The new U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue (70) was named on January 19, a much anticipated announcement given that rural America largely supported the election of Donald Trump. He is the former Georgia governor from 2003-2011.
United Fresh president and CEO Tom Stenzel stated, “We have high regards for his past work with our Georgia fruit and vegetable industry, and are confident he will bring a passion and commitment to supporting agriculture, and helping us deliver healthy foods to all Americans. We anticipate meeting with Governor Perdue soon and working with him on critical issues such as securing an adequate workforce through immigration reform and a new guest worker program, bolstering free and fair trade, serving the neediest Americans through federal feeding programs and more.”
Outgoing secretary Tom Vilsack noted key issues in his exit memo including the need to increase investments to improve water quality and wastewater services in rural America and to deal with water quantity as well. He also flagged the needs of new and beginning farmers who are challenged to access land, capital and technical assistance. The average age of U.S. farmers is more than 58 years. Almost 10 per cent of farmer land in the U.S. is expected to change hands in the next five years.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a fiscal 2017 budget of $150 billion. A hefty portion of that budget was earmarked for the food and nutrition service. Of interest, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had a budget of $1.1 billion. The Food Safety and Inspection Service had a budget of more than $1 billion. Perdue will have a significant role in the next Farm Bill debate in 2018.
Senator David Perdue, a Republican of Georgia and a cousin, will be one of those voting on his confirmation.