NEW YORK – Sonny Perdue III, a former governor of Georgia, is President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate to be U.S. secretary of agriculture, said a person familiar with the matter.
Perdue, 70, would succeed former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Perdue met with Trump Nov. 30 and afterward said they talked about agricultural commodities traded domestically and internationally. While Perdue is the front-runner, the decision isn’t final, the person said.
Trump won the presidency partly on strong support from voters in rural areas clamoring for an economic turnaround. Farm incomes are expected to fall for a third successive year while debt levels have risen.
Perdue appears to be emerging from a broad pack of candidates. Trump and his aides have interviewed several others, including former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano, former Rep. Henry Bonilla of Texas, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a Democrat.
The president-elect’s statements covered issues that could have major implications for agricultural businesses. The U.S. is a major exporter of crops and other farm commodities, and that flow of goods could be disrupted if Trump follows through with a pledge to reshape trading relationships with China and other countries. Such changes might also affect global commodity prices. Additionally, if U.S. immigration laws are enforced more strictly, business owners could face labor shortages.
Perdue, born in Perry, Ga., is a graduate of the University of Georgia and served as a state senator. In 2003, he became the first GOP governor of the state in 130 years.