Agriculture is a critical part of American life. It has a profound impact on our economy, our culture, and our families. In spite of the traditional notion that The United States Department of Agriculture only deals with crop and livestock farming policy, it’s important to recognize that other vital programs in our communities like SNAP benefits (food stamps) and food safety regulations also fall within the department. Based on the diversity of his background, President Trump hit the nail on the head when he selected Governor Sonny Perdue as secretary.
Perdue, the former Governor of Georgia, brings a vast array of experience to the Department. His service as a two-term Governor of Georgia, a rich agricultural state, combined with his agribusiness experience, provides him with a solid background to lead a federal department with a $150 billion budget.
Perdue’s executive experience will give him a leg up in managing a federal bureaucracy, which from time to time have been disrupted by mismanagement and overreach into the private sector. This was the hallmark legacy of the Obama Administration, as an avalanche of excessive regulations came down from multiple cabinet agencies, many of which made life more difficult for our family farmers. Fortunately, a large part of Governor Perdue’s legacy in Georgia is one of reducing red tape, and making government more efficient. This is the type of management that we need on the federal level, and he will collaborate well with regulatory agencies, like the EPA, in order to ensure that our farmers are not adversely affected by burdensome regulations.
When it comes to trade, there is no doubt that our farmers need access to key markets, both continental and international, in order to sell their products and boost their exports. Therefore, it is vital that any new global trade partnership includes the needs of Kentucky farmers, including prioritizing tobacco, which Kentucky produces more of than any state except for North Carolina. Trade is essential, but it also must balance the need for economic growth with the need for Kentuckians to have equal market access. President Trump and Governor Perdue have said as much, and I’m confident that they will put Kentucky farmers first in any new trade pact.
One issue that I would like for the new administration, and the new leadership at the USDA, to confront is removing Industrial Hemp from the federal banned substances list. We have made enormous progress on restoring Hemp as a profitable cash crop here in the Commonwealth, with plans to plant over 12,000 acres in 2017. I look forward to collaborating with our federal delegation, Commissioner Quarles, and Governor Purdue in order to remove the existing federal restricts on the growing of Hemp, so that we can create a more vibrant agricultural economy here in Kentucky.
In addition to Governor Purdue’s executive and legislative experience, including serving as President Pro-Tempore in the Georgia State Senate, he also was a Captain in the Air Force, and is a lifelong veterinarian. Perdue has substantive experience in agribusiness, and formed a company after his governorship dedicated to opening up trade opportunities for American companies and entrepreneurs. Every one of these diverse positions make him incredibly well suited to help improve rural economic development in America.
Governor Perdue has the wide-ranging experience, knowledge, and ability to lead the USDA. I am confident that he will implement sound policies to service our rural communities and farm families, and I’m excited to see him get to work. The Senate should confirm his appointment immediately.
Representative Richard Heath reprensents District 2 in the Kentucky House.