Nearly three months after being tapped to lead USDA, Sonny Perdue today was sworn in as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during a small ceremony at the Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Perdue by a vote of 87-to-11 on April 24, and he now oversees USDA’s more than 100,000 employees and a budget exceeding $150 billion.
Perdue, 70, was nominated to lead the agency on Jan. 19, just days before President Trump was sworn in as president of the United States. Perdue succeeds former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack who stepped down after leading the agency for eight years during the Obama administration. Vilsack joined the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) as president and CEO in February 2017.
Perdue was born into a farming family in Bonaire, Georgia, and his career spanned stints as a farmer, agribusinessman, veterinarian, state legislator and governor of Georgia. He is not related or affiliated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.
Commenting on his appointment, Perdue said: “The only legacy that I seek is the only one that any grandparent or parent seeks—to be good stewards, and to hand off our nation, our home, our fields, our forests, and our farms to the next generation in better shape than we found it. Making sure that Americans who make their livelihoods in the agriculture industry have the ability to thrive will be one of my top priorities. I am committed to serving the customers of USDA, and I will be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture."
Perdue’s policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions:
- 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 be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper.
- Prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity.
- As Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist.
- Remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe.
In a statement Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) who originally opposed the nomination, said :“After a thorough review of his qualifications and priorities, I support the nomination of Governor Perdue to serve as Agriculture secretary. Although we have some differences on policy, we share a commitment to support American agriculture and strengthen our small towns and rural communities. I look forward to working with Governor Perdue as we write the 2018 farm bill. Farmers and families in Michigan and all across rural America need a champion at USDA."
“As secretary, I will champion the concerns of farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, and will work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families," Perdue said. “I am proud to have been given this opportunity and look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work as we continue to move the USDA and our nation forward."
In January, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents food, beverage and consumer product companies, weighed in on the former governor’s nomination. “As Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue’s agricultural business background and experience as governor will serve the U.S. well," the trade group said in a statement. “GMA looks forward to working with him on issues key to keeping America's food the safest and most affordable food supply in the history of the world."