New Ag Secretary Sonny Purdue Sees Trade as Biggest Challenge


On Tuesday morning at National Association of Farm Broadcaster’s Washington Watch even in Washington, D.C.  newly minted Ag Secretary Sonny Purdue spoke with the nation’s farm broadcasters about what led him to accept the challenge of leading USDA:

“I sort of feel like my life’s history has brought me to this point.  Obviously, growing up on a diversified row-crop farm, dairy as well, having graduated from veterinary school at the University of Georgia, a little air force experience, and being in agriculture since 1976, on our home place there in Georgia, had a little sabbatical in Atlanta eight years, being governor of Georgia, so, a little experience that way.

 “Many of my friends have ask me why I want to do this at my stage of life?  I believe when you’re tapped on the shoulder from a service standpoint, I’m the kind of guy that salutes and says ‘put me in, coach’.

 “So, we’re here to make agriculture a benefit from all across our nation, not only from our producers, agriculturalist, timber growers, ranchers, but our consumers, as well.”

While only six days on the job, Purdue has already assimilated into the culture at USDA:

“Kind of my little tag line for USDA is ‘do right, and feed everyone!’”

In these early days of his tenure at USDA, Purdue sees trade as one of the biggest challenges;

“Men and women are producing food and fiber in such abundance that our biggest challenge is trade, and that’s my responsibility.  These folks all across the country grow the beef, grow the cattle, grow the hogs, the poultry and produce the crops all across the country in such abundance in a bless America where our biggest challenge is selling it world-wide, and that’s where we come in to play.”

What was considered to be a problem area in the Obama administration was conflicting goals and missions between cabinet level agencies, including the EPA.  Purdue said he’s already tearing down those perceptions, especially with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt:

“There is going to be some inter-agency cooperation here that I don’t think we’ve seen before.  I had breakfast with the EPA administrator  Scott Pruitt, and I joked with him early on, before I got confirmed, I said ‘all my agriculture guys are more excited to have you there than me there because of what you’ve already done.’”

And Purdue is pleased with the strides already made at EPA:

“He’s already demonstrated a real understanding of the barriers that we put out in our farms and fields all across this country, and we’re committed to do even more.  Common sense regulations, we’re not talking about the Wild West free-range kind of do anything.  but, it’s my belief is that agriculturalist, farmers, ranchers those people that  grow our food and fiber have been some of the best conservationist, the best people that are concerned about their land, and our responsibility, as agriculturalist as stewards of this land, and you need to leave it better than you found it.”

Tomorrow we’ll have more from Ag Secretary Sonny Purdue at NAFB’s Washington Watch in Washington, DC.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.