President-elect Donald Trump tapped former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture, the last appointee named to Trump's proposed cabinet, just two days before the inauguration. The nomination could be officially announced as soon as Thursday, according to Reuters. Perdue's nomination must be confirmed by the Republican-led Senate.
Selecting a former Georgia governor over candidates from the Midwest, which dominates agricultural exports, Trump eschewed candidates from major Farm Belt states that produce the bulk of crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat, which dominate agriculture exports, Reuters reports. Georgia is a key producer of crops such as cotton and peanuts.
"I am proud and honored to be joining President-elect Trump’s administration as his secretary of agriculture," said Perdue in a statement released by Trump's transition team. "Beginning as a simple Georgia farm boy, making sure Americans who make their livelihood in the agriculture industry are thriving is near and dear to my heart, and I’m going to champion the concerns of American agriculture and work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families in this new role."
Perdue, 70, served as the governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011, and worked on Trump's agricultural advisory committee during his presidential campaign. As a governor, Perdue was known for pursuing several international trade agreements. Upon his inauguration in January 2003, he became the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction. He switched political parties from Democratic to Republican in 1998 amid redistricting in the state and shifting demographics.
Perdue grew up on a dairy farm in central Georgia, and has owned several agricultural businesses. After finishing his second term as governor, he founded Atlanta-based Perdue Partners, a privately owned global trading company that trades food and industrial products worldwide, according to Reuters. The well-known Republican supports rolling back regulations, which some producers might find good for business. Not much is known about his general outlook on food manufacturing policy, nutrition or food safety.
The last-minute naming of a USDA nominee calls into question the importance Trump's administration places on the food and agriculture sectors. Reports say the president-elect was pressured into placing a Latino or a woman in the slot — both of which he interviewed in recent weeks. If all of his nominees are confirmed, Trump's cabinet will be dominated by white men, and will have just three women and one black man. It will be the first administration since Ronald Reagan's without a Cabinet-level Latino.