On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue returned to his home state of Georgia to hold an Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force meeting. The task force was formed by an executive order from President Trump in April with Secretary Perdue serving as chairman. According to Trump’s executive order, the task force was created to “promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America.”
Perdue chaired the first meeting in June at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. Since then, he has been following a schedule of meetings throughout the United States to hear the needs of all states and agriculture industries.
However, Secretary Perdue’s trip to Tifton, Georgia, was a little more meaningful than his other stops. Perdue — a Perry, Georgia native and former Georgia governor — was welcomed home with open arms. Perdue chaired the task force meeting in the morning, which was followed by a lunch hosted by the Georgia Farm Bureau.
The task force meeting and the lunch had a huge turnout, featuring Georgia agriculture industry leaders as well as growers. “I think the turnout shows the interest and appreciation that Georgia agriculture has for our new secretary of agriculture,” said Gerald Long, president of the Georgia Farm Bureau.
The task force meeting covered a plethora of issues including rural broadband, labor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and regulation. Secretary Perdue opened the meeting by asking, “What can the federal government do to get out of the way?”
Georgia industry leaders answered Perdue’s question by expressing their concerns and needs for their sectors of agriculture. For example, Bill Brim, president of Lewis Taylor Farms, expressed his concerns about NAFTA and the importance of extreme renovation to the agreement.
Moreover, many people voiced their need for rural broadband. Secretary Perdue recognized this necessity by saying, “(In this day and age) broadband is just as important as water was.” He added that he is dedicated to bringing steady internet to rural areas across the United States during his time in Washington, D.C.
Unfair regulation was also a hot topic at the task force meeting. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black said Food Safety Modernization Act requirements are a big concern for Georgia produce growers. He said the new requirements are mostly concerning because there is a lot of uncertainty as to what is expected of the growers. Black said Secretary Perdue could help aid that situation with more comprehensive training and resource materials for growers before the inspection process begins.
Overall, the Georgia agriculture industry is extremely happy with the Trump administration and Secretary Perdue’s efforts thus far. “Agriculture has been uttered in the White House more in the past six months than the past 16 years,” Black said.
“He’s willing to listen. He’s willing to take action, so that’s very important,” Long said of Secretary Perdue.
In his speech during the Georgia Farm Bureau lunch, Secretary Perdue described his homecoming as “bittersweet.” Georgia was more than happy to host the secretary and looks forward to his return.
“It was an honor to welcome Secretary Perdue home,” Long concluded.
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