Choosing the Right US Secretary of Agriculture Is Getting the Attention It Requires


Prediction: Nobody will be talking about the Trump administration’s lack of an agriculture secretary a month or two from now.

Instead, we’ll be amazed at how much President Trump has accomplished for farmers and ranchers.

On the eve of Friday’s presidential inauguration, it’s possible, as always, to get caught up in the obsessions of the moment—the little controversies that drive disputes on Twitter and then melt away like a dusting of snow.

It’s the result of too much living in the now. As a new president enters the White House this weekend, we should fix our attention on the future.

This is precisely what Donald Trump has been doing. He owes his election to Americans who live in middle America and rural America, to the producers and manufacturers who put food on our tables every day—and he’s building what may be the best administration farmers and ranchers ever have known.

It begins with his big-picture ideas. President-Elect Trump is committed to real economic growth. He supports fundamental tax reform and doesn’t believe death should be a taxable event—a major issue for farmers and ranchers who want to keep their sons and daughters in agriculture. He also supports private-property rights and will nominate a Supreme Court justice who agrees.

He won’t just get government out of our pockets—he’ll get it off our backs with regulatory relief, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Obama-era land-grab known as the “Waters of the United States” rule, which he will either withdraw or revise.

President-Elect Trump believes in the freedom to farm and will prevent states from trying to dictate the decisions of food producers in other parts of the country. He’ll work to promote energy independence, bringing jobs to rural areas, promoting biofuels, and reducing the fuel costs of farming and ranching.

Trump made all of this clear during his campaign, which is why he won so much support from the agriculture and rural sector.

Since his election, he has started to make good on his promises through a series of excellent nominations.

I am confident Scott Pruitt will bring common sense and sound science back to the EPA. Rick Perry will offer a producer’s outlook at the Department of Energy. Ryan Zinke will introduce rational land-use policies to the Department of the Interior.

I’m even encouraged about trade—an area in which President-Elect Trump has caused concern among farmers and ranchers, who rely on strong export markets and seek expanded opportunities abroad rather than protectionism at home.

Reports suggest that President-Elect Trump will weaken the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the headquarters of America’s trade diplomats. The agency may not pursue new trade agreements with the vigor of previous administrations, but it will be well aware of how much farmers and ranchers depend on foreign customers.

I suspect that President-Elect Trump will continue to talk tough on trade even as some of his actual positions soften. The selection of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his Ambassador to China proves that whatever happens, agriculture will have a strong voice in every discussion that involves one of America’s most important trading partners.

One of Branstad’s predecessors as Governor of Iowa, of course, is Tom Vilsack, the outgoing Secretary of Agriculture. Earlier this week, Secretary Vilsack criticized Trump for not having selected his own Secretary of Agriculture.

I’m as eager as anybody for President-Elect Trump to make his pick, but I’m also not alarmed by the delay. In fact, I’m encouraged by how much effort he appears to have put into the choice of a person who will oversee an array of programs and a budget of $150 billion. He has interviewed a long list of candidates—perhaps more than he has for any other cabinet position. Many of the contenders look like outstanding possibilities.

Whatever might be said of the fact that President-Elect Trump still has not nominated a Secretary of Agriculture, it’s impossible to charge him with neglecting the office. Rather, he’s giving it the care it deserves.

We’re going to get a superb Secretary of Agriculture. It’s just a matter of time—and pretty soon we’ll stop fretting over a late appointment and instead recognize the achievements of an administration that makes America great again for farmers and ranchers and everybody.


Note: Sonny Perdue has now been formally announced as the nominee for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture as of Thursday 19 January. Perdue has been an agribusiness owner, a veterinarian, and served as Georgia Governor from 2003 to 2011.  This background brings abundant knowledge and real-world common sense to an incredibly important department on which the success of the nation depends.

Carol Keiser

Carol Keiser

Carol has worn many hats in the food and agricultural industry over her life. But her passion has always revolved around beef cattle and mentoring the next generation of agricultural leaders, therefore playing a part in shaping policy affecting food, agriculture and business management on both the National and International levels. Carol and her family called Illinois home for the majority of her career, but her scope of leadership and involvement has been anything but local.

Carol now focuses on current issues of interest to our Global Farmer Network relative to innovation, sustainability and valued trade of red meat and other livestock products. She is currently serving as secretary.

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One thought on “Choosing the Right US Secretary of Agriculture Is Getting the Attention It Requires

  1. Let us support the nomination of Sonny Purdue for US Sec of Agriculture and promote the opportunity to explore best alternatives and changes to enhance international trade that will express best results for all global partnerships. I believe where there is a will there certainly is a way.