‘Agriculture needs a champion’ (Editorial)

(April 11, 2017) Well, it would appear that the cabinet of President Donald Trump is finally going to get a secretary of agriculture.
With virtually no fanfare — and little if any attention from the press — the Senate Agricultural Committee opened hearings last month on the appointment of former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue III to succeed Tom Vilsack as USDA secretary.
The confirmation vote is expected to come on April 24, the day the Senate returns from its two-week recess.
The position has been vacant for more than two months; an absence in the cabinet that has been of major concern of the nation’s ag and rural community.
“Now more than any other, agriculture needs a champion at the highest level of government,” warned Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts during a recent Farm Bill Summit.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway lamented that a secretary was not already in place to provide counsel to the administration on Trump’s budget proposal that calls for cutting agriculture by 21 percent.
“We need a strong Farm Bill and we need the resources to write the Farm Bill,” said Conaway.
“The challenges in agriculture at present day are real,” read an e-mail post by Farm Policy Facts. Depressed commodity prices, declining net farm income, weak imports, rising foreign subsidies, and the ever-present danger of Mother Nature as demonstrated by the devastating wildfires that have raged across Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. ... All of this to serve as the backdrop to writing that new farm law under tight budget constraints before it expires in 2018.”
There seems to be little doubt that Perdue will quickly earn confirmation. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, farm and food groups, former secretaries and others — all from different political corners — are rallying behind his nomination.
Even former Secretary Vilsack penned support in a statement noting that he has worked with Perdue in the past and “know[s] how committed he is to all of our farmers, ranchers, and producers’” and will “work hard to expand opportunity in rural America.”
It’s not that President Trump didn’t have a few other things on his mind, but that does not excuse the lamentingly long delay in getting the Perdue confirmation process under way.
President Trump is going to need Secretary Perdue. He will find that out soon enough.