Promising to be "the chief salesman around the world" of U.S. agriculture's great bounty, Former Georgia Gov. and NGFA Board Member Sonny Perdue faced a collegial group of lawmakers yesterday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee.
During the hearing, Perdue said "ag is in my heart" and talked about building his home county's first grain elevator in 1976. Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee commented on the importance of agricultural trade. Acknowledging low commodity prices and economic pain in rural communities, Perdue stated that he believes, "trade is really the answer," and indicated that if confirmed his "first stop is going to be at Mr. (Robert) Lighthizer's door" (Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. trade representative). Further, Perdue touted the importance of personal relationships and pledged that his USDA would work side-by-side with other agencies on trade and other issues important to agriculture.
Perdue said his goals, should he confirmed as the next secretary of agriculture, will be to maximize opportunities for men and women in agriculture to create jobs, prioritize customer service at USDA, ensure food safety, and promote land conservation resources.
Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., indicated the committee had received a letter of support for Perdue's nomination signed by nearly 700 organizations (including the NGFA and many of its member companies and affiliated associations) and that a committee vote would be scheduled as soon as possible. The Senate has just two working weeks left before a two-week mid-April recess.