Tags: Donald Trump | Sonny Perdue | agriculture | secretary | transition

Reports: Trump to Nominate Perdue as Agriculture Secretary

Image: Reports: Trump to Nominate Perdue as Agriculture Secretary

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue, R-Ga.

By    |   Wednesday, 18 Jan 2017 08:11 PM

President-elect Donald Trump will name former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as his nominee to lead the $140 billion Department of Agriculture, Fox News reported Wednesday night.

The news broke on Fox Business Network's "Lou Dobbs Tonight."

CNN's Jim Acosta tweeted the news as well.

Perdue's cousin, Georgia Sen. David Perdue, seemed to confirm the news, issuing a press release, saying, "I could not be more proud of my cousin, Sonny, for being named the next Secretary of Agriculture. . . . I am confident Sonny will work hard to advance smart agriculture policies that will help our farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across the country."

The 70-year-old Perdue served on Trump's agricultural advisory committee during the presidential campaign. He would be the first agriculture secretary from a Southern state since Mike Espy of Mississippi headed the department in the early 1990s, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Perdue met with Trump shortly after Thanksgiving, the newspaper reported.

"He asked me what my skills sets were, and I told him what they were, aside from having been governor, as a business person and primarily in agricultural commodities, trading domestically and internationally. And he lit up," Perdue said after the meeting, the newspaper reported.

"He knew what it takes to make America great again by doing the things we do well, which is agriculture for one and to free up farmers from the regulations that we see. He was spot on on those issues."

A veterinarian-turned-politician with a long history in middle Georgia agribusinesses, Perdue helped craft Georgia agriculture policy in the 1990s as a Democratic state senator from Houston County before switching to the GOP in 1998, the Journal-Constitution reported.

His surprise victory over Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002 – making him Georgia’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction – triggered a Republican wave in Georgia that flipped the state Senate and then the state House, the newspaper noted.

As governor, Perdue championed legislation aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and new photo ID requirements.

By nominating a former governor from a Southern state, Trump eschewed candidates from major Farm Belt states in the Midwest that produce the bulk of crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat which dominate agriculture exports. Georgia is a key producer of crops such as cotton and peanuts.

While Georgia governor, Perdue had to handle a severe drought in 2007, during which he took steps to cut water usage and at one point led a service outside the state capitol to pray for rain.

Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), said he thought Perdue would support agriculture exports.

"I think he will be very much in favor of trade," Moore said in a telephone interview. The ASA, with 15 other farm groups, this month urged the incoming administration to "protect and enhance" agricultural trade and its impact on the rural economy.

Trade, a signature issue during the campaign in which Trump accused China of unfair practices, is critical for the farm economy. U.S. farm and food exports to China were more than $20.2 billion in 2015.

Prices for soybeans rose 16.2 percent during 2016 on strong demand from China, which buys nearly 30 percent of the U.S. crop. Soybean exports helped boost U.S. gross domestic product in the third quarter.

Some farmers are concerned that Trump's criticism of China could lead to deteriorating trade relations and put exports at risk.

An influential Chinese state-run newspaper warned this week that U.S. agricultural imports and U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co could be targets for retaliation in any trade war ushered in by Trump.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau, praised Perdue as a strong voice.

But environmental groups opposed the nominee.

"Farmers need a champion in the USDA who will fight for conservation programs to help farmers be more resilient in the face of extreme weather, not pray for rain," Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and technology at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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President-elect Donald Trump will name former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as his nominee to lead the $140 billion Department of Agriculture, Fox News reported Wednesday night.
Sonny Perdue, agriculture, secretary, transition
Wednesday, 18 Jan 2017 08:11 PM
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