secretary Perdue said. “By hosting this discussion, the president has demonstrated his awareness of the plight of American farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, his intention to seek input, and his determination to help.”
President Trump’s Executive Order
President Trump’s Executive Order established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity “to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.” As Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue will serve as the task force’s chairman.
“It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture while protecting and supporting the rural communities where food, forestry, fiber, and renewable fuels are grown,” the text of the Executive Order reads. “It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.”
The task force will examine and consider, among other issues, current barriers to economic prosperity in rural America and how innovation and technology may play a role in long-term, sustainable rural development. The panel will attempt to strengthen federalism by working with state agencies charged with implementing economic development, agricultural, and environmental programs, while also emphasizing regulatory flexibility for farms and small businesses. With a dependence on sound science, task force members will examine crop protection tools used by farmers and also address concerns regarding labor needed for livestock and year-round agricultural jobs. Additionally, the group will focus on tax policies that allow family farms to remain intact, while also protecting against federal takeover of state-adjudicated water rights, permitting and licensing, and conservation requirements beyond what is provided in law. Finally, members will look to improve food safety and the implementation of food safety laws, but also recognize the unique nature of farming and the diverse business structures of farms.
“It used to be that people in agriculture feared disease and drought as the greatest threats to their livelihoods and their mission of feeding America and the world,” Perdue said. “While those hazards remain, too often now it is the government – through interference and regulation – that poses the most existential threat to American farming. We aim to put a stop to that.”
The task force will seek input from stakeholders in the agricultural community and is required to issue a report with recommendations for legislative or administrative actions within 180 days. The task force will consist of representatives from the following cabinet agencies and executive branch departments.
Sonny Perdue, the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, came by his knowledge of agriculture the old fashioned way: he was born into a farming family in Bonaire, GA. From childhood, and through his life in business and elected office, Perdue has experienced the industry from every possible perspective. Under Secretary Perdue, the USDA is facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. As the former governor of Georgia, he is a strong believer in good government who will seek solutions to problems and not lament that the agency might be faced with difficult challenges. His four guiding principles are clear: to maximize the ability of American agriculture to create jobs, sell foods and fiber, and feed and clothe the world; to prioritize customer service for the taxpayers; to ensure that our food supply is safe and secure; and to maintain good stewardship of the natural resources that provide us with our miraculous bounty. And understanding that we live in a global economy where trade is of top importance, Secretary Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.
Historic White House Ag Roundtable discussion included New York farmer
New York dairy and vegetable farmer, Maureen Torrey from Genesee County, joined 13 other farmers from across the country for the roundtable discussion.
“It is an honor to have a representative of New York agriculture invited to play an integral role in the roundtable discussion at the White House,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President. “Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the administration and Congress on issues like trade, farm labor and regulatory reform, with the goal of boosting American agriculture and increasing access to New York-grown food.”
The event is an historic occasion, as it is believed the last time a group of farmers met with a U.S. president this early in an administration was prior to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
It followed the swearing-in of newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. New York Farm Bureau is supportive of Secretary Perdue and is pleased to see him finally in place as the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Secretary Perdue is one of us. He grew up on a dairy farm, raised row crops, and was an agri-business owner. It is important to have someone in this position who understands trade, immigration and a whole host of other issues that are vital to a farmer’s success. Secretary Perdue spoke about having the opportunity to visit New York during his confirmation hearing, and New York Farm Bureau would like to personally invite him to our great state to showcase the opportunities and challenges that exist for our diverse membership,” said Fisher.