Who is Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue?

Perdue got his start in Georgia state politics as a Democrat

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The people of Georgia were already familiar with the state's two-term former governor Sonny Perdue when President Trump picked him to serve as Agriculture Secretary in 2017.

Now Perdue is overseeing the U.S. Department of Agriculture during one of the most uncertain times farmers have faced in recent history. The administration announced $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, many of whom said they had to dump milk or slaughter pigs because of gaps in the supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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"If we don't have the farmers and ranchers there to produce food, then there won't be full shelves in the fall," Perdue told “Mornings with Maria” in April.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue speaks at an event on the food supply chain during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

George Ervin Perdue III was born in 1946, He was raised on a dairy and diversified row crop farm in Georgia, according to his White House biography. He chose to join the Air Force and rose to the rank of captain before studying to be a veterinarian at the University of Georgia.

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Perdue also started several businesses in agriculture and transportation, McClatchy reported. His net worth was $5 million as of 2019, according to Forbes.

Perdue got his start in Georgia state politics as a Democrat before switching his party affiliation and climbing the Republican ranks to become Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, PBS reported. He served from 2003 to 2011.

Under Perdue, Georgia's education rankings improved and job opportunities grew. But he also faced criticism for his 2002 campaign promise to let Georgians vote in a referendum on whether to restore a state flag that included the Confederate battle flag, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Perdue and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., are cousins, and the senator voted “present” on his confirmation vote in 2017.

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