Tag Archives: Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue violated the Hatch Act in August because he encouraged voters to support the president’s re-election campaign while promoting food boxes. The event took place in Mills River, North Carolina, and was designed to promote the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to Perdue saying the ag secretary has to reimburse the federal government for the cost of the trip to North Carolina. President Trump attended the event, during which Perdue said the people lined up along the motorcade route were “part of those forgotten people that voted for you in 2016.”

Perdue also told the president that those same people will vote for him for four more years in 2020. “They understand, under your administration, they’ve not been forgotten,” he added, “and this program is a great example of that.” The Hatch Act bars federal employees, even Cabinet members, from engaging in political activity while at work. “Taken as a whole, Secretary Perdue’s comments during the event encouraged those present, and those watching remotely, to vote for President Trump’s re-election,” the Hatch Act unit’s chief counsel wrote in the letter.

The Ag Department didn’t respond to The Hill’s request for comment and didn’t provide an estimate of the cost of the trip that Perdue must now reimburse.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) First Vice President Chris Edgington, along with Minnesota Corn Growers Association leadership, today joined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue for an Albert Lea, Minn., event in support of higher blends of ethanol.

Perdue announced today that USDA has invested $22 million out of the up to $100 million in grants available to increase American ethanol and biodiesel sales through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP).  According to USDA, the $22 million HBIIP investments are projected to increase ethanol demand by nearly 150 million gallons annually. USDA will announce the remaining grant recipients in the coming weeks.

Further developing the infrastructure needed for higher blends of ethanol continues to be a priority for NCGA. These cost-share grants will support more retailers offering E15 and E85 across the country. Increasing the availability of higher blends today also helps expand the retail infrastructure compatible with the future high octane, mid-level ethanol blends.

Last fall, the Trump Administration made several commitments aimed at putting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) back on track and expanding the biofuels market. While there is more work to be done to uphold the RFS, today’s infrastructure announcement represents follow through from USDA on the department’s commitment. Awarding cost-share grants to retailers will help them expand their offerings of higher ethanol blends and provide more renewable choices for consumers at the pump.

NCGA is also pleased the USDA program requires grant recipients to use their funds for infrastructure certified for at least E25 blends. This requirement builds on our successful partnership with Wayne Fueling Systems to promote the sale of E25-certified pumps, ensuring today’s infrastructure works for tomorrow’s higher blends as well.

NCGA partnered with the Renewable Fuels Association and American Coalition for Ethanol in assisting fuel retailers in applying for these HBIIP grants. Projects in California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin were awarded grant funds.

CEDAR GROVE, Wis. — About three dozen farmers, cheese processors and others got the undivided attention of the country’s top agricultural official today when Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative hosted a meeting with Sonny Perdue to discuss challenges facing farmers.

The setting was a 250-cow dairy farm in eastern Wisconsin run by Edge President Brody Stapel, his brother, Jory, and his father, Rudy.

“This is real America, and this is real agriculture,” said Perdue, the U.S. agriculture secretary. “We have people come to D.C. and talk about things there, but you get a real sense (of the issues) when neighbors come together at a farm like this… So, I appreciate the Edge co-op for hosting us here today and providing a venue for me to come out and figure out what we can do better. That’s all important.”

The mislabeling of non-dairy foods drew a lot of attention.

Amy Penterman, an Edge member with a dairy farm in northwestern Wisconsin, said that farmers have invested heavily in promoting dairy foods as safe and nutritious, and yet the Food and Drug Administration is failing to enforce current labeling standards that identify milk, cheese and other dairy products as originating from cows.

“It is extremely frustrating to see our investments in our own dairy terms be taken advantage of by imitation plant-based product manufacturers,” Penterman told Perdue. … “This is also unfair to customers who are misled.”

Edge co-commissioned a national survey in 2018 to measure customers’ views on plant-based foods that mimic dairy cheese. The results, released last year, showed that customers are confused about whether those products are indeed dairy foods and whether they carry the same nutritional value.

“Words do matter when it comes to customers’ buying decisions,” Stapel said. “People should be protected from deceptive names and packaging when they’re looking for real dairy products. We are not against customers having options at the grocery store, but they shouldn’t be lied to.”

Perdue fielded questions about many other topics also. Among them:

  • The second round of the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which provides direct financial help to farmers struggling with low prices, lost markets and other supply chain disruptions tied to the pandemic. Signup for the program runs through Dec. 11.
  • The importance of free trade agreements to U.S. farmers, who are looking for new markets for their products. Perdue pointed to efforts to capture dairy market share in China and capitalize on emerging opportunities in Africa.
  • The challenges dairy farmers face in finding employees, given the lack of a year-round visa option for immigrant workers.

Stapel said it was a privilege to have Perdue visit his farm.

“I think it is crucial as president of Edge and also as a local dairyman that we get our farmer members and bring our voice right to the people who need to hear it,” he said.

Perdue said all farmers “share the same noble goal to feed their fellow countrymen.”

“Today, I got to visit with the great dairy men and women of Wisconsin and hear their concerns and bring them back to Washington to ensure their government is working for them, not against them,” he said.