By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
The news of the day is that Donald Trump is President. His critics are in shock. I say – “get over it.”
He has tapped Governor Sonny Perdue for Secretary of Agriculture. Perdue grew up on a Georgia farm and has a veterinarian’s degree. Gary Baise, who pulled together the powerful Trump Ag Advisory Team, had this to say: “Mr. Perdue will garner strong support during his Senate conformation hearing from those with ties to production agriculture.”
I am happy that Sam Clovis, Policy Advisor for Trump’s campaign, will be working with Mr. Perdue as they staff leadership at USDA. During the campaign, Sam Clovis was the go-to guy for the Ag Advisory Team – we met with him on several occasions – some times face-to-face, and other times by telephone conference call. On those occasions, it was clear that he knew agriculture and our issues.
Zippy Duvall, also from Georgia and now, President of the American Farm Bureau, worked with Perdue to increase ag trade with Cuba and other countries.
Once you step into the shoes of the Secretary of Agriculture, that’s when you start to realize the enormous and challenging job that lies ahead. I remember that moment like yesterday. USDA’s responsibility is broad – food, farms, rural development, forest service (95 million acres), and nutrition. USDA has a budget of $150 billion and 110,000 employees, offices in almost every county of the U.S., and representation in countries all over the world. USDA has more employees than any other Department, except Defense.
An early challenge for Secretary Perdue will be to help President Trump push back against the overreach of environmental and climate change activists. Over-regulation is suffocating our small businesses, farms, and ranches.
It’s not on the front burner now, but Secretary Perdue will be expected to work with the Congress in writing the next farm bill. He and President Trump have indicated they want to keep farm programs and nutrition in one bill – no divorce this time.
In closing – thank you, Tom Vilsack, for your 8 years as Secretary of Agriculture. That’s a long time. Thank you for your support of ag trade, ethanol, and biotechnology.
John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit johnblockreports.com.