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Agweek editorial: Sonny Perdue needs to be confirmed

The U.S. Senate on April 24 will take up — and is expected to confirm — Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary.

Perdue, a former Georgia governor who has worked as a veterinarian and owned grain and fertilizer businesses, was the last Cabinet member nominated by President Donald Trump. And, as Perdue quipped during his hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, perhaps the president "saved the best for last."

While several of Trump's Cabinet picks have been controversial, leading to much head scratching and consternation, Perdue's nomination has been comparatively without controversy. He's garnered bipartisan support, including getting a nod from the last person to hold the position, Tom Vilsack.

We, likewise, think Perdue is the right man for the job, and we hope that by sometime next week, everyone is calling him Secretary Perdue.

Are there concerns about Perdue? Of course. No person who spends the bulk of his life in public service escapes scrutiny.

And while we may be self-centered, we wish he had more firsthand experience with the Midwest and the crops and livestock raised here. Vilsack, governor of Iowa before serving as ag secretary, had Midwest knowledge and connections. Of course, Californians wish Perdue had their variety of crop knowledge of their agriculture economy. There is never a perfect leader.

But, quite frankly, Perdue's pluses greatly outweigh his minuses. His executive experience will be an asset in managing an expansive agency with a multibillion-dollar budget. He can help collaborate and direct the 2018 farm bill. His real-life agriculture experience means he understands the issues facing farmers and ranchers, rural communities and agribusinesses. At his core, Perdue looks to be a passionate aggie, like many of us. And he's shown himself to be willing to work in a bipartisan manner for the good of the people he serves.

Getting Perdue in as the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be an important move for the industry. Agriculture needs an advocate who will stand up for our interests, whether it's on trade, the renewable fuels standard or USDA funding.

USDA has gone too long without a leader. Important positions need to be filled. Important positions need to be advocated.

Perdue may not be a perfect choice. He may not even be the best possible choice. But we think he'll do a good job at USDA.

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The Senate is scheduled to vote on Perdue's confirmation April 24. Agweek reporter Jonathan Knutson plans to attend the vote during the North American Agricultural Journalists' annual convention April 23-25 in Washington, D.C.

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