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Perdue an 'Outstanding Choice' for Ag Secretary, Farm Groups Say

The nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as the next secretary of agriculture was lauded by farm groups who said his background will serve him well.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) said in a statement that Perdue, who is not related to the Perdue poultry family, is an “outstanding choice” for ag secretary. The 70-year-old Democrat-turned-Republican was a member of the NGFA’s board of directors from 2014 until his nomination, and served on its Country Elevator Committee in the late ’80s, the group said.

“Governor Perdue is an accomplished, innovative, problem-solving, and proven public servant, and is an excellent choice to serve as secretary of agriculture,” NGFA President Randy Gordon said in a statement on Thursday. “He has strong rural roots, having grown up on a row-crop and dairy farm, and is a person of impeccable character, trustworthiness, and integrity who is an energetic, passionate, and tireless advocate for U.S. agriculture and for America.

His background in agricultural trade – he owns a company called Perdue Partners that focuses on exporting U.S. products – also makes him a strong candidate for the position, Gordon said.

The nominee is a veterinarian by trade who grew up on a farm and has vast experience running small businesses. As governor of Georgia, he worked on improving trade with overseas partners.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said after the nomination was made public that Perdue is a solid pick, but that the delay in the nomination didn’t sit well with growers. Perdue will need to get up to speed not only on efforts in Congress to finish the budget for the rest of the current fiscal year that ends next October, but the new fiscal year.

Normally, the president submits a budget in February, though it’s expected to be delayed by a few weeks when a new chief executive takes over.

“His challenge is that he’s coming in so late,” Johnson said. “He’s going to face a lot of budget issues on day one.”

President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement Thursday that Perdue will accomplish "great things," touting his farming background.

“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,” Trump said in the statement. 

While Perdue is one of the less-controversial picks by the president-elect, he’s already facing criticism from environmental groups. The Union of Concerned Scientists said it will favor only the biggest farms and the Washington Examiner faulted his efforts to provide state grants to a failed biofuels company that planned to make ethanol from wood chips.

Still, he’s a much more agreeable choice than some of the nominees put forth for confirmation by Trump.

“Everything I’ve read, he seems to be a pretty moderate, middle-of-the-road, consensus candidate,” Johnson told

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and American Soybean Association (ASA) each issued statements congratulating the former governor on his nomination. The NCGA said it looks forward to hearing more from Perdue on his positions about key issues facing growers, while the ASA said it looks forward to working with the new administrator once he’s confirmed.

Senator Charles Grassley [R-IA] also looks forward to meeting with Perdue and learning his views on agriculture.

“The secretary of agriculture oversees a broad swath of very important American policy that helps feed and fuel the world,” Grassley said in a statement. “Understanding and having an appreciation of the institution of the family farm like we have in Iowa and the Midwest, which is the strength of American agriculture, is important. This is especially true as we think about policies that will enable the next generation of farmers to make a living producing the food and renewable fuels the world needs.”

Dan Looker contributed to this report.

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