He was told that he has a big job ahead of him, and that he needs to be a source of leadership during times of crisis and in the international trade market.
Sonny Perdue, who was born and raised in agriculture and rose to serve as governor of Georgia, vowed to meet every one of those challenges in the best interests of the industry.
“Our farmers are good stewards” of the land, Perdue told the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee during a confirmation hearing on Thursday. “They need to be incentivised in a way that makes them even better than in the past.”
Perdue, sporting a tractor tie at the table, showed that he has a broad understanding of various ag markets and didn’t seem rattled at questions. He sought to reassure lawmakers who could be affected by Trump administration cuts, and he was aware of the downturn in market trends and said he has goals of resurrecting prices.
He also spoke specifically to dairy: “There’s no industry that can survive with the volatility of prices that the dairy industry deals with.”
And to biotechnology: “The growth in agriculture that we’ve had with less inputs and less inputs is phenomenal.”
And to trade: “We would love to have Cuba as a customer.”
He also showed moments of levity, like when he was invited to tour dairy farms in New York, and he responded that he’d be willing to do so — as long as he didn’t have to actually do any milking. He’s more than paid his dues over the years.
Some of the more heartening moments came when he affirmed the importance of rural broadband and the high value of immigrant workers in agriculture.
In the wake of the recent wildfire crisis that has affected Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado, he said that ag approaches these kinds of issues incorrectly (and expensively) by being too reactive to times of need rather than be more proactive in dealing with trouble and helping the farmers and ranchers. That includes better forest and land management and to have a funding mechanism in place for relief.
He handled himself well, and had a mix of easy and difficult questions. The vibe was one of general approval of his possibility as the next Secretary of Agriculture.
Lawmakers ended saying that they would work quickly to schedule a business meeting to vote on Perdue’s confirmation, and they thanked him for his willingness to be in the job. If confirmed, the 70-year-old would be the first Southerner in the job in more than two decades.