WASHINGTON D.C. — Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) says he will support the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Agriculture, but cautioned that he will “hold accountable” former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to address and support issues vital for Ohio farmers and rural communities.
In a phone press conference Tuesday with members of the agriculture media, Brown said he will vote in support of Perdue in the Senate Agriculture Committee and vote in favor of the nominee when he comes before the full Senate. He expects the committee to meet and vote still this week, with a full Senate vote before it goes into recess next week.
“There is no reason why we can’t do that,” Brown said.
Perdue, 70, would be the first Southerner to lead the Agriculture Department in more than two decades. He comes from the small city of Bonaire in rural central Georgia, where he built businesses in grain trading and trucking. He attended the University of Georgia, where he played football as a walk-on and earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine. In 2002, Perdue was elected the state’s first Republican governor since the end of Reconstruction more than 130 years earlier.
Brown said that before last Thursday’s Senate Agriculture confirmation hearing with Perdue, he met one-on-one with the Trump nominee.
“The Secretary of Agriculture position is a critical job for Ohio, which is why I invited Gov. Perdue to come to Ohio if he is confirmed. He said he will visit our state in the next year and see the diversity of agriculture that we have,” the senator said. “I will hold him to his promise to visit our state and to move on issues that matter to us.”
Brown said the issues he discussed with Perdue include:
• Protection of the farm safety net called the Agriculture Risk Coverage program that Brown calls a lifeline for Ohio farmers in the 2014 Farm Bill. “We know this is particularly important for Ohio’s wheat, corn and soybean producers.”
• Continued funding for opioid addiction treatment, an epidemic in Ohio’s rural communities. “Two hundred thousand Ohioans are right now getting addition treatment, getting their insurance through the Affordable Care Act. I was happy that on behalf of those Ohioans and their families that the House backed off of their terrible plan Friday, which essentially would have kicked tens of thousands of those Ohioans who were on the road of recovery off their treatment. I urged Gov. Perdue to commit to ensuring that the USDA remains a partner with rural communities in our fight against addition,” Brown said.
Brown added he was also pleased to hear the Trump Administration will launch a new commission to tackle the opioid addiction epidemic and deliver results for struggling communities. “I urge them to come to Ohio and learn from those on the front lines dealing with this disease that kills more Ohioans than in any other state.” he said if confirmed, Perdue should be on this commission.
• Funding for Ohio water infrastructure. Brown said the president’s proposed budget would eliminate the water and waste disposal loan and grant program which has helped 1.4 million rural Ohioans since 2019. “The USDA water resource programs have had a tiny impact on the federal budget but a huge impact on rural communities in our state. You don’t balance the budget on the backs of farmers or the towns they support,” he said, in urging that Perdue work to restore these funds and other programs such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“If he is confirmed I will hold Sonny Perdue and his administration accountable to Ohioans who look for a voice in Washington and deserve to have their infrastructure and concerns taken seriously,” the senator said.
Brown said he talked directly to Gov. Perdue on the importance of conservation programs in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. “He committed to that, both in person and in discussions in the committee, on how important this is. The administration needs to back down on this (funding cuts) and work with local communities to keep our Great Lake clean.”
For Ohio’s agriculture resources, Brown cautioned that, “We need to step it up, not back down.”
Gary Brock is editor of the Civitas Media publication Rural Life Today and can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.