Trump’s cabinet nominees, in particularly Betsy DeVos for Education, have not been without very pointed rancor and opposition when they’ve come before the U.S. Senate for confirmation. DeVos was confirmed Tuesday, with VP Mike Pence giving her a 51-50 edge when two Republicans joined Democrats for the 50-50 “nuclear” vote.
Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, has not raised as many hackles, though special interest groups have concerns. No date has yet been scheduled for confirmation hearings.
When Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh visited Iola last week, he pointed out that Perdue, though from cotton country, was a veterinarian, agribusinessman, smart and “knows agriculture.” The recommendation may not have been unqualified, but any recognition from Flinchbaugh carries weight.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said there were “few cabinet positions that I am more concerned with than the selection of secretary of agriculture. Kansas farmers and ranchers are looking for someone who has his finger on the pulse of rural America, including volatile commodity prices and challenging weather conditions.”
A former senator and USDA secretary Mike Johanns has kind words for Perdue: “Donald Trump has picked the right guy,” in that a prominent role is being “a cheerleader for American agriculture.”
Another former secretary, Tom Vilsack, on Perdue: He “… knows full well the opportunities and challenges that exist in rural communities.”
Johanns was secretary of the USDA under Bush II; Vilsack was Obama’s ag spokesman.
The Minneapolis Star characterizes Perdue’s task as monumental serving under Trump. “… Dealing directly with fallout if Trump follows through on a threat to slap a 20 percent import tax on goods from Mexico, a top trading partner with the U.S.,” which Flinchbaugh said could lead to Mexico turning to Brazil for corn and soybeans, rather than the U.S. and Kansas.
Some politicians in the Midwest and West are reluctant to jump on a Perdue bandwagon.
“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,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Ex-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lobbied for ex-Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, R-Calif., said, “Obviously, the choice (Perdue) wasn’t based on substance.”
Meanwhile, the American Farm Bureau Federation gave its endorsement. Said the AFBF president, Zippy Duvall, Perdue will “provide the strong voice that agriculture needs in the new administration. He is an outstanding nominee.”
OUTSIDE of observations by politicians, there are concerns about Perdue allegedly having called climate change, and global warming, a joke. Some think he may be too cozy with agriculture’s mega-industries.
Those who have dedicated themselves to protection of the environment also have concerns. However, those who look at his nomination purely in agricultural terms mostly are satisfied, and it seems likely that when his nomination goes to the Senate approval will occur.
For the legion of folks who are so taken by environmental issues, the Environmental Protection Agency carries a pretty good-sized club, unless Trump saws it off at the handle.
Agriculture is the background of the Kansas economy, and we need an ag secretary who understands its importance, in Kansas and elsewhere in the U.S., as well as global implications.
If he were a bit younger and so disposed, Dr. Flinchbaugh would make a sterling secretary, but that isn’t an option.
Perdue seems attractive enough at this point ahead of Senate hearings.
— Bob Johnson