The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as secretary of the Agriculture Department, ending a three-month vacancy atop the sprawling agency as the food sector confronts potential changes to U.S. trade policy and farm-level regulations.
Perdue, a Republican who grew up on a dairy farm and has managed agribusinesses, was confirmed in an 87-11 vote, garnering significant support from Democratic senators who saw him as an experienced manager who will maintain supports for U.S. farmers navigating a crop-price slump.
Awaiting Perdue is the worst farm-economy slump in decades, with U.S. net farm income projected to fall for a fourth consecutive year to $62.3 billion, half the record $123 billion farmers earned in 2013, according to USDA projections. The agricultural sector, which heavily relies on exports, has also watched warily as President Trump’s administration has moved ahead with an overhaul of U.S. trade policy, including withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which farm groups generally had backed.
The vote makes Perdue among the last members of Trump’s cabinet to be confirmed, though many other senior vacancies remain. Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, and Alexander Acosta, nominated to head the Labor Department, still await confirmation.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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