Sunday, December 10, 2023

Sonny Perdue confirmed as 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

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By David B. Strickland

Poultry Times Staff

WASHINGTON — Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 24, by an 87 to 11 vote and now becomes the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

He was nominated by President Donald Trump for the position on Jan. 18.

Perdue has worked in and for agriculture in a variety of capacities his entire life. He was born into a farm family in Bonaire, Ga., in 1946, and has worked as a farmer, veterinarian and legislator.

As head of the USDA, he will lead the $150 billion department and its approximately 100,000 employees involved with all facets of the nation’s food and farm programs from production to conservation to nutrition.

The USDA has noted that Perdue will hit the ground running with his new leadership position to guide the department in ways that will produce positive results for the industry. The department said, “. . . he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers and producers every opportunity to prosper.”

Perdue is also the first alumnus of the University of Georgia to be named to the White House cabinet. He earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from UGA in 1971.

“Sec. Perdue is a distinguished alumnus of the University of Georgia, and we are grateful for the tremendous support he has demonstrated for his alma mater over the years,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said in release from the university. “We look forward to the important contributions he will make to the nation’s vital agricultural industry in this new role.”

Sam Pardue, dean of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, added that, “Not only does Sec. Perdue know firsthand the intricacies of providing, protecting and promoting the U.S. food system, he has long been a strong supporter of the land-grant mission in public universities across the country and our role in keeping U.S. agriculture growing and leading in sustainable food production.”

Industry reaction

Leaders of national and state poultry and agricultural industry associations have been voicing their approval for Perdue.

“Sec. Perdue has an established legacy for accomplishments, and is certainly familiar with the poultry industry,” said John Starkey, president of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. “We look forward to his service as Secretary of Agriculture.”

“Sonny Perdue will be an outstanding Secretary of Agriculture,” Mike Giles, Georgia Poultry Federation president said. “He has a deep appreciation for agriculture based on decades of experience in agribusiness, and as a veterinarian Sec. Perdue will have an understanding of the issues facing poultry and other sectors in the animal agriculture world.”

Mike Brown, National Chicken Council president, noted that the April 24 vote, “symbolizes the broad bipartisan support afforded to Sec. Perdue and his vast qualifications for the position. It’s been long overdue that he transitioned from ‘Governor’ Perdue to ‘Secretary’ Perdue. We look forward to immediately beginning our work with the department on the issues of importance to chicken producers, many of which are familiar to the new secretary who hails from the number one chicken-producing state in the ‘Broiler Belt.’”

The National Turkey Federation added that Perdue “brings to the job executive experience from his tenure as Georgia’s governor, a background in family farming and a special knowledge of poultry and meat production that comes with being a veterinarian. NTF and its members are looking forward to his real-world approach to agriculture. He understands that agriculture is the foundation of our nation and that, given a strong economic environment; America has an unmatched capacity to help feed a hungry world.”

The egg industry is also applauding Perdue’s confirmation.

“Egg farmers are confident that under Sec. Perdue’s thoughtful leadership, USDA will be a strong and vibrant agency that advocates for agriculture, galvanizes farmers around shared goals and spurs continued growth in the amazing productivity of the United States food system,” said Chad Gregory, United Egg Producers president. “USDA’s role is essential to the long-term success of the egg farming community, because it is integral to so many areas of our business — from food safety and animal health, to trade promotion, marketing assistance and federal procurement. As the leading voice of U.S. egg farmers, with a membership responsible for the production of 95 percent of eggs in the nation, UEP thanks President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate for choosing Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture.”

“The feed industry looks forward to working closely with Sec. Perdue, assisting him and his staff on animal food-related topics, and how our industry relates to other agriculture sectors and to consumers,” said Joel G. Newman, president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association. “We expect Sec. Perdue’s government and agriculture experience to align with the industry’s initiatives, and plan to provide our industry’s input and support on various issues including trade and the impending farm bill.”

The North American Meat Institute is also welcoming Perdue’s confirmation.

“His experience as a farmer and veterinarian will be valuable in his new role as he works on behalf of U.S. agriculture, a critically important sector of the U.S. economy and responsible for feeding Americans and people around the world,” Barry Carpenter, NAMI president and CEO, said. “We look forward to working with Sec. Perdue to ensure the safety of the nation’s meat and poultry supply, expand trade opportunities around the world and to address the challenges facing our industry.”

“We are eager for agriculture to finally have a seat in the president’s cabinet, and we know Sec. Perdue is just as eager to get to work for farmers, consumers and rural America,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president. “He is a real-world farmer himself and knows the business inside out. He understands the impact farm labor shortages, trade agreements and regulations have on a farmer’s bottom line and ability to stay in business from one season to the next.

“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. But just like America’s farmers and ranchers, I know Sec. Perdue isn’t afraid of a hard day’s work. We are confident he is the right man for the job at hand.”

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