Farm and natural resource groups quickly announced their support Thursday for President-elect Trump’s nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to be secretary of Agriculture.
Trump’s pick to head the USDA was the last of his Cabinet nominations, a fact that irritated some in agriculture because it appeared to indicate Trump had little interest in the nation’s farms, forests and rangeland. At the recent American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Phoenix, AFBF President Zippy Duvall acknowledged that worry but urged producers to trust the incoming president.
On Thursday, Duvall called the nomination of Perdue, a fellow Georgian and friend, “welcome news.”
“I’ve seen firsthand his commitment to the business of agriculture as we worked together on issues facing farmers and ranchers in our home state of Georgia,” Duvall said in a prepared statement.
“He understands the challenges facing rural America because that’s where he was born and raised. He is a businessman who recognizes the impact immigration reform, trade agreements and regulation have on a farmer’s bottom line and ability to stay in business from one season to the next.”
Other organizations voiced variations of that endorsement.
Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif said Perdue “has proven to be a consummate champion for agriculture and will undoubtedly serve our industry well in this capacity.”
Nassif said vegetable, fruit and nut growers are counting on Perdue to press the administration and Congress for immigration reform and assure agriculture a stable workforce. In a prepared statement, he said ag is “unique among industries” because its labor needs can’t be met by domestic workers.
“Foreign hands will harvest our crops, either here or abroad,” he warned.
Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said he hopes Perdue supports a comprehensive, “robust” farm bill, including comprehensive crop insurance and good conservation and rural development programs.
Perdue will hopefully help Trump realize the importance of trade for agriculture, Goule said.
“Pulling out of the (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and renegotiating (the North America Free Trade Agreement) is not in the best interest of agriculture, family farmers and wheat growers, especially in the United States,” Goule said. “I’m hoping he can use his influence and ability to talk to President-Elect Trump and the rest of the administration as a more economical or reasonable way to move forward with trade, so we not only don’t disrupt our markets, but we make sure they are still there for years to come.”
Perdue supports trade, but shares the Trump’s administration position on TPP, “which is concerning,” said Matt Harris, director of government affairs at the Washington State Potato Commission.
“Hopefully what we can see is the administration moving toward unique trade agreements with specific countries,” Harris said.
The American Wood Council called on Perdue to continue USDA’s and Forest Service’s support for basic research of innovative wood products and tall wood building construction. Doing so would introduce carbon-neutral building materials to urban areas and provide jobs in rural areas, the council said.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership praised Perdue as a quail hunter and “true sportsman” who created a “culture of conservation” during his time as Georgia governor.
From the Heritage Foundation, conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., ag expert Daren Bakst said Perdue should “work diligently to free our nation’s farmers from excessive regulation, stop government handouts that presume farmers cannot compete in the marketplace like other businesses, and break down barriers to increase farmers’ freedom to trade.”
The National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association called Perdue an “excellent choice” with a strong track record in Georgia of supporting rural utilities and the farms, ranches and small towns they serve.