by Marvin G. Perez
President-elect Donald J. Trump will name Sonny Perdue III, the former governor of Georgia, as the next U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to people familiar with the choice.
Perdue, 70, would replace outgoing secretary Tom Vilsack, said the two people who asked not to be identified because the process is private. Perdue met with Trump on Nov. 30 and told reporters they talked about agricultural commodities traded domestically and internationally.
Trump rode to his election victory partly on strong support from voters in rural areas clamoring for an economic turnaround. Farm incomes are expected to fall for a third successive year while debt levels have climbed.
While Trump’s team has yet to discuss agriculture in much detail, the president-elect’s statements during his campaign covered areas that could have major implications for agricultural businesses. The U.S. is a major exporter of crops and other farm commodities, and that flow of goods may be disrupted if Trump follows through with a pledge to reshape trading relationships with China and other countries. Such changes might also affect global commodity prices.
Additionally, if U.S. immigration laws are enforced more strictly, business owners may face labor shortages. Undocumented workers comprise a major slice of the U.S. farm and agricultural labor force. On the other hand, farmers may stand to gain from a promised relaxation of environmental regulations.
Perdue would also need to get to grips with the 2018 Farm Bill. Rural America’s new-found political influence will help shape the legislation, Chuck Conner, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and a Trump adviser, has said.
Perdue -- no relation to the family of the same name that owns chicken producer Perdue Farms Inc. -- was born in Perry, Georgia. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he served as a state senator. In 2003, he became the first Republican governor of the state in 130 years. He stepped down in 2011, and the same year he founded Perdue Partners LLC, which, according to its LinkedIn profile, is an Atlanta-based trading company.
Related story: 7 things to know about Sonny Perdue
Related story: Commodity groups weigh in