Sonny Perdue closer to confirmation as U.S. ag secretary

Sonny Perdue, left, stands with his cousin, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in this undated photo. Sonny Perdue, a former two-term Georgia governor and the first Republican to serve in the office in 135 years, is set to go before the full Senate for confirmation as U.S. secretary of agriculture. (Photo Courtesy of Sen. David Perdue)

WASHINGTON — Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is a step closer to being confirmed as the U.S. secretary of agriculture following a favorable report today from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chair of the committee, said Perdue will now be considered for confirmation by the full Senate. The Senate Agriculture Committee conducted a hearing on the Perdue nomination last week, and the panel took a voice vote to send his nomination to the Senate with a favorable report. No date had been set Thursday for the Senate to take up the nomination.

“I’m pleased our committee has made swift strides to move Gov. Perdue’s nomination closer to the finish line,” Roberts said. “Our farmers and ranchers have been waiting too long for this important position to be filled. We need to get Gov. Perdue down to USDA to get to work. Rural America is ready.”

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Roberts said Perdue has the support of six former agriculture secretaries and 650 U.S. agriculture groups.

Perdue also got the endorsement of the Agriculture Committee's ranking member, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

“After a thorough review of his qualifications and priorities, I support the nomination of Governor Perdue to serve as agriculture secretary,” Stabenow said. “Although we have some differences on policy, we share a commitment to support American agriculture and strengthen our small towns and rural communities.

"I look forward to working with Governor Perdue as we write the 2018 Farm Bill. Farmers and families in Michigan and all across rural America need a champion at USDA.”

At his nomination hearing last week, Stabenow said, she asked Perdue about his support for rural America after the Trump administration’s budget proposal to cut USDA funding by 21 percent, which she said would harm farmers and families in a tough farm economy. She said Perdue pledged to be a strong advocate to ensure farmers and rural communities have access to USDA services and to look for ways to support dairy farmers struggling with low prices.

She also said Perdue agreed to work closely with her to support a comprehensive Farm Bill, protect conservation programs, strengthen the farm and family safety net, support agricultural research and scientific integrity, and pursue a comprehensive fix to the Forest Service budget.

One senator in particular who has been a strong supporter of the secretary-select is Georgia’s junior senator. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., quickly applauded the committee’s support for his first cousin. David Perdue is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“As I’ve said since the night of his nomination, Sonny is the most qualified person to be the secretary of agriculture,” Perdue said. “I am pleased to see such broad bipartisan support from the members of the Agriculture Committee.

“Given my relationship to the governor, please let the record show I was present but declined to participate, and I look forward to the Senate confirmation of Gov. Perdue.”

Secretary-select Perdue served as Georgia’s governor from 2003-2011, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Before that, he served in the Georgia Senate from 1991-2001, starting as a Democrat and moving over to the Republican Party in 1998. He was nominated for the Trump cabinet position in January. If confirmed by the Senate, he will succeed acting Secretary Mike Young.

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