While George Ervin (Sonny) Perdue III, the Trump administration nominee as Secretary of Agriculture, is best known as a former two-term governor of Georgia, he would bring a richer agricultural heritage to the U.S. Department of Agriculture than any of his predecessors going back decades.
A graduate of veterinary school, Mr. Perdue practiced veterinary medicine only briefly and instead spent a large part of his career building a grain business in his native Houston County, Ga. Agrowstar, one of Mr. Perdue’s businesses, operates country elevators and stores at 11 locations in Georgia and South Carolina. At the time of his nomination, he was serving on the board of directors of the National Grain & Feed Association. This grain industry background stands in contrast to the career paths of the five most recent Secretaries of Agriculture — Tom Vilsack, Mike Johanns, Ann Veneman, Dan Glickman and Mike Espy — who were principally attorneys by trade.
Mr. Perdue has said “making sure Americans who make their livelihood in the agriculture industry are thriving is near and dear to my heart.” He has been a vigorous advocate for agricultural exports. If he is confirmed, it is hoped that this advocacy truly will be heard as a moderating voice amidst the protectionist din of the Trump administration. With the administration’s anti-trade tendencies already driving policy, the importance of Mr. Perdue gaining a seat at this most important White House table takes on even greater importance.