Among the many changes inherent to any new administration, a new President of the United States also brings a new wave of administrative leaders across the board. Some of these leaders—Secretary of Agriculture, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S Trade Representative—have a direct impact on the work of Land O’Lakes and our member-owners.
Although some are still in the nomination process, we thought it would be a good time to check in and see where these new leaders stand on issues pertinent to agriculture.
Secretary of Agriculture Nominee: Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA)
Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue was President Trump’s final cabinet nomination, selected just before the inauguration on January 19. Over 650 agriculture trade associations and companies, including Land O’Lakes, sent a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders supporting his nomination.
Gov. Perdue grew up on a farm and attended the University of Georgia where he earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine. He served as a Captain in the United States Air Force and then opened a small agriculture retail business. From 1990 to 2001, he served in the Georgia State Senate. After which, Perdue switched parties from Democrat to Republican.
Sonny Perdue served as Georgia’s Governor for two terms from 2003 to 2011. As Governor, Perdue focus areas included transportation, budget reform and job creation. As Secretary of Agriculture, Gov. Perdue will oversee many pertinent issues to Land O’Lakes, including oversight of rulemaking and implementation of laws such as commodity farm programs, animal welfare, biotechnology, school nutrition and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He will oversee approximately 100,000 employees and overall budget of about $140 billion across all USDA programs. With the 2018 Farm Bill in development, Perdue’s stances and his budget priorities will have widespread influence—his background in agribusiness, farming and trade will likely be of great help.
The Senate confirmation hearing for Gov. Perdue will most likely be in April.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Scott Pruitt
Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed to the post of Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on February 17.
As Attorney General he scrutinized overreach and overregulation by the federal government. Administrator Pruitt has previously criticized and filed lawsuits against the EPA for many regulations including the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, as well as issues related to the fossil fuel industry. His ties to the oil and fossil fuel industries were of controversy during the process of his confirmation. WOTUS, which defines the rivers, lakes and streams under the jurisdiction of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers for purposes of the Clean Water Act, may be overturned by court decisions or could be rewritten by Administrator Pruitt’s team at EPA.
EPA is also the regulator for crop protection products. Land O’Lakes is actively engaged with our trade associations CropLife America, Agriculture Retailers Association and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives to advocate for transparent, evidence-based crop protection product approvals to make sure farmers have the best tools available to them.
U.S. Trade Representative Nominee: Robert Lighthizer
Robert Lighthizer is a former deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) who worked under former President Ronald Reagan. His return to the USTR follows nearly three decades of work as a lawyer representing U.S. manufacturing, agriculture and tech companies on trade issues.
As one of his first actions as President, President Trump withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and has instead stated that he would work one-on-one with individual countries to establish trade deals, with particular interest in Japan and the United Kingdom. As USTR, Lighthizer would oversee these trade negotiations.
Mr. Lighthizer has been an ardent critic of China’s trade practices, arguing that China has failed to live up to commitments made in 2001 through the World Trade Organization. The results of the trade negotiations and renegotiations will directly affect agriculture exports and commodities throughout the country.
Trade is essential to agriculture as more consumers for U.S. products live outside our boarders than within. Land O’Lakes is committed to preserving current markets and expanding additional opportunities for agricultural exports.
Many additional senior positions throughout the Administration are still to be filled. In the meantime, it is still up to all of us to continue making our voices heard about issues that will directly affect us in the coming years. There are many ways to reach out and share what issues matter to you as we anticipate potential changes in agriculture, resources and trade with this new administration.