By Zippy Duvall
President, American Farm Bureau Federation
We farmers sometimes have an inferiority complex. We feel taken for granted considering what we produce is one of the most important things humans need.
The long wait for a new secretary of agriculture hasn’t helped. While the Senate has confirmed Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Gov. Rick Perry to head up the Energy Department, Gov. Sonny Perdue still waits for a vote on his confirmation as secretary of agriculture. Rex Tillerson is in place at the State Department. Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Jeff Sessions, attorney general, were confirmed back in February. Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are done. Same for Health and Human Services, Interior, Education, Transportation, Commerce, Veterans Affairs, EPA and others. In fact, the agriculture secretary is one of only three Cabinet-level posts that remain vacant (along with Labor and U.S. Trade Representative). Whether intentional or not, it sends the wrong message: that agriculture just isn’t as important as other things.
But I bet all 100 senators will eat a hearty meal today. They’ll just assume their food is plentiful and safe—and it is. To keep it that way, the men and women who grow our food, fiber and energy crops need an agriculture secretary on the job. Gov. Perdue is the right man for the job. The members of the Senate Agriculture Committee certainly think so; they’ve overwhelmingly approved sending Perdue’s nomination to the full Senate.
There’s important work ahead for the agriculture secretary: mapping out a productive path forward on trade, addressing the ag labor shortage that seems to get worse every year, and developing recommendations for the 2018 farm bill as farmers continue to deal with the biggest drop in farm prices and income in decades. That’s on top of steering ongoing work such as protecting animal health (and foreign markets) from diseases like avian influenza.
I know Gov. Perdue is eager to get to work on behalf of farmers, consumers and rural America. It’s time for the Senate to let him do just that. It’s time to confirm Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture!
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.