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Senate Confirms Ex-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue As Agriculture Secretary

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is sworn-in before a Senate panel on Capitol Hill last month, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing to be secretary of agriculture.

Several Democrats joined Republicans in the Senate to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as the next secretary of agriculture.

The vote was 87-11. Perdue's cousin, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., voted "present" and presided over the vote.

Sonny Perdue grew up on a farm in central Georgia and has owned several agriculture companies. He is not associated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.

NPR's Geoff Bennett reports for our Newscast unit:

"As agriculture secretary, the 70-year-old Perdue will oversee the country's food and farm programs, while managing a department with more than 100,000 employees.

"His most immediate priority will be working with Congress to formulate a new farm bill. The giant five-year measure covers a range of policies from crop insurance for farmers to nutrition programs for low-income Americans.

"Perdue has the support of agriculture groups and lawmakers from farm states who say he can represent the interests of farmers in a Trump administration dominated by wealthy business executives."

Current farm policy expires next year.

The Associated Press reports:

"Perdue will take office as farm prices have been down for several years in a row and some parts of the industry, including cotton and dairy farmers, say they need the department and Congress to rewrite agricultural policy to help revive their business.

"Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Perdue will help facilitate recovery in small American towns.

" 'I know he will put the needs of farmers, ranchers and others in rural America first,' Roberts said."

After months without an agriculture secretary, Perdue will be sworn in early Tuesday.

USA Today reports:

"The much-delayed appointment — the last announced Trump Cabinet post, announced just a day before the Jan. 20 inauguration — has prompted some to express concern that President Donald Trump has made a low priority of the rural and farm interests credited with his victory in November.

"In part to address that concern, the president is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday promoting agriculture and 'rural prosperity,' and will hold a round table discussion with some farmers at the White House.

"The names and hometowns of the farmer participants were not released Monday by the White House."

With Perdue's confirmation, the last two Trump Cabinet-level nominees awaiting Senate confirmation are Alexander Acosta for labor secretary and Robert Lighthizer for U.S. trade representative.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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