Donald Trump waited until two days before his inauguration to nominate a Secretary of Agriculture, ending weeks of speculation, and leaving very little time for the nominee to prepare to head the department that oversees our food supply and a $155 billion dollar budget. This delay indicates that Trump does not place high value on our food and agriculture system. Had he valued the agriculture system, he would have appointed Good Food leader on a timeline that allowed the nominee to prepare for the job.
But what of the nominee himself?
Sonny Perdue, the long-awaited pick to head the USDA, is perhaps best known as the former Republican Governor of Georgia. He does have experience in the agriculture sector, running businesses exporting food crops and selling fertilizer. He is also a trained veterinarian.
Perdue also have received thousands of dollars in donations for his political campaigns from Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and chicken processor Gold Kist before it was bought out by Pilgrim’s Pride.
The farm bill, the main piece of legislation covering farm and food policy, including SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is up for renewal during this administration. Trade agreements, which impact agriculture globally, are also in play.
The current farm bill includes some funding for conservation programs and public investment in sustainable agriculture, but we need to shift more resources to these programs and away from programs that support the industrial agriculture system. Overemphasis on commodity crops leads to dumping excess crops (like corn and soy) in the Global South, undermining local farmers and rural communities in those countries. Corn, soy, and other commodities grown in conventional cropping systems also fuel climate change and unhealthy food systems, as their main use is as animal feed or ingredients in processed food products. An Agriculture Secretary who ran a fertilizer company, another company to make exporting cheap food easier, and who accepted donations from Big Ag is unlikely to shift resources to more fair and sustainable agriculture systems.
Perdue has supported free trade agreements and practices in the past. Recent trade agreements (like NAFTA) have helped some segments of food and agriculture (like Big Ag donors to Perdue’s political campaigns and commodity exporters like his former business), while harming small-scale regenerative farmers and sustainable agriculture systems in both the U.S. and around the world. We need an Agriculture Secretary who supports fair trade agreements that favor agro-ecology and not the business-as-usual industrial agriculture complex that drives climate change and marginalizes the majority of farmers and workers.
Our current global food agriculture system is plagued with labor abuse, unsustainable pricing for farmers, and institutions that favor large commodity monoculture over regenerative farming and agro-ecology. Sonny Perdue is likely to be an Agriculture Secretary who upholds this status quo at a time when we most need a leader to fundamentally transform. Sonny Perdue is not the right man for the job.
The Senate alone has the power to stop cabinet nominees. To share your concerns about Sonny Perdue for Secretary of Agriculture, it is most effective to call your Senators. Speak your mind. If you get stuck, you can simply say, “I urge you to oppose Sonny Perdue’s nomination for Secretary of Agriculture. Based on his past support of free trade and industrial agriculture, I fear he will promote agriculture policies that support corporate profits at the expense of sustainable and small-scale farmers around the world.”
Posted on January 19th 2017