Today marks the confirmation of Georgia’s own, Sonny Perdue, as the nation’s Secretary of Agriculture with a vote of 87-11 and widespread support from those both in the public and private sector.
On January 3rd, 2003, George Ervin Perdue III, who prefers to be called Sonny, became the 81st governor of Georgia and the first Republican since the Reconstruction to acquire the position. In the coming days, he will be confirmed as the Secretary of Agriculture for the Trump administration, making him the first deep southerner to lead the Department of Agriculture in two decades. Perdue’s nomination is significant when considering the implications it may have for the Food Stamp Program and the subsidizing of American farmers.
“Sonny,” unlike Steve Bannon, Steve Mnuchin, and Rex Tillerson, has drawn less national criticism despite being stereotyped as a wealthy white businessman. Born to a farmer and a school teacher in Perry, Georgia, Perdue comes from humble beginnings. As a University of Georgia alumni, he was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity as well as a walk-on for the football team. While attending UGA, he volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged after receiving the rank of captain. During this time, he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and went on to start three small businesses; one of which fittingly dealt in grain and fertilizer. Whilst lobbying President Trump for the position of Secretary of Agriculture, he emphasized the fact that he was and still is a businessman who holds governmental experience. Appealing to President Trump’s corporate nature, Sonny exclaimed his governmental history was merely an “interruption” to his work in the agricultural industry.
Mr. Perdue’s attempt to brush his successful political history off as an “interruption” is a modest plea, to say the least. In 1990 Sonny ironically began climbing the political ladder when he became the Democratic State Senator of the 18th district. In fact, he proceeded not only to win re-election through 1997 but additionally to become the Democrats party leader in the State Senate as well. Then, in 1998, he switched party affiliation to become a Republican and won re-election yet again in 2000.
When Perdue won the gubernatorial office in 2002, he brought with him extensive business experience capable of yielding much-needed change. By creating the ‘Commission for a New Georgia,’ comprised of the state’s top 400 business leaders, he drastically cut government waste and improved the “effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and culture of public service,” according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. The Commission went on to implement 130 changes throughout its existence, serving as a model for future such governmental organizations. Leading up to this point, there had been no inventory of state-owned assets by any agency within Georgia. With that kind of success, there’s no reason to believe Sonny wouldn’t bring the same mindset to Washington.
With this being Sonny Perdue’s legacy, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t pull modest bipartisan support. Unfortunately, his ties to fertilizer sales draw skepticism from major publications such as the New York Times and Washington Post, who have called into question his character when dealing with environmental pollution. Then again, Perdue did sue the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to block regulations on reformulated gasoline in 2004, then proceeded to call the Left’s climate change arguments ridiculous in 2014, understandably warranting such an argument.
Additionally, major publications have discussed his 2007 prayer for rain on the steps of the capitol building with varying degrees of sentiment. Several actually looked down upon the well-intentioned Governor for his actions. On November 13th of that year, Perdue called for stricter water regulations and led a couple hundred people in a prayer asking god to forgive Georgia for its wastefulness.
He stated; “God, we need you; we need rain,” following a similar gesture accomplished earlier that year by the governor of Alabama. It was a harmless act selflessly done for the people of Georgia, yet it still resulted in some mainstream harassment.
Discrepancies aside, Perdue is on pace to oversee a department with a budget of $150 billion, over six times the estimated budget of Georgia in 2017. He will manage the Department of Agriculture with a plethora of knowledge and success in both business and politics to back him up. He will do so with an increase of pressure on the EPA from the Trump administration, allowing him breathing room when it comes to meeting the needs of ranchers and farmers across America.
Arguably the most interesting outcome of this nomination will pertain to the Food and Nutrition Service, to which up to eighty percent of the $150 billion budget currently accounts for. This is a result of the FNS’s largest component, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as the Food Stamp Program, which requires immense funding. With a history of cutting government waste and improving efficiency, the largest changes may not affect the farmers, but rather those who rely on Food Stamps.
—Jakob Reese is a junior studying at Terry School of Business. He is a first-time contributor to The Arch Conservative and has graciously waited over a month for us to publish this article (we guessed he would be confirmed much earlier)