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Sonny Perdue

Trump chooses Perdue for agriculture secretary

WASHINGTON - President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Georgia Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary, The Atlanta-Journal -Constitution has reported.

The selection of Perdue will fulfill a suggestion of outgoing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who had proposed the next president choose a governor because the activities of the USDA are so broad.

But it also means that Trump will not have an Hispanic member of his Cabinet. The other candidate under consideration was former California Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a descendant of farm workers and a vineyard owner.

Perdue is a doctor of veterinary medicine and was a member of Trump’s agricultural advisory committee, and popular with that group.

As a southerner, Perdue can be expected to be a traditionalist on the importance of commodity supports and sensitive to the cotton industry, which has suffered problems since the 2014 farm bill ended its traditional support program in order to respond to a World Trade Organization case against the U.S. cotton program that the United States lost to Brazil. Cotton growers have asked USDA to declare cotton seed an oilseed, but the Obama administration has said that would violate the law.

The farm bill set up a crop insurance program for cotton, but growers have said it does not work very well.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had urged Trump to pick a northerner. Grassley has had battles for years with southern legislators over the size of commodity support payments.

American Soybean Association President Ron Moore, an Illinois producer, said the soybean growers congratulated Perdue, and said his members look forward to working with Perdue on everything from implementing “a viable risk management framework to helping expand our markets overseas, to investing in agricultural research here at home.”

“The nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for Secretary of Agriculture is welcome news to the nation’s farmers and ranchers," says American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "Governor Perdue will provide the strong voice that agriculture needs in the new administration. He is an outstanding nominee."