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Trade Groups Voice Support for Ag Sec Nominee

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as Secretary of Agriculture.

Perdue, 70, rounds out the last of president-elect Trump's Cabinet picks, and would be the first Southerner to lead the USDA in more than two decades. A native of Perry, Ga., he is the son of a lifelong farmer and a teacher. He graduated from Warner Robins High School and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1971 from the University of Georgia. Following his service as a Captain in the United States Air Force, Perdue became a successful small business owner, concentrating in agribusiness and transportation.

Serving as governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011, “Sonny Perdue is going to accomplish great things as Secretary of Agriculture,” Trump said. “From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land.”

“I am proud and honored to be joining President-elect Trump’s administration as his Secretary of Agriculture,” Perdue said in a statement “Beginning as a simple Georgia farm boy, making sure Americans who make their livelihood in the agriculture industry are thriving is near and dear to my heart, and I’m going to champion the concerns of American agriculture and work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families in this new role.”

After serving on the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board during the 1980s, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1990 and spent the next 11 years representing his Middle Georgia district in the General Assembly. Perdue left the State Senate in 2001 to begin his successful campaign for Governor.

Food industry trade groups voiced their support for Trump’s choice of Perdue to lead the USDA.

United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel said he has high regard for Perdue’s past work with the Georgia fruit and vegetable industry. “[We] are confident he will bring a passion and commitment to supporting agriculture, and helping us deliver healthy foods to all Americans,” Stenzel said. “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. ”

Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer and senior VP of government relations for the Food Marketing Institute, noted that FMI members in Georgia "say very positive things" about Perdue’s time as governor, particularly with his work to improve their state's WIC program. "We will look forward to working with him and the team he puts in place on several critical issues for the food retail industry, including food safety and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act; implementation of biotech labeling; renewing the Farm bill; the food retailer partnership on the efficient distribution of SNAP and WIC benefits; and reducing food waste," Hatcher said.

“Sonny Perdue’s agricultural business background and experience as governor will serve the U.S. well,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “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.”

The International Dairy Foods Association also looks forward to working closely with the new secretary, who “will oversee many areas that are extremely important to the dairy industry, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the school breakfast and lunch programs and, most recently, the national disclosure standard for foods made with genetically modified ingredients,” said Michael Dykes, Ipresident and CEO of the dairy processor organization. “As a fellow veterinarian, I’m confident that Secretary Perdue will bring the necessary knowledge and insight to keep American agriculture, food production and nutrition programs strong and vibrant.”

Dairy farmers voiced their support as well. Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said Perdue’s  “role as the chief advocate for farmers and rural America is absolutely crucial in the new Trump administration, especially when milk prices have been in a prolonged slump.”

Mulhern said Perdue’s experience in government, business and agriculture give him “unique insights into the important issues facing America’s livestock producers in the areas of animal health, food safety and the environment. … Starting right away in 2017, NMPF will seek to collaborate with Secretary Perdue on ways to strengthen the safety net for dairy farmers, relieve regulatory burdens and enhance opportunities to keep and grow markets abroad for our dairy exports.”

Additionally, he added, NMPF will “continue our dialogue with USDA and others in the Trump administration on the importance of enforcing previous trade agreements, as well as pursuing future well-negotiated trade agreements that bolster our ability to serve consumers in foreign markets.”


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