Ag Policy Blog

Report: Trump Looking at Former Georgia Governor for Ag Secretary

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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It's 2017, do you know who your Ag secretary is?

Neither does President-elect Donald Trump. The search to head USDA continues to be one of the struggles of Trump's transition as the parade of candidates continues to shift.

Politico reported early Monday that former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is now the leading candidate for Ag secretary. As Politico noted in its brief report, "Nothing is official until it is announced."

Perdue was governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. Perdue met with Trump about the job in early December.

Trump met last week with several candidates from Texas, including current Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller and a former holder of that office, Susan Combs. Former Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla of Texas and Texas A&M professor and former USDA undersecretary Elsa Murano also visited Trump in Florida. Former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado also interviewed for the cabinet post.

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Undoubtedly, the Ag secretary job has become one of the most vexing for the Trump transition team to fill, given that it is one of the few cabinet jobs remaining and Trump's team has been meeting with people about it since early December.

Perdue, 70, is a member of the agricultural advisory team announced by the Trump campaign last August. https://www.donaldjtrump.com/…

At least some members of Trump's ag advisory team have been miffed that Trump was considering a Democrat, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, for the job. Those advisors wanted someone who supported Trump throughout the campaign to head USDA, arguing that would provide more influence for rural America.

Perdue grew up the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher in central Georgia and has a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia. After serving as a captain in the Air Force, Perdue started a career in agriculture and transportation logistics. He was a county zoning commissioner and then became a state representative and later a state senator, serving as a Democrat. Perdue was the top Democrat in the Georgia Senate from 1994-97. He then switched parties in 1998 and continued to win state Senate races as a Republican. Perdue then won the governorship in 2002, becoming the first Republican governor of Georgia in more than 130 years.

Perdue left office in 2011 because Georgia has term limits on its governorship.

While sharing the same last name as Perdue Farms, Sonny Perdue stated in a news release as governor that he is not related to the Maryland family that owns the poultry company, which does have operations in Georgia.

Sonny Perdue also is a cousin of first-term U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

If nominated, Perdue would join Rep. Tom Price as fellow Georgians up for cabinet nominations. Price is Trump's choice for Health and Human Services secretary.

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