The confirmation this week by the U.S. Senate of George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III as secretary of agriculture by a vote of 87 to 11 was met with approval across various organizations representing the food industry.
“During his tenure as governor of Georgia, Mr. Perdue was an advocate for the supermarket industry and business in general,” noted Greg Ferrara, SVP of government relations and public affairs at the Arlington, Va.-based National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent sector. “We are confident that he will continue to be a strong advocate for independent supermarket operators as secretary of the Department of Agriculture. NGA looks forward to working with Gov. Perdue and his staff to advance common goals that ultimately help supermarkets serve both rural and urban communities nationwide, including serving the most vulnerable Americans through programs such as SNAP and WIC. We look forward to continuing our long standing partnership with USDA and working with incoming officials to identify burdensome regulations and other barriers that make it difficult for independent grocers to grow their businesses and ultimately create jobs in the communities they serve.”
“He made great strides in food and nutrition, particularly in the WIC program, during his governorship in Georgia, and I know he’ll work tirelessly for national improvements while at USDA,” asserted Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer and SVP, government and public affairs at Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute.
“As Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue’s agricultural business background and experience as governor will serve the U.S. well," added Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association, which said it would be "working with him on issues key to keeping America's food the safest and most affordable food supply in the history of the world.”
The produce community was also quick to praise the Senate’s action. “USDA has been without a leader for far too long, and this confirmation will allow forward progress on issues impacting our industry,” observed Robert Guenther, SVP for public policy at Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh. “Secretary Perdue will play a critical role working on issues important to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, including the 2018 Farm Bill debate, immigration reform, research, trade, and nutrition. As governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue was a great friend to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry and we look forward to working with him once again to ensure all Americans have access to healthy, nutritious foods.”
The frozen food business weighed in positively as well. “AFFI stands ready to work with the new secretary and others in the administration to provide millions of Americans with convenient access to nutritious, safe and affordable food,” said the American Frozen Food Institute, based in McLean, Va., in a statement.
Additional kudos came in from, among others, the National Association of Wheat Growers, whose president, David Schemm, noted that Perdue’s “experience as a farmer and a governor of an agriculture state make him an ideal candidate to run the country’s leading authority on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development and nutrition policy,” and the National Pork Producers Council, which called the new agriculture secretary “very good for America’s farmers and ranchers,” in the words of President Ken Maschhoff.