U.S. Department of Agriculture

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s secretary of agriculture is one step closer to a new post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bill Northey appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. He answered questions about a variety of farm-support and conservation programs he would oversee as undersecretary from the farm and foreign agricultural services.

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.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

Regulations that affect Kansas’ agriculture producers and the quality of life in rural communities are under review at the federal level.

President Trump created a task force to identify policy changes that would help boost economic growth.

More than 20 cabinet-level and senior members of government agencies are on the Task Force On Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

One area they’re studying is how the estate tax affects the perseveration of family farms and other agribusiness operations.

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.

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.

Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

At a stressful time for U.S. farmers, the government’s efforts at calming the agricultural waters took center stage Thursday, when the heads of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee left Washington for the Midwest to solicit opinions on priorities for the next Farm Bill.

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, and Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, heard from Midwest farmers at their first field hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

Grace Hood / Harvest Public Media/File

Just one day after directing its researchers not to publicly share their research, and after suffering a public relations backlash, the Department of Agriculture’s main research arm has rescinded its original order, saying it “values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public…”

Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of Agriculture remains the only position in the Trump cabinet without a nominee. As Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld reports, that worries some Midwest farmers.

The Agriculture Department employs nearly one-hundred thousand people and deals with everything from food stamps to farm loans to food safety. It administers programs in rural areas, which largely supported President-elect Donald Trump.

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