La Crosse — A Wisconsin congressman says the late nomination of Georgia's former governor as U.S. agriculture secretary could impact local farmers.
Democratic Rep. Ron Kind told Wisconsin Public Radio that the late pick could delay work on the next farm bill. Kind said that if and when former Gov. Sonny Perdue is confirmed for the Cabinet post, he won't have much time to work on transitional agricultural issues with outgoing Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack.
President Donald Trump waited until the eve of his Friday inauguration to nominate Perdue, a farmer's son who built businesses in grain trading and trucking before becoming the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.
"From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land," Trump said in a statement.
Kind said the most probable reason for the late appointment is Trump's inexperience.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim agreed. Heim also said he doesn't believe Trump has a strong understanding of agricultural issues that are important for Wisconsin.
"It's always been traditional to have somebody (as agriculture secretary) that's had some experience, not just a political person in charge of agriculture. Obviously for Wisconsin, it's extremely important," Heim said.
Perdue, 70, is from the small city of Bonaire in rural central Georgia. If confirmed, he would be the first Southerner in the post in more than two decades. He is not related to or affiliated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.
Kind hopes the Trump administration works to improve economic issues.
"Trump's electoral strength was in rural America," Kind said. "A large part of that economy is how the farm economy is performing. I think we do need a robust rural economic development agenda.
"I know many of our family farmers have been struggling the last couple of years due to low commodity prices. When the farmers struggle, the Main Street businesses struggle, school districts and rural hospitals struggle. It's all tied together."