Secretary Perdue Announces USDA Reorganization

May 17, 2017

Just a few weeks into his tenure, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced plans to reorganize the Executive level hierarchy of USDA. Most notable to the agricultural export community is the announced creation of an Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, in “recognition of the ever-increasing importance of international trade to American agriculture.” Recognition of the critical role of agricultural trade is welcome news to USDBC, and we are pleased with the additional resources and focus. This position was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill but no action has been taken due to the statutory limit on the number of Undersecretary positions allowed at USDA. To date, the Foreign Agriculture Service and Farm Service Agency were overseen by a single, overworked Undersecretary.

According to Secretary Perdue, “Our plan to establish an undersecretary for trade fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world…By working side by side with our U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the USDA Under Secretary for Trade will ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world.” While welcoming this announcement there is concern about plans to create this new position by eliminating the Undersecretary of Rural Development. Despite Perdue’s reassurances that rural development remains a priority and rural development agencies will now report directly to the Secretary, several agricultural groups and legislators have expressed concern that this critical area of agriculture will be underserved. Senate Agriculture Committee ranking minority member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan noted that while she is “really glad (Perdue) is moving ahead with the undersecretary of trade” position she wants to ensure that the Rural Development program is not shortchanged. The reorganization plans also include a new Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation focused on domestic agricultural issues. We will continue to monitor these developments.

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