U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue joined President Trump for a “Farmers Roundtable” at the White House to address issues facing the American agriculture community, as the president signed an Executive Order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The roundtable discussion, held on April 25, allowed representatives from all corners of American agriculture to raise concerns and share ideas, just as the task force begins its mission “to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America,” according to the president’s order. The session capped a busy first day in office for Perdue, who was sworn in by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture before greeting employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and travelling to the White House for the roundtable.
“The people who are on the front lines of American agriculture don’t have the luxury of waiting to tend to their crops and livestock, so there was no better time to convene this meeting of the minds than on my first day,” Perdue said. “President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side.”
The meting featured more than a dozen farmers and representatives of the agriculture community who discussed with President Trump and Secretary Perdue a variety of topics, including agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural investment and infrastructure, labor issues, and the Farm Bill. Participants in the roundtable included:
- Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former Oklahoma House member, Lindsay, Okla.
- Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, Pa.
- Hank Choate, Choate’s Belly Acres, Cement City, Mich.
- Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, Ohio
- Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, Ga.
- Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, Minn.
- Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Inc., Fanning Springs, Fla. (also farms in the state of Kansas)
- A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce, Newport Beach, Calif.
- James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, N.C.
- Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and farmer, Spirit Lake, Iowa
- Jose Rojas, VP of Farm Operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, Colo.
- Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, N.Y.
- Steve Troxler, NC Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, N.C.
“The Farmers Roundtable provided the chance for the President to hear directly from the people on the front lines of American agriculture about what they are dealing with every day,” Secretary Perdue said. “By hosting this discussion, the president has demonstrated his awareness of the plight of American farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, his intention to seek input, and his determination to help.”
President Trump’s Executive Order
The act established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity “to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.” As Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue will serve as the task force’s chairman.
“It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture while protecting and supporting the rural communities where food, forestry, fiber, and renewable fuels are grown,” the text of the Executive Order reads. “It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.”
The task force will examine and consider, among other issues, current barriers to economic prosperity in rural America and how innovation and technology may play a role in long-term, sustainable rural development. The panel will attempt to strengthen federalism by working with state agencies charged with implementing economic development, agricultural, and environmental programs, while also emphasizing regulatory flexibility for farms and small businesses. With a dependence on sound science, task force members will examine crop protection tools used by farmers and address concerns regarding labor needed for livestock and year-round agricultural jobs. Additionally, the group will focus on tax policies that allow family farms to remain intact, while also protecting against federal takeover of state-adjudicated water rights, permitting and licensing, and conservation requirements beyond what is provided in law. Finally, members will look to improve food safety and the implementation of food safety laws, but also recognize the unique nature of farming and the diverse business structures of farms.
“It used to be that people in agriculture feared disease and drought as the greatest threats to their livelihoods and their mission of feeding America and the world,” Perdue said. “While those hazards remain, too often now it is the government – through interference and regulation – that poses the most existential threat to American farming. We aim to put a stop to that.”
The task force will seek input from stakeholders in the agricultural community and is required to issue a report with recommendations for legislative or administrative actions within 180 days.
Members of the task force
The group consists of representatives from the following cabinet agencies and executive branch departments:
- Secretary of the Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services;
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Education
- Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
- Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
- Director of the Office of Management and Budget
- Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
- Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
- Director of the Domestic Policy Council
- Director of the National Economic Council
- Administrator of the Small Business Administration
- United States Trade Representative
- Director of the National Science Foundation
- Heads of such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the President or the Secretary of Agriculture may, from time to time, designate
More about Sonny Perdue
The 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture came by his knowledge of agriculture the old-fashioned way: he was born into a farming family in Bonaire, Ga. From childhood, and through his life in business and elected office, Perdue has experienced the industry from every possible perspective. Under Secretary Perdue, the USDA is facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. As the former governor of Georgia, he is a strong believer in good government who will seek solutions to problems and not lament that the agency might be faced with difficult challenges.
His four guiding principles are clear: to maximize the ability of American agriculture to create jobs, sell foods and fiber, and feed and clothe the world; to prioritize customer service for the taxpayers; to ensure that our food supply is safe and secure; and to maintain good stewardship of the natural resources that provide us with our miraculous bounty. And understanding that we live in a global economy where trade is of top importance, Secretary Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.