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MORE ON AG SEC'Y NOMINEE'S HEARING, NO VOTE TAKEN
BrownfieldAgNews reports:

Sonny Perdue's confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture ended Thursday with no vote and no official schedule for a vote.

In opening remarks, committee chair Pat Roberts said trade needs to be top priority for the next ag secretary.

"During this critical time, the importance of trade for our agricultural industry can't be overstated," Roberts said.

Ranking member Debbie Stabenow questioned the Trump Administration's commitment to agriculture.

"Last week's budget proposal has made it clear that rural America is not a top priority for this administration," said Stabenow.

Responding to question from Stabenow, Perdue said he did not have input into the administration's proposed budget, which calls for a 21 percent cut at USDA. But he says he was used to doing "more with less" as governor of Georgia.

"I flippantly say sometimes that I grew a 20 billion dollar budget in Georgia to 16 billion dollars, during that 2003 to 2011 period of time," Perdue said. "We did do more with less. Some of that has to do with efficiency and effectiveness, which I look forward to engaging this USDA federal workforce in and inspiring them that we can do more."

The USDA Agriculture Secretary nominee says the Brazilian beef incident is being handled correctly.

During his confirmation hearing, Perdue told Senators he's opposed to a Brazilian beef embargo that could trigger trade retaliation for U.S. products in Brazil and elsewhere. "I don't want to punish another country but I do want USDA inspectors to be on the job with 100% type of inspections of any type of products coming into the United States."

Perdue also responded to questions about reducing trade barriers to Cuba. "We have the product they need, and they would like the product. I think the real issue I heard regarding Cuba was the financing part, and certainly that would come probably under another area, not the USDA, but I would support their efforts if we could get private financing."

Perdue tells Senators he supports a year-round solution to help immigrant labor stay on farms. "Cows can't be milked half a day. There are 365 days a year and I'm very well aware of that so there's a need. Obviously, many of our dairy workers are immigrant workers and while there are exemptions in other places, I believe dairy qualifies for that as well."

Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan asked Perdue about possible USDA relief for dairy farmers before the next farm bill, and he says that is possible. "I would absolutely look forward to us providing a short and a long-term solution for the dairy and even the cotton program that may help really in the context and the formation of the 2018 farm bill. I think it would be great if we had some ideas that we believe could work even prior to that time."

Perdue's confirmation process is not complete, but he's garnering a lot of support. Chairman Pat Roberts says the Ag Committee has received letters from more than 700 agricultural groups and six former ag secretaries supporting Sonny Perdue's nomination.

Roberts adjourned the hearing and asked that final questions be submitted by 5:00 p.m. Friday. He will schedule another meeting soon to wrap up the Perdue confirmation process.


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