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Sonny Perdue set to face Senate ag committee Thursday

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 23:00
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Secretary of Agriculture-designate Sonny Perdue will finally get his hearing tomorrow before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

President Trump nominated the former Georgia governor to serve as America’s 31st Secretary of Agriculture nine weeks ago. It is not clear why there’s been such a delay in getting the Committee hearing scheduled.

The Senate committee has had other priorities, though. It has opted to start early on the 2018 Farm Bill, even traveling out to Kansas to collect testimony on the next round of spending. Perdue also had to finish disclosing his businesses and comply with ethics prescriptions, which are all the more difficult where complexities are involved.

Perdue was Trump’s second to the last cabinet pick. A handful of other under secretaries and assistant secretaries at USDA also require Senate confirmation, and those appointments won’t begin until an ag secretary is confirmed.

One such appointment is the under secretary for food safety, which provides oversight for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Perdue comes to the hearing with long lists of bipartisan supporters topped off by the endorsement of former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Also lined up behind  Perdue are 669 agriculture organizations. Those endorsements show Perdue has support from all segments of the agriculture community, according to the Trump transition team.

Perdue’s hearing will likely require him to defend Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget for USDA. As part of the president’s goal to increase defense spending by $54 billion without raising taxes, USDA’s budget for discretionary spending would be set at $17.9 billion or $4.7 billion less than current levels. That’s a 20 percent cut.

The FSIS, with 8,000 meat and poultry inspectors working at 6,400 slaughter and processing facilities, will be fully funded under the Trump budget.

Perdue is a University of Georgia graduate, where he earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine. He began in politics as a Democrat, but changed parties in 1998 and five years later was elected as the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction after the Civil War.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-GA, is Sonny Perdue’s first cousin, but he is not related to the family of the same name that owns and operates the well known Perdue Farms. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EDT.

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