"Do Right and Feed Everyone" U. S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue: Year One

Sonny Perdue came by his knowledge of agriculture the old fashioned way: he was born into a farming family in Bonaire, Georgia. From childhood, and through his life in business and elected office, Perdue has experienced the industry from every possible perspective. Uniquely qualified as a former farmer, agribusinessman, veterinarian, state legislator, and governor of Georgia, he became the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture on April 25, 2017.

In his first year, Secretary Perdue and the USDA team made breakthroughs in agricultural trade, moved to reduce burdensome regulations, responded to natural disasters, and battled through the worst fire season on record, among other notable achievements.

“As secretary, I will champion the concerns of farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, and will work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families,” Secretary Perdue said. “I am proud to have been given this opportunity and look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work as we continue to move the USDA and our nation forward.”

Stakeholder Outreach

Since being sworn in on April 25, 2017, Secretary Perdue has visited 35 states and six foreign countries, conducting outreach to rural and agricultural stakeholders promoting President Donald J. Trump’s agenda.

Secretary Perdue's three "Back to Our Roots" RV Tours spanned across 11 states, covered over 3,000 miles, and touched countless people of American agriculture.

"As always, our ‘Back to our Roots’ RV tours are opportunities to get out of Washington, D.C. to hear directly from the American people in the agriculture community,” Secretary Perdue said.

First "Back to Our Roots" RV Tour - Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana

Secretary Perdue undertook a five-state RV tour to gather input on the 2018 Farm Bill and increasing rural prosperity. Along the way, he met with farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, students, governors, Members of Congress, USDA employees, and other stakeholders.


(Pictured) Tasting some sweet corn as he toured the Hunger Task Force Farm, which administers USDA commodity programs and services area food pantries and food banks in and around Franklin, WI.


Secretary Perdue, Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron, Governor Eric J. Holcomb, Lt. Governor Suzanna Crouch, and approximately 40 local farmers attended a Farm Bureau Lunch and participated in a farm bill listening session in the Normandy Barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.


Visiting fairgoers, livestock show presenters, FFA members, and 4-H teams showcasing agriculture-related STEM education at the Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, IA.


Secretary Perdue participated in a discussion of the 2018 Farm Bill with Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap, local farmers, and agriculture leaders at Paap Farm in Garden City, MN.


Discussing the 2018 Farm Bill with Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, and approximately 50 local farmers at the Beaty Farm in Rochester, IL.

Second "Back to Our Roots" RV Tour - Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire

Secretary Perdue undertook a three-state RV tour to gather more input on the 2018 Farm Bill and increasing rural prosperity. Along the way, Perdue met with farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, students, governors, Members of Congress, USDA employees, and other stakeholders.


(Pictured) Visiting Prides Corner Nursery, in Lebanon, CT. Owner Mark Sellew led him on a tour before a luncheon and Farm Bill Listening Session, with approximately 40 farmers and producers. The Farm Bill conversation was moderated by Connecticut Farm Bureau Executive Director Henry Talmage.


On the front porch at Davidian Brothers Farm in Northborough, MA for a townhall with Massachusetts Farm Bureau President and farm owner Ed Davidian, Representative Jim McGovern (MA-2), Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner John Lebeaux, and approximately 75 farmers and producers.


In Loudon, NH, Lef Farms President and CEO Henry Huntington led Secretary Perdue on a tour of the precision controlled hydroponic system - in the time it takes for a gutter of baby greens to travel from one end of a greenhouse to the other, plants grow from seed to a harvestable size.

Third "Back to Our Roots" RV Tour - Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky

Kicking off his third RV tour to hear ideas and concerns from local farmers, agriculture students and researchers, business owners, community leaders, and USDA employees. He was also joined by Administrator Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration, for part of the tour.


(Pictured) Secretary Perdue and Administrator McMahon tour Amherst Greenhouse in Harrod, OH.


Making some moo calls to the cattle cared for by the students of the Montgomery County High School Agriculture Department in Mount Sterling, KY.


Speaking to students and faculty at Michigan State University's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and toured the college's agriculture research lab in East Lansing, MI.

Following the first two RV tours, Secretary Perdue announced the USDA's Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018 during a town hall at Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

“These principles will be used as a road map – they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it’s the legislature’s job to write the Farm Bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require,” said Secretary Perdue.

(Pictured) Secretary Perdue toured Reinford Farms outside of Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, and held a town hall meeting where he rolled out USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles.


In January 2018, Secretary Perdue unveiled Farmers.gov, the new interactive one-stop website for producers maintained by the USDA. Farmers.gov is now live and will have multiple features added over the coming months to allow agricultural producers to make appointments with USDA offices, file forms, and apply for USDA programs.

Youth Development

Additionally, USDA increased its efforts to attract youth to agriculture, including signing a memoranda of understanding with National FFA and separately with SCORE, an organization of business-oriented mentors. At many of his stops across America, Secretary Perdue interacted with National FFA and 4-H students to encourage the next generation to enter fields of agriculture.

"My mission is to serve you and to help you as you are growing a legacy that learns; as you are growing a legacy that leads; as you are growing a legacy that feeds; as you are growing a legacy that believes; and you are growing a legacy that inspires," Secretary Perdue said. "You inspire me."

Greeted by 4-H members during his visit to the Georgia State Fair in Perry, GA.


Secretary Perdue undertook a significant reorganization of USDA, including the creation of the first-ever Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, as directed by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Secretary Perdue swore-in Ted McKinney as the Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs on the Whitten Patio in Washington, D.C.

As part of the reorganization, Perdue implemented a strategic vision focused on modernizing Information Technology, facilities, and support services; streamlining processes; engaging stakeholders; and improving stewardship of resources. Additionally, Perdue established an Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, solidifying his commitment to improving USDA customer service by bringing together three of the Department’s most customer-facing agencies: Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency.

Secretary Perdue administered the oath of office to Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, Bill Northey, at the Annual Iowa Ag Leaders Dinner in Des Moines, IA.


USDA scored significant trade victories during 2017, including the reentry of U.S. beef to China after a 13-year hiatus; Chinese market access for U.S. rice for the first time ever; easing of regulations on U.S. citrus into the European Union; gaining approval for new biotech varieties in China; resumption of U.S. distillers dried grains into Vietnam and China; reentry of U.S. chipping potatoes into Japan; and lifting of South Korea’s ban on imports of U.S. poultry.

“Food is a noble thing to trade. This nation has a great story to tell and we've got producers here that produce more than we can consume,” said Secretary Perdue. “And that’s good, because I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. Our people in American agriculture have shown they can grow it, and we’re here to sell it in markets all around the world.”

Secretary Perdue hosted Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican Secretary of Agriculture José Calzada Rovirosa in Savannah, GA for trilateral meetings as well as other joint events in June 2017.

Regulatory Reform

Overall, USDA worked to reduce regulatory burdens on Americans and identified 27 final rules across the Department that will be completed in 2018, which will save an estimated $56.15 million.

Responding to the concerns of local school nutrition workers and students, USDA moved to restore flexibility in order to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The School Meal Flexibility Rule makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes with the Department.

Joined by National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Leon Andrews and DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Director Keith A. Anderson to hand out breakfast at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Washington, D.C. to highlight the critical role local park and recreation agencies play in providing activities, programming, and meals to children during out-of-school time throughout the country.

Secretary Perdue announced an interim rule providing regulatory flexibility for the National School Lunch Program at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, VA.

“Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals,” Secretary Perdue said. “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements. Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

Disaster Response

USDA helped feed people and assist producers who experienced devastating losses across five states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Assistance included direct delivery of food packages, waivers and flexibilities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, approval of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, waivers for free school meals, and supplies of infant formula and baby food. USDA staff were deployed across hurricane-stricken regions to provide timely assistance through various emergency conservation, clean-up, and indemnity programs while authorizing additional time flexibilities for reporting losses and completing requests for assistance. Secretary Perdue provided Puerto Rico with a one-of-a-kind program that covered dairy cattle feed costs to prevent herd losses following virtually complete destruction of feed across the island.

On an aerial reconnaissance of damaged cotton fields as part of the USDA's relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Observing cotton that was flooded with water from Hurricane Harvey, while surveying agricultural damage from Houston to El Campo, TX.

Secretary Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke received a first-hand look at a Forest Service smokejumper and aviation base, in Missoula, MT.

Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia described to Secretary Perdue the strategies, tactics, and challenges of fighting the fires near San Fernando, CA.

USDA’s Forest Service responded to the worst fire season on record, deploying over 25,000 personnel and spending $2.9 billion fighting fires across the nation.

Through the leadership of the Trump Administration, Congress agreed to a bipartisan fix for the way the U.S. Forest Service is funded for fighting wildfires. Improving the way we fund wildfire suppression helps USDA Forest Service better manage the nation’s forests.

In April 2018, Secretary Perdue announced USDA will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires. The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP).

Rural Prosperity

Secretary Perdue chaired the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, created by President Trump’s executive order, to seek ways to improve quality of life and increase prosperity across rural America. The Task Force, made up of 22 cabinet departments and federal agencies, was presented to President Trump in January 2018 at the 2018 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. The final report included concrete recommendations for improving the economic situation across America’s heartland.

Secretary Perdue launched a USDA initiative to provide comprehensive and timely support to veterans interested in opportunities in agriculture, agribusiness, and in rural America. USDA wants to ensure veterans looking to return home or start a new career on a farm or in a rural community have the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. The resources include a website and a USDA-wide AgLearn curriculum to allow all employees to understand the unique opportunities offered to our nation’s veterans.

(Pictured) Answering a question from 28th Bomb Wing, 28th Civil Engineering Squadron, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Flight Logistics Section Superintendent Technical Sergeant Kurt Abrahamson during a Veterans-to-Agriculture listening session with transitioning Airmen and their families at Ellsworth AFB, SD.


USDA unveiled a mobile application for Apple and Android devices to provide Executive Branch employees answers to questions about government ethics issues. The USDA Ethics App was the first of its kind in the federal government and reaffirms Perdue’s commitment to applying President Trump’s government-wide ethics standards to the department. The Ethics App brings to users’ fingertips short, easy-to-read summaries of federal ethics rules and Hatch Act limitations on political activity. It includes a comprehensive video library so that officials can quickly become familiar with these important rules at any time, whether in the office, off-site, or on official travel. It also contains a resources section so USDA employees can readily contact an ethics advisor at USDA. The groundbreaking application was designed to make compliance with the federal ethics rules a one-stop-shop for USDA employees, but the app is available to anyone with Android devices or Apple devices .

“On my first day as Secretary of Agriculture, I emphasized USDA’s firm commitment to maintaining the highest degree of integrity and ethical behavior in keeping with President Trump’s ethics pledge,” Perdue wrote in an email to all USDA staff to announce the application. “As public servants, our greater understanding of these important rules will help serve USDA’s mission and our motto to ‘Do right and feed everyone’ so that we enhance the American public’s confidence in the integrity and important work of the Department of Agriculture.”

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