Panel to vote on Perdue confirmation today

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Senate Agriculture Committee will vote today on the nomination of Sonny Perdue to be secretary of Agriculture, committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) announced today.

The panel’s ranking member, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), has said she expects to vote in favor of Perdue, the former Republican governor of Georgia.

If the nomination clears the committee, a vote would be scheduled in the full Senate.

Perdue sailed through a confirmation hearing last week in the committee and isn’t expected to face much opposition, although some liberal-leaning groups have criticized his favorable relationships with big agribusinesses and alleged ethical lapses as governor, including accepting gifts from lobbyists.

In addition to Stabenow, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), both on the committee, have stated their support. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has been critical of Trump’s nominees, hasn’t said how she’ll vote but did secure a promise from Perdue that he would visit struggling dairy farmers in upstate New York if confirmed.

Perdue has the endorsement of most farm groups as well as several Democratic politicians, including the previous secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

The nonprofit group has organized a petition drive against Perdue and said it has gathered 39,497 signatures urging senators to oppose him. The group cited his acceptance of political contributions from a political action committee tied to Monsanto Co. and refusal to embrace human-induced climate change.

At his hearing, Perdue said he would defend conservation and commodity programs and be an advocate for farmers and rural areas in a time of declining farm incomes. He said he had no input into the Trump administration’s “skinny budget” proposal, which would cut USDA programs by 20.7 percent, although he also didn’t criticize the plan.

The administration will offer a more detailed budget in May.

Perdue also stated his support for biofuels and the renewable fuel standard.