Trump nominates Perdue to serve as agriculture secretary

By Erin Voegele | January 19, 2017

On Jan. 19, President-elect Donald Trump nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the USDA. The nomination, which is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation, represents Trump’s final cabinet selection. Perdue served as Georgia governor from 2003 through 2011.

Members of the biofuels and bioenergy industries have spoken out in response to Perdue’s nomination, indicating they look forward to working with him to continue growing biofuel and bioenergy production.

The Biomass Power Association praised Perdue’s nomination. “Under Governor Perdue’s leadership, the state of Georgia embraced bioenergy in many forms, including biomass power,” said Bob Cleaves, president of Biomass Power Association. “The agriculture secretary plays an important role in overseeing forestry on federal lands. Biomass can help enhance forest health by providing a market for hazardous fuel removal.”

“We anticipate that, if confirmed, Secretary Perdue would appreciate the many ways that biomass power can support the goals of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service,” Cleaves continued.

According to the BPA, Georgia is currently home to 162 MW of biomass power capacity, with more due to come online this year. Under Perdue’s leadership, a 17 MW biomass facility opened in North Georgia, and construction began on a 50 MW facility in LaGrange and a 55 MW facility in Barnesville. Perdue also supported the development of other wood energy projects including wood pellet plants and biofuels production.

The Renewable Fuels Association noted Perdue is well qualified to serve as secretary of agriculture. “We are glad that the president-elect has completed his administration selections,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “Governor Perdue is certainly well qualified and well versed in agriculture issues. We look forward to working with Governor Perdue and others in the administration to continue the growth and evolution of the U.S. biofuels industry. The single most important value added industry for farmers today has transformed rural communities all across the country.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association expressed concern over the lack of Midwestern representation in Trump’s cabinet. “Obviously we will work constructively with former Gov. Perdue to promote renewable fuels production and consumer access to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the IRFA. “And we appreciate that President-elect Trump has shared his pro-renewable fuels standard (RFS) views with each Cabinet nominee.  Having said that, there is concern in the Midwest that no cabinet pick has a demonstrably pro-RFS track record and that there is no Midwestern representation in the cabinet.  We are grateful for President-elect Trump’s support of the RFS and remain committed to working with him to enact his pro-RFS policies.  However, we sincerely and emphatically urge President-elect Trump to create internal balance with his next round of agency leadership appointments, especially within the EPA.  Ensuring some top appointees will bring pro-RFS views to any leadership discussion within EPA would go a long way to easing the increasing worries being expressed privately in many ag circles regarding Trump’s agency picks.”

The National Corn Growers Association congratulated Perdue on his nomination and said the organization looks forward to learning more about his positions on issues important to corn farmers and the agricultural industry. “Agriculture is the backbone of rural America, and we need strong leadership within USDA to keep moving the industry forward through difficult economic times,” said Wesley Spurlock, president of the NCGA. “That means protecting risk management programs, continuing to grow the renewable fuels industry, expanding foreign markets and increasing demand for U.S. agricultural products throughout the world. We stand ready to work with President-Elect Trump and the new USDA leadership to move agriculture and our country forward.”

The 20x’25 Alliance has also spoken out to congratulate Perdue. “We look forward to helping the new secretary sustain the renewable energy development that has been an economic boon to rural America, creating new markets for bioenergy feedstocks, generating revenues from leasing land for wind and solar projects, and providing well-paying jobs and increased national security. Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have helped lead the way in crafting 21st-century clean energy and climate solutions, and they have reaped economic benefits by doing so,” said the group in a statement. “Given the ongoing downturn in commodity prices and land values, we believe that the continued growth of renewable energy, including that driven through USDA programs, will play a critical role in keeping our rural areas economically viable. We look forward to working with the new secretary in finding ways to further demonstrate that wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and other renewable energy development makes good economic sense for rural America.”

Growth Energy has also spoken out in support of Perdue’s nomination.  ““We congratulate Governor Perdue on his nomination to be the next Secretary of Agriculture,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We are confident that each of President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks are fully aware of his vocal support of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and the ethanol industry.”

“Growth Energy is ready to work with Governor Perdue to promote biofuel production and to protect the economic vibrancy of rural America. The ethanol industry provides more than 400,000 jobs across America’s heartland, while ethanol and its byproduct, dried distillers grain (DDGS), are vital international commodities for U.S. agriculture,” Skor continued. “We look forward to working with Governor Perdue to protect the growth of American agriculture and economic welfare of American farmers, all while providing consumers access to higher performing, more economical, American-made options at the gas pump.”