Veterinarian Sonny Perdue sworn in as U.S. secretary of agriculture

May 5, 2017

Former Georgia governor, UGA alumnus vows to be a good steward of U.S. land, protect interests of farmers and ranchers.

Sonny Perdue, DVM, with his wife Mary Ruff Perdue, is sworn in as 31st U.S. secretary of agriculture by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (Photo courtesy of USDA.)Sonny Perdue, DVM, was sworn in April 25 as the 31st U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The only legacy that I seek is the only one that any grandparent or parent seeks-to be good stewards, and to hand off our nation, our home, our fields, our forests and our farms to the next generation in better shape than we found it,” Perdue said in an address to USDA employees. “Making sure that Americans who make their livelihoods in the agriculture industry have the ability to thrive will be one of my top priorities. I am committed to serving the customers of USDA, and I will be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.”

Perdue says his policies as agriculture secretary will be guided by four principles, according to the USDA release:

• Maximizing the ability of America's agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, produce and sell the food and fiber the feed and clothe the world, and reap the reward of their labor. “It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers and producers every opportunity to prosper,” the USDA release states.

• Prioritizing customer service for American taxpayers and consumers.

• Ensuring a safe and secure food supply.

• Remembering that “America's agricultural bounty comes directly from the land,” sustaining more than 320 million Americans and millions more around the globe, the release states.

In his nomination of Perdue in January, President Donald J. Trump said, “Sonny Perdue is going to accomplish great things as secretary of agriculture. 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.”

Perdue was born in 1946 into a farming family in Bonaire, Georgia, the USDA reports. In addition to working as a farmer, agribusinessman and veterinarian, Perdue served in the Georgia state legislature and was governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that the association is pleased with Perdue's confirmation. “With the country facing challenges and opportunities on issues requiring veterinary expertise, such as animal health, animal welfare and public health, having strong veterinary leadership at the USDA is more important than ever,” reads an AVMA statement. “Secretary Perdue's appointment is an encouraging sign that veterinarians will continue to be valued at the agency.”

As a younger man, Perdue served in the U.S. Air Force, achieving the rank of captain. He earned his DVM from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1971, putting that training to use in private practice in North Carolina. As a member of the Georgia State Senate for eleven years, he eventually reached the position of president pro tempore as elected by his senate colleagues. As a two-term governor of Georgia, he was credited with transforming a budget deficit into a surplus, dramatically increasing the student performance in public schools and fostering an economic environment that allowed employers to flourish and manufacturers and agricultural producers to achieve record levels of exports, the USDA states.

He then embarked a successful career in agribusiness, where he focused on commodities and transportation in enterprises that have spanned the southeastern United States. These experiences help inform his current role as principal advocate for American agriculture, the USDA reports.

Perdue's official USDA Twitter handle is @SecretarySonny.