Legislative Activity

President Trump Talks Trade in Agriculture Proclamation

Last week was a big week for the agriculture community – even though most of Washington was focused on healthcare reform. Two days prior to the Senate Agriculture Committee’s confirmation hearing for Sonny Perdue, who is presumed to become the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), President Trump on Tuesday signed a proclamation honoring March 21, 2017, as National Agriculture Day. In the 337-word proclamation, President Trump cited the agriculture industry’s benefits to the national and global economies and expressed his deep appreciation for the agriculture sector’s role in providing jobs and food security. The proclamation’s undertone, however, reflected the controversial issue of trade. President Trump stated that agriculture exports account for ten percent of the nation’s total exports and that “agriculture will be an important consideration” as the administration negotiates future trade agreements.

The proclamation’s timing couldn’t have been better. There is no doubt the agriculture community as a whole has shown significant support for President Trump; however, it has also displayed angst amid some of the president’s public comments and recent executive actions on issues of great importance to rural America, such as immigration, USDA’s budget, and trade. The proclamation is a clear message to rural America that the president has not forgotten who helped catapult him to victory last November. Its timing just two days before Sonny Perdue’s Senate nomination hearing further signals the administration’s attention to policies affecting rural America.

Sonny Perdue Finally Gets Senate Spotlight

Widely known in the agriculture, business, and political communities and supported by a broad bipartisan group on Capitol Hill, Sonny Perdue breezed through his confirmation hearing with no apparent hiccups. Even former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Rep. David Scott (D-GA) joined the conversation, offering brief words of support for Perdue’s nomination.

Perdue noted that as USDA Secretary, his objective would be to promote the continued development of the agriculture sector and rural communities. Of particular note, Perdue indicated he would work to ensure that President Trump’s full Fiscal Year 2018 budget request – which is expected in either April or May – will include sufficient funding for USDA programs. While not discussed in great detail, Perdue also stated his intention to work closely with the committee on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. Specific to trade, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) asked how the agricultural sector could strengthen its involvement in the development of trade policy. Noting he has a strong relationship with the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Perdue stated his commitment to ensuring the agricultural sector plays a key role in the development of trade policies.

Both committee leaders – Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) – have indicated they support Perdue. It is likely the Senate will soon hold a floor vote to confirm Perdue for the position of USDA Secretary.

This Week’s Committee Activities:

  • On Tuesday, March 28, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy Part I.”
  • On Tuesday, March 28, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: The Future of SNAP.”
  • On Wednesday, March 29, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the Farm Credit System.”