Sonny Perdue

JULIE DENESHA / Harvest Public Media

Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia, was sworn in as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture at the end of April.

Harvest Public Media’s Peggy Lowe sat down with Perdue on his fourth day on the job at the American Royal complex in Kansas City, Missouri. She asked him about the Trump administration’s priorities for our food system, government nutrition programs, immigration policy and the future of the Agriculture Department.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

Advocates for rural issues are up in arms after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a plan that changes the position of a lieutenant that had been focused on rural issues in order to create one focused on trade.  

USDA is limited in its number of undersecretaries. Creating a position focused on trade, which the agriculture industry maintains is vital to its economic growth, may force Perdue to scrap a current mission area.

Julie Denesha

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday said President Trump may be open to creating a way for some undocumented immigrant workers to stay in the U.S. and Perdue is already working on a “blueprint” of policy guidelines to offer the president.

Refusing to call it a pathway to citizenship, Perdue says he would like to find a solution that would allow workers in the ag industry to remain in the U.S. legally. That’s despite Trump’s campaign promises to step up deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

New U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday explained President Donald Trump’s turn-around on the North American Free Trade Agreement as just part of the negotiations in his deal making.

USEMBASSY_MONTEVIDEO / FLICKR

The nation has a new agriculture secretary.

The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Department of Agriculture. He takes over a department that was without a top boss for three months after former secretary Tom Vilsack resigned. Vilsack served the entire eight years of the Obama administration (one of the longest-serving agriculture secretaries in recent decades).

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the long delays in seating his replacement leaves rural America without a voice in the Trump administration.

Vilsack, a Democrat who served as USDA chief during both terms of the Obama administration, cites President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal as an example of what happens without a Cabinet position dedicated to rural issues.

Bruce Tuten, flickr Creative Commons

Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor nominated by President Donald Trump, is one step closer to becoming U.S. Secretary of Agriculture after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved his nomination Thursday.

Yet Perdue remains one step shy of the post; the full Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on his nomination. Perdue, however, is widely expected to be approved.

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, testified in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture committee on Thrusday, but remains far from the head job at USDA.

The committee did not indicate when it would vote on whether to advance Perdue’s nomination.

Bruce Tuten, flickr Creative Commons

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the agriculture department will face Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday.

Sonny Perdue was the last cabinet secretary nomination Trump announced more than two months ago.

Some senators have said one reason it’s taken so long for confirmation hearings is that Perdue had to unravel himself from many agribusiness dealings in order to comply with financial disclosure and ethics requirements.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, bucking a recent trend of Midwest leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and making many in the farm country of the Midwest and Great Plains a little leery.

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