Published: Wed, April 26, 2017
National | By Traci Kelley

Heitkamp votes to confirm Perdue as USDA Secretary

Heitkamp votes to confirm Perdue as USDA Secretary

Sonny Perdue will be the agriculture secretary in President Donald Trump's administration, having the mission of getting the farming industry back on its feet.

When Perdue was nominated as Agriculture Secretary in January, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) issued the following statement by Pamela G. Bailey, President and CEO of GMA, "As Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue's agricultural business background and experience as governor will serve the USA well".

Perdue, 70, served as Georgia governor between 2003 and 2011 and was a state senator for 11 years before that.

At the hearing, Perdue said he would be a "tenacious advocate and fighter" for rural America when dealing with the White House and other agencies and noted a growing middle class around the world that is hungry for USA products.

Perdue will oversee USDA's more than 100,000 employees and a budget exceeding $150 billion.

Democrats surely think so.

The confirmation is a long-awaited win for agriculture and for farm groups who are dealing with trade issues with Canada over dairy, disaster relief efforts from plains wildfires, and beginning Farm Bill talks. USA farmers rely on existing export markets for much of their livelihood, and they deserve access to new markets wherever it makes sense.

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Perdue was last Cabinet-level pick to be announced by Trump, and it took weeks to submit his Senate paperwork as he looked to untie himself from his myriad business interests.

Senator David Perdue, the nominee's first cousin, voted present.

"Rural America is the economic backbone of our country, and it's too true that small towns are continuing to struggle to recover from the recession", she said during the March hearing. "There's important work ahead for the secretary, and he'll need to address these challenges against the backdrop of the biggest drop in farm prices and income we've seen in decades". Current farm policy expires next year, and lawmakers on the House and Senate agriculture committees will have to find a way to push it through Congress amid heightened partisan tensions and concerns over spending.

After months without an agriculture secretary, Perdue will be sworn in early Tuesday.

Perdue said he will prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers.

"He understands that the Agriculture Department has a profound impact on almost every community across the country and certainly every family", said U.S. Sen.

Trump's order establishes a task force in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate measures to spur industry growth and potentially remove obstacles - another step in his general pledge to deregulate American business.

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