OMAHA (DTN) -- President-elect Donald Trump's selection of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to head USDA was praised by a broad swath of agriculture groups as good for an industry facing challenging times.
The Trump transition team interviewed a wide variety of candidates for Agriculture secretary, often drawing criticism for taking one of the longest periods of time ever to fill the post, up to one day before the inauguration.
Most agriculture groups expressed strong support for Perdue, who has broad experience in the grain business and as a veterinarian, as well as executive experience as Georgia's first Republican governor since the Reconstruction, and as an outdoorsman who appreciates the role of conservation in agriculture.
"The nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for secretary of Agriculture is welcome news to the nation's farmers and ranchers," said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
"Gov. Perdue will provide the strong voice that agriculture needs in the new administration. He is an outstanding nominee. I have known Gov. Perdue for years. I've seen firsthand his commitment to the business of agriculture as we worked together on issues facing farmers and ranchers in our home state of Georgia. He understands the challenges facing rural America because that's where he was born and raised."
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said he is hopeful Perdue will champion agriculture at a challenging time.
"USDA is more than agriculture's agency," Johnson said. "It is America's agency. We look forward to working with Mr. Perdue and the new administration to create and defend a strong farm safety net and provide meaningful farm policy solutions for producers, particularly dairy farmers and cotton growers, in the next farm bill. We will also ask that USDA take a proactive approach to building opportunities for rural America, increasing support for conservation as a way to manage risk on the farm, and expanding market opportunities for all types of agriculture production."
American Soybean Association President and Illinois soybean farmer Ron Moore said Perdue will be vital to setting the tone for the next farm bill.
"From working to implement a viable risk management framework to helping expand our markets overseas, to investing in agricultural research here at home, these are critical elements of the farm economy, and we look forward to working alongside USDA under Secretary Perdue to ensure that the department continues to serve American soybean farmers in the most effective manner possible," Moore said.
NEXT FARM BILL
In a tweet Thursday morning, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, questioned whether Midwest agriculture would have a seat at the table with Perdue.
"Now that a person fr Southern Ag being named Ag Secy I'm interested in how MidWest Ag will hv a seat at the table," Grassley said in a tweet.
Later in an official press statement Grassley said, "The secretary of agriculture oversees a broad swath of very important American policy that helps feed and fuel the world. Understanding and having an appreciation of the institution of the family farm like we have in Iowa and the Midwest, which is the strength of American agriculture, is important. This is especially true as we think about policies that will enable the next generation of farmers to make a living producing the food and renewable fuels the world needs. I look forward to meeting with Governor Perdue and learning his views on agriculture."
Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate ag committee, said in a statement Thursday it is important for Perdue to understand the current agriculture landscape ahead of the next farm bill debate.
"The most important quality for the Agriculture secretary to possess is a solid understanding of the tough economic challenges farmers and ranchers face due to three years of low prices, declining land values, and difficult lending conditions," Roberts said.
"As we write a new farm bill, the secretary must understand that we are operating in a new landscape. Everyone in farm country is having a hard time. We need a secretary who can recall the 1980s and will do everything within their power to make sure we do not return to those conditions..."
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Perdue's nomination provides at least a hint of where farm policy goes in the next administration.
"There is a lot of work ahead of us including reauthorizing the farm bill, maintaining the RFS and rolling back some of the regulations that are negatively impacting farmers," Peterson said in a statement. "I look forward to sharing the concerns of Midwestern farmers with Perdue and getting to work."
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said she looks forward to "thoroughly vetting" Perdue.
"Throughout the last eight years, the picture painted of the state of our agriculture economy is far rosier than the realities on the ground," Ernst said in a statement. "Iowans lead our nation in pork, soybean and corn production, and folks want strong leadership and forward thinking in the Department of Agriculture. Too often, agricultural priorities fall to the wayside, and we need to address head-on the many urgent issues that plague our farmers and producers."
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said the Agriculture secretary is a "critically important position" to rural America.
"It is imperative that the next Agriculture secretary is ready on day one to support our nation's food producers and local communities, protect our land, water, and wildlife habitats, and ensure all Americans have access to healthy food," she said in a statement.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said in a statement Perdue takes the USDA helm at a difficult time.
"...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," Conaway said. "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. We need someone who is willing to work every day with the mindset of protecting America's farmers and ranchers, especially when it comes to introducing regulatory actions."
BEEF, PORK, DAIRY SUPPORT
Tracy Brunner, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said he believes Perdue will stand up for agriculture.
"In a time of increasing regulations and a growing governmental footprint, we have no doubt that Gov. Perdue will step in and stand up for rural America," he said.
Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation, said Perdue's wide range of experience makes him qualified to run USDA.
"Dairy producers, like most other farmers and ranchers across America, have experienced significant economic challenges for more than a year," Mulhern said.
"Starting right away in 2017, NMPF will seek to collaborate with Secretary Perdue on ways to strengthen the safety net for dairy farmers, relieve regulatory burdens and enhance opportunities to keep and grow markets abroad for our dairy exports."
National Pork Producers Council President John Weber, an Iowa pork producer, said Perdue understands all aspects of agriculture.
"NPPC believes Sonny Perdue will make a great secretary," Weber said. "He knows farming, he knows exports are vital to U.S. agriculture and he knows you need to run USDA like a business, not like the bureaucracy it's been for the past eight years."
FARM CREDIT, ELECTRIC CO-OPS
Todd Van Hoose, chief executive officer of the Farm Credit Council, said Perdue understands the challenges agriculture faces.
"USDA and Farm Credit share a common mission to support rural communities and agriculture and we look forward to working with Governor Perdue to fulfill that mission," Van Hoose said.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Chief Executive Officer Jim Matheson said Perdue has been an advocate of electric cooperatives dating back to his days as governor of Georgia.
"He is a multi-generational member of Flint Energies, a distribution cooperative serving middle Georgia," said Dennis Chastain, president and CEO of Georgia Electric Membership Corp. "Throughout his time in office, he has consistently engaged the electric cooperatives in policy deliberations and always took the time to understand our issues."
Leaders of the National Chicken Council, the National Grain and Feed Association, the American Wood Council, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition all threw their support behind Perdue.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN
© Copyright 2017 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.