Trump’s New USDA Pick Is Making It Harder for N.C. Farmers to Survive | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Trump’s New USDA Pick Is Making It Harder for N.C. Farmers to Survive 

click to enlarge Lil Farm in Timberlake received a USDA Value-Added Producer federal grant, now at risk.

File Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

Lil Farm in Timberlake received a USDA Value-Added Producer federal grant, now at risk.

You probably missed it, but one of President Trump's remaining cabinet members was finally confirmed last month. As of April 24, Sonny Perdue, a businessman and former two-term governor of Georgia, is the country's new secretary of agriculture.

Though he's anything but a household name, Perdue—and the decisions he'll make over the next four years—will be deeply significant for North Carolina. Only one month in, he's taken steps that may seriously impact the state's small and mid-size farms and rural communities.

Perdue sailed through his confirmation hearings, with no mention of the ethics probes and fines he incurred during his time as governor. Critics have referred to him as a "mini Trump," and indeed, some of Perdue's first actions lived up to the billing. He issued a statement about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commitment to religious freedom and loosened some Obama-era school lunch nutrition rules.

But during his confirmation hearing, he pledged support for local food systems and programs for smaller farms, telling Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, "These programs will receive my full attention, as they are the future of agriculture in America."

Unfortunately, some of his recent actions have called that support into question. Earlier this month, Perdue outlined the first USDA reorganization since 1994. He proposed combining USDA divisions in charge of farm subsidies and land stewardship, areas in which the department interacts directly with farmers.

So far, so good. But the reorganization—which doesn't appear to need congressional approval—also includes eliminating the undersecretary for rural development. That's a mission area that covers grants and loans for rural housing, utilities, and businesses, and includes funding for things like hospitals, libraries, broadband Internet, food pantries, and community gardens; it has often provided a lifeline to rural areas. And that, say small farm advocates, is very worrying.

"The concern is that all of those programs, many of which have to do with regional food systems, will become less important," says Rochelle Sparko, policy director for Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, based in Pittsboro.

The USDA says that the reorganization will "elevate rural development agencies to report directly to the secretary of agriculture," but rural advocates say that's just spin; the undersecretary for rural development already reports directly to the secretary. After the reorganization, says Sparko, "those programs will no longer have someone in the subcabinet advocating for them. It's my experience that programs that don't have someone advocating for them tend to go away."


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature

Twitter Activity


A great little family Italian restaurant. Good menu. Quiet setting. Good service. …

by Anthony Dean Morgan on Pulcinella's Italian Restaurant (Durham County)

The Refectory is no longer on the Duke Campus. Their new, permanent location is on Chapel Hill Blvd, and yes …

by Beth Owl's Daughter on The Refectory Cafe (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Dear White People,

Articles like this one is a perfect example of the cultural appropriation, institutional racism, and White …

by Jesus Vasquez on Rose's Swaps the Butcher Counter for Full-Service Lunch and Dinner (Food Feature)

@Jooolie That's a fair comment and an initial concern of mine. I attended their soft opening though, and they operated …

by Karla Jimenez on Cocoa Cinnamon’s Third Shop Will Be Mindful of the Longstanding Latino Community in a Changing Lakewood (Food Feature)

That's all lovely, and I will likely visit, but... I am concerned about whether the established Latino and Black community …

by Jooolie on Cocoa Cinnamon’s Third Shop Will Be Mindful of the Longstanding Latino Community in a Changing Lakewood (Food Feature)

It's impossible to decide what's worse with this guy, the opinions or the writing. Well, congrats at least on getting …

by Van Buren Boy on How One Local Server Learned to Stop Worrying About Bird Poop and Embrace Patio Dining (Food Feature)

You forgot to mention Treforni in Durham as one of the more noteworthy independent pizzerias in the area. …

by Shocka Kahn on Pizzeria Faulisi Masters Family Style With Adept Culinary Skill (Food Feature)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation