Sen. John Thune
The old expression about “wearing something on your sleeve” took on a bit of a literal connotation during a recent meeting I had with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. Shortly after he was nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I had the opportunity to visit with him in my office in Washington, D.C. When he strolled in wearing cowboy boots and a necktie covered in pheasants, I knew we were going to get along.
If a job application for agriculture secretary existed, Gov. Perdue would check all of the boxes. Who better to help implement farm bill policy than someone who’s worked on and operated a farm himself? Not only does he have a deep background in farming, but he’s the son of a farmer, too. He’s also a licensed veterinarian and has been quite successful in agribusiness. For decades, Perdue served his community and state in various public service roles, including as a member of the local planning and zoning board, state senator, and governor.
In short, Gov. Perdue is a farmer and businessman who understands the people, land, and animals that keep family-owned operations functioning and has experience in creating, implementing, and defending public policy. In today’s agriculture economy, that’s exactly the kind of person we need leading the Department of Agriculture, and I’m thankful that he’s willing to enter public service once again.
During his recent confirmation hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee, of which I’m a longtime member, I was glad to hear that Gov. Perdue would do all he can to help ensure our food supply is kept safe, which is welcome news, particularly considering the recent Brazilian meat scandal. I was also impressed by his commitment to being flexible in administering the current farm bill, which expires late next year, something the previous administration failed to do. Not only is Gov. Perdue ready to improve implementation of the current farm bill, but he’s eager to hit the ground running in preparation for the next one, too.
I’m already working on numerous proposals to improve programs under various titles of the farm bill, including commodity, livestock, and forestry, among others. During my initial meeting with Gov. Perdue, I discussed my proposal that would allow farmers to enroll a portion of their least-productive land in a new short-term program, the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP). SHIPP would improve soil health and improve efficiency, and enrollees would receive a rental payment and additional crop insurance assistance. He was open to working with me on this and told me he appreciated out-of-the-box thinking. I look forward to continuing that conversation.
Agriculture is South Dakota’s top industry, and I have the highest respect for the hard-working men and women who help operate farms and ranches across the state. Having grown corn, soybeans, and wheat himself – all of the things that are important to South Dakota farmers – I believe Gov. Perdue understands the difficulties and opportunities farmers and ranchers face around the country. He comes at this with a unique perspective, and I’m confident the Department of Agriculture will be in good hands under his leadership.