KANSAS CITY, April 27, 2017 – It’s only Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s third day on the job and he’s already outside the D.C. beltway.
Perdue made his first official visit as Secretary to Kansas City where he met with employees at the Department of Agriculture’s Beacon Facility. The new secretary called Beacon “a well-run facility” in his first trip there, where he delivered remarks to about 1,500 employees.
Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Perdue said he puts trade at the top of his agenda. This week, President Donald Trump backed off reported intentions to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, choosing instead to renegotiate with Canada and Mexico. Perdue said Trump’s main NAFTA concerns are with manufacturing, but he said agriculture could stand to gain from renegotiation, too.
“He believes there are things that need to be redone, retooled, any trade agreement this old… He has seen what has happened in the automotive industry and how manufacturing is going to Mexico. It is taking jobs from Americans and he wants those jobs here,” Perdue said. “NAFTA has been good for American agriculture. We think it can even be improved in agriculture products as well.”
Perdue also defended Trump’s budgetary policy, which includes a 21 percent cut to USDA funding.
“As an American, facing a $20 trillion debt with 14 grandchildren, I don’t think it is my moral responsibility to kick that debt to those grandchildren so I am happy.” Perdue said, adding that Trump had talked about the idea during the campaign. “But a 20 to 21 percent cut is tough, but as Governor it’s just like a bad revenue estimate.”
According to Perdue, when he was Governor of Georgia, between 2003 to 2011, five of the eight budgets he presented to the general assembly had less money than the prior year.
“We did more with less and we inspired people to do more with less and that is what we’re doing here at USDA today, was inspiring people to do more with less,” he said. “We have to get this deficit under control and we don’t want to do it all on the backs of USDA, everyone needs to give some.”
Rumors have floated around about possible candidates for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and other high up positions. When asked about it, Perdue said his team is “working very quickly, because I need help.” Around 18 positions still needed to be filled and must be appointed by the president. Perdue didn’t offer any names for any specific positions.
Perdue said during Trump’s first 100 days on the job, the president “has done his best to keep his promises on his campaign,” especially when it comes to rolling back “some of the onerous regulations agriculture has faced.”
The White House rolled out its tax plan earlier this week, and Perdue thinks it will help lower the deficit and restore “many things” as time goes on. He didn’t get into specifics.
“I told these good people today we need to make the USDA the best-managed, the most efficient, the most effective, proudest-run and the most fun place to work in the United States government,” Perdue concluded. “That translates into better service for a better product for our producers and consumers.”
Friday, Perdue will participate in an agriculture town hall speaking with several hundred farmers at the American Royal.
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