By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
President Trump took his oath of office with a priority list of actions he wanted to take in his first 100 days. It has not been easy. In the first place, I don’t think his team had prepared enough to move quickly on getting his nominees through the Senate approval process. Second, the Democratic Party has not gotten over the fact that they lost. And, they are still fighting to discredit President Trump, delay and obstruct everything.
Sonny Perdue was a late selection for Secretary of Agriculture. That was back in January. At his request, I met with him two months ago – on February 6. He asked for my advice on staffing the Department of Agriculture. We talked about the challenges that a new Secretary might face. I thought he would be confirmed by the end of February. He has broad bipartisan support. Six former Secretaries of Agriculture endorsed him for confirmation. I never imagined it would take this long.
Farmers and ranchers are up in arms over the fact that we don’t have a Secretary of Agriculture yet. The House Agriculture Committee sent a letter to the Senate leadership. “We strongly support the speedy confirmation of Governor Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture.”
Perdue’s path to confirmation has been blocked by other priorities that have dominated the Senate’s time. Getting the approval of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court has taken forever. Senate Democrats say they will filibuster to block his confirmation. If that happens, Republicans say they will change the rules, the so-called “nuclear option,” where Mr. Gorsuch would not need 60 votes, but could be confirmed with 51.
Senate Republicans predict he will be confirmed this Friday. Hopefully, Governor Perdue may be confirmed this week also.
It’s about time. The Farm economy is suffering with low prices. It is hard to get the job done without a leadership team. As I talked about a couple of weeks ago, a devastating wildfire burned 1.5 million acres in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, killing thousands of cattle and hogs. President Trump ordered the Department of Agriculture to authorize emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve land.
My Knox County, Illinois Farm Bureau is raising money to help those poor families that lost everything in the wildfires.
Finally, while talking about priorities that need to be addressed, we still don’t have Robert Lighthizer confirmed as U.S. Trade Ambassador. More on that next week.
John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit johnblockreports.com.