Three months after his nomination, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was confirmed as the 31st U.S. secretary of agriculture by the Senate on April 24 and sworn in the next day.
The much-delayed appointment—the last announced Trump cabinet post on Jan. 19—prompted some in the agricultural industry to express concerns that the president has made a low priority of rural and farm interests credited with his victory.
To address those concerns in part, President Trump and Perdue wasted no time in hosting a “Farmers Roundtable” at the White House after the secretary’s swearing-in ceremony April 25. The event featured more than a dozen farmers and representatives of the agriculture community who discussed topics such as agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural infrastructure, labor issues and the Farm Bill.
The president also signed an executive order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity with a mission “to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America.” Perdue will lead that task force.
Perdue’s first official trip as secretary outside of Washington, DC, was to Missouri, where he spoke April 28 in Kansas City at a town hall session for farmers and ag industry representatives including MFA Incorporated CEO Ernie Verslues.
Two weeks later, Perdue announced he is reorganizing USDA, creating an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs position in recognition of the importance of international trade to American agriculture. The new position was outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill but never implemented.
In the first significant reorganization of USDA since 1994, the proposed structure also includes a new Farm Production and Conservation mission area to focus on domestic agricultural issues. A new undersecretary will be selected for this area, which will include the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Under the reorganization plan, Rural Development will no longer have its own undersecretary but will report directly to Perdue. The undersecretary for natural resources and environment will retain supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. A reduction in USDA workforce is not part of the reorganization plan.
See the full report at www.usda.gov/our-agency/reforming-usda.