As expected, U.S. President Donald Trump and his staff have done plenty to grab the headlines since his inauguration on January 20.
He has initiated steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He later signed a trio of executive orders, including one that withdraws the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. And we haven’t forgotten the way his press secretary, Sean Spicer, chastised the media and told them what they should be emphasizing in their reports, citing unverified "alternative facts" and doing so without answering any questions.
The flurry of news being generated by the new president isn’t likely to slow down soon, but amid all of that, there’s one thing that we shouldn’t ignore -- one thing that happened even before Trump was sworn in as president.
It took him longer to nominate an agriculture secretary than any other Cabinet member. He made that announcement on the morning of January 19 – just one day before Trump was to take office himself.
Nomination of Sonny Perdue
When Trump finally did make an announcement, he revealed that he had appointed former Georgia Gov. George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue to lead the USDA.
That long wait time, well beyond two months, was a nervous period for those in agriculture. Several dozen names were thrown out, including some scary ones like a Texan best known for a vulgar term used on his Twitter account and a Kansan best known for getting kicked off the House Agriculture Committee.
Fortunately, Perdue, who comes from the nation’s leading poultry producing state, has the support of many industry groups. Those to publicly express gladness that Perdue was his pick include the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), National Chicken Council (NCC), National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI).
Does delay signal apathy toward agriculture?
How should we interpret the length of time Trump took to name an agriculture secretary?
It could have been that he just needed more time to find the right person for the job as he felt there were many qualified candidates. It could have been that Perdue was his top choice for a long time, but it took Perdue longer to decide if he really wanted the job. Or, it could have been that agriculture was at the bottom of his priority list.
While I hope this is not the case, there are plenty of reasons to believe it could have been due to the latter. Just ask former agriculture secretaries. Ed Schafer, who like Trump is a Republican, stated that Trump’s “view of rural America is a place you can put a golf course.” Dan Glickman, a Democrat, said it was “quite frankly, astounding” that it took so long to make a nomination, reported the Hays Post and other media outlets.
Also giving credence to the notion that agriculture is not a high priority for Trump is his decision to withdraw from TPP.
A long list of agriculture organizations, including all of the aforementioned groups that hailed the appointment of Perdue, had advocated for TPP. And Trump withdrew. Will a better alternative trade deal be reached? Time will tell.
Time will also tell if Trump becomes a good president and Perdue becomes a good agriculture secretary if he is confirmed. Regardless, we shouldn’t forget the long wait for an agriculture secretary appointee.