I come from a state where rural communities serve as the bedrock to our culture and economy. A place where the importance of local leaders – school board members, church deacons and hospital board trustees – is recognized and encouraged. A place where farmers and ranchers are held in high regard, not just for producing the safest, most affordable food and fiber in the world, but because of their work ethic, moral standards and decency. Family farmers and ranchers drive the Kansas rural economy, while at the same time, they rely on the crop protection specialists, local gas station owners, and rural energy providers to succeed. There is unique way of life that exists in rural America that has been passed down generations – a tradition that is worth of defending.
With this in mind, there are few cabinet positions that I am more concerned with than the selection for Secretary of Agriculture. Kansas farmers and ranchers are looking for someone who has his finger on the pulse of rural America, including volatile commodity prices and challenging weather conditions. The Ag Secretary ought to have a deep knowledge of production agriculture and an appreciation for the policies that provide a safety net and risk management tools for agriculture producers. Furthermore, this individual must oversee the many other functions of USDA beyond traditional farm policy, such as providing affordable rural housing, operating farm loan programs and expanding agriculture research efforts.
But not only does the Agriculture Secretary lead the implementation of policies within the USDA, they must also be willing to go to bat for rural America in all other areas of the administration. The Secretary of Agriculture must voice the significance of agricultural exports to the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce, the need for commonsense environmental regulations to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the importance of rural economic development to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
A high bar ought to be set for this – one that reflects the importance of its role to rural America. I look for someone capable of meeting the demands of the job who shows an unwavering commitment to farmers, ranchers and rural communities. I believe that Governor Sonny Perdue exceeds those standards and will prove to be an excellent selection for Secretary of Agriculture.
Governor Perdue’s background as a veterinarian, agribusiness owner and advocate for Georgia’s agriculture producers have given him the depth of knowledge about agriculture necessary to lead the USDA. In our conversations, he reinforced my long-held view that there are too few of us in rural America to be divided among ourselves by region, commodity or farming practice. Governor Perdue recognizes that a Kansas wheat farmer and Georgia peach grower share the same values and goals, namely having the opportunity to pass on a farming and ranching heritage to the next generation.
I look forward to supporting Governor Perdue’s nomination to be Secretary of Agriculture and working to advance our shared goal of defending and improving the lives of people in rural America.