WASHINGTON: The US Senate has easily confirmed Sonny Perdue, the son of a farmer, as the next secretary of agriculture, filling one of the few remaining vacancies in President Donald Trump's cabinet after a long delay.
Perdue, a 70-year-old former two-term governor of the state of Georgia who grew up on a dairy farm, earned substantial bipartisan support and was confirmed by a vote of 87 to 11. Senator David Perdue, the nominee's first cousin, voted present.
Perdue, a Republican, will take charge of the nation's food and farm programs, a hefty job in the best of times but one in which he now will have to juggle the White House's proposed 21-percent cut in US Department of Agriculture programs.
Furthermore, Mexico, which has bristled at Trump's harsh talk on trade and his call for scrapping or renegotiating NAFTA, has threatened to stop importing billions of dollars' worth of US corn.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the agriculture committee, which needs to craft a new farm bill over the coming year, warned that Trump's slow pace in nominating Perdue and preparing his paperwork shows the president has treated rural America as "an afterthought." "Governor Perdue's leadership is desperately needed," said Stabenow, who voted for the nominee.
Two cabinet nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation: Alex Acosta, who if confirmed as secretary of labor would be the only Hispanic American in the cabinet, and Robert Lighthizer for US trade representative.