Monday, the United States Senate voted to confirm former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.
“I want to congratulate Sonny Perdue on his long-overdue confirmation to Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture,” Congressman Roger Marshall said. “His leadership is especially relevant as producers face record world surpluses and depressed farm prices.
Throughout this long process, one silver lining has been the broad, bipartisan support shown for Perdue, and support coming from all over the ag community, Marshall said. “It shows that agriculture can still put partisanship aside for the good of our country, economy and our producers. I welcome the chance to work hand-in-hand with the Secretary as we help producers navigate existing programs and as we look toward the 2018 farm bill.”
In addition to farm and nutrition policy, Marshall expects Perdue to be a sound champion for trade, something he’s heard time and again from Kansans concerned about our ability to open new markets for products made in Kansas. Secretary Perdue’s experience as an exporter and governor leading trade missions will be invaluable as this administration pursues trade policy.
“As I have said before, Perdue’s background growing up on a farm, his service in the military as a veterinarian, as well as his career in agribusiness and successful tenure as governor, make him a good fit to lead the US Department of Agriculture at this critical time for our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” Marshall said.
Secretary’s confirmation delay was inconvenient for Kansas
Marshall’s comments comes on the heels of similar comments made at a legislative coffee held Saturday, April 22, at the Hoisington Activity Center. The coffee was hosted by the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce, and featured Marshall, as well as two state representatives, Rep. Troy Waymaster and Rep. Tori Arnberger.
Agriculture was among the top concerns of attendees, who asked Marshall questions concerning trade, the new farm bill under consideration, as well as concerns over how long it would take to fill key cabinet positions, including that of the Secretary of Agriculture.
He noted that the Purdue had already gone through the confirmation process, and all that was left to be done was for time to be set aside by the Senate to vote. However, that vote was delayed due to what Marshall referred to as “bipartisan grandstanding to be on television,” which occurred due to hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch. Meanwhile, not having the Secretary of Agriculture in place made it very difficult to help Kansans who were affected by the recent huge prairie fires. Now, with Purdue confirmed, progress can begin on the 2018 farm bill.
Fighting for McGovern-Dole Act
Marshall serves on the Nutrition Subcommittee of the Senate Ag Committee. That committee, he said, is the most bipartisan group in Congress, and most likely to get work done.
It will be a challenging task, he said, as President Donald Trump in his proposed budget has scratched out 15 to 20 percent of the current Ag budget. That includes money allocated to the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program that donates U.S. agricultural commodities to support school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects.
Its one of the programs Marshall is fighting to keep in the 2018 farm bill, he said, because he feels food is one of the most important national security weapons the country has.
In addition, he’s fighting to make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars for nutrition aid here at home. He hopes to see other states will follow suit with Kansas, which only provides food stamps to able-bodied individuals without employment for two months.
“I’m in favor of able-bodied Americans working and if they are on food stamps or welfare, they need to be in some type of a work training program and applying for work,” he said. “I want to give people a hand up, not a hand-out.”
Trade higher importance than farm bill for Kansans
Dean Stoskopf, a Hoisington farmer, commented on Marshall’s recent trip to Cuba. He reflected on how 40 years ago, the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro had begun opening markets up for wheat, but then administrations changed.
He wanted to know if there was any possibility of those markets being opened to American farmers again. Marshall was hopeful,
“There are two things, the embargo going on, and additionally, even though we can sell them crops, they cannot finance any of it through United States financing,” he said. Instead, Cuba purchases wheat from France on a 400-day note, he said.
From the United States, a small amount of corn, poultry and soybeans are purchased, but Marshall sees great opportunity ahead for the United States, with Cuban President Raul Castro stepping down in February, and the country moving more towards socialism from communism.
Trade, in fact, is an even bigger issue to Kansans right now than the farm bill, Marshall said.
Now, Marshall is working on organizing a trip to Mexico, Kansas’ biggest trading partner. He added that the next critical confirmation he’d like to see is Bob Lighthizer, Trump’s pick for U.S. trade representative. According to a Bloomberg Politics report on Tuesday, April 25, that vote is expected to be brought to the Senate floor in about two weeks.