Two days before the Inauguration of our 45th President, Mr. Trump finally named a Secretary of Agriculture. This was his last cabinet position to fill. Folks in this part of the country, and perhaps everywhere were waiting to see who would be tapped for this position.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing agriculture throughout the country. Agriculture includes not only the production, transportation and marketing of fruits and vegetables, but also dairy products and meats such as beef and poultry.
The USDA is also tasked with overseeing the uses of many natural resources. The secretary of agriculture is responsible for ensuring that the agency performs these essential functions.
The Secretary of Agriculture, obviously oversees all this. There are seven main tasks assigned to this office: Research, Free Trade in Agriculture, Educating the Public, Streamlining Marketing, Quality Control and Advisory Function.
In plain English, to those of us around here, the Secretary of Ag position is a powerful force in our attempt to make a living on the farm.
With the coming of a Republican President, former Secretary Tom Vilsack was forced to resign his position. Many of the cotton producers around here think that resignation was long overdue.
Last year’s refusal by former Secretary Vilsack to sign off on the cotton seed oil designation, irked many a cotton farmer simply trying to make a living.
But now we have a new guy. Former Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue.
Perdue is a former Democrat who made the switch to the Republican Party prior to his election as Governor of Georgia in 2003. He held that office until 2011.
He does have a strong ag background. He grew up on the farm and pursued a degree in Veterinary Medicine, earning his doctorate.
He is also a managing partner for AGrow Star, a grain business, with 11 locations cross Georgia and South Carolina. AGrow Star grew out of a grain and fertilizer business Perdue’s family built that later bought and merged with a group of grain elevators in 2000.
He has also served on several boards in agriculture, including as a board member for the National Grain and Feed Association and as secretary for the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
Response to the naming of Perdue for this position was swift in coming.
Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway stated, “Agriculture is the backbone of our nation. However, America’s farmers and ranchers are facing difficult times under current farm conditions, and they deserve a Secretary who will work diligently to turn those tides. As we begin working on the next Farm Bill, the Secretary will play a vital role in implementing positive changes for our producers and must understand every aspect of the job at hand…I look forward to working with Sonny Perdue, especially on the committee’s priorities as Congress begins its work toward the next Farm Bill.”
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall stated, “(Perdue) was always very good at promoting agricultural products. Perdue is a friend of agriculture.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation stated they strongly endorse Mr. Perdue.
Newly elected Congressman, Jodey Arrington stated, “Congratulations to former Governor Sonny Perdue on his nomination to lead the Agriculture Department. Like many of us in West Texas, former Governor Perdue grew up around farmland and the agriculture business. I look forward to working alongside Mr. Perdue to fight for farmers, ranchers, and all good Americans who earn their living off the land.”
Locally, Plains Cotton Growers President Johnie Reed, a cotton producer from Kress, stated, “He is a veterinarian and a successful agri-businessman who grew up on a traditional row-crop farm, a combination that undoubtedly gives him a wide understanding of many aspects of agriculture.
“Georgia is the number two cotton-producing state in the nation, so as growers, we appreciate the fact that Perdue is aware of the challenges facing our industry in particular.. However, agriculture as a whole is of utmost importance, as we all must work together to feed and clothe this nation and the world.”
West Texas Young Farmer President and Terry County Farm Bureau Board President Kyle Kelly stated, “This looks like it could be a good deal for us. We need a strong voice in Washington and Mr. Perdue’s record shows he is a strong ag supporter. The fact that he grew up on a row-crop farm in Georgia ought to keep him in touch with what the day to day problems on the farm are. We look forward to seeing what he does.”
Of course, Perdue is not without his detractors. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley tweeted, “Frustr8ting read abt transition to AgSecy. PRETTY SIMPLE: AgSecy not abt social engineering NEED Ag leader w dirt under fingernails 4farmers.”
Ricardo Salvador, of the union of Concerned Scientist said the avowed spokesman for American agriculture represents “just a sliver of already wealthy and politically entrenched agribusiness interests, not the majority of U.S. farmers, who have small and medium sized farms.”
Friends of the Earth Deputy Director of Food and Technology Kari Hamerschlag stated, “ While trade is important, we need a leader at the USDA who understands the importance of growing local agricultural economies. The USDA Secretary must focus on creating good jobs in rural America by supporting independent farmers and rancher who are working hard to meet U.S. consumers’ demand for healthier, cleaner food that is grown without the use of synthetic hormones, routine antibiotics, GMOs or toxic pesticides.”
Also of importance was the naming of the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Scott Pruitt was tabbed for this post.
Pruitt, who has served as the Oklahoma Attorney General, has sued the EPA repeatedly. He accused the agency under Obama of flouting congressional rules and ignoring the desires of states. Pruitt said “rule of law matters” and that as EPA director he would “follow the law” and regulations set out by Congress, a suggestion that the current leadership has not done that.
Of local concern is the Waters of the U.S (WOTUS) which many feel smacks of government overreach at its finest. The impact this office can have on the farm cannot be overstated.
It remains to be seen what a difference an Ag Secretary Perdue and an EPA Chairman Pruitt can make on the Terry and Gaines County farms and farmers.
As our administration changes over, it is certainly worth watching. And praying.