Newsmakers, January 19, 2017

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers
Joe Heim and Ron Kind
Joe Heim and Ron Kind Hope Kirwan/WPR

The fact President-elect Donald Trump waited until the eve of his inauguration to nominate former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary may not bode well for Wisconsin farmers. That’s according to a Wisconsin house member and a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist.

Perdue becomes the last open cabinet pick made by Trump’s transition and it surprised Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, that it took this long.

“Trump’s electoral strength was in rural America,” Kind said. “A large part of that economy is how the farm economy is performing. I think we do need a robust rural economic development agenda. I know many of our family farmers have been struggling the last couple of years due to low commodity prices. When the farmers struggle, the main street businesses struggle, school districts and rural hospitals struggle. It’s all tied together.”

Kind said the late appointment will have an impact because there won’t be a chance for Perdue (if and when he’s confirmed) to spend time with the outgoing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on transitional agricultural issues and could delay work on the next Farm Bill which is due to be reauthorized in the next couple of years.

Kind and UW-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim both said the late appointment is likely because of the president-elect’s inexperience and lack of ties to rural America.

“He’s a New Yorker. He doesn’t really have much understanding of agricultural issues in general and he’s surrounded himself with most people who don’t also have much feeling for that,” Heim said. “It’s always been traditional to have somebody (as Agriculture Secretary) that’s had some experience, not just a political person in charge of agriculture. Obviously for Wisconsin it’s extremely important.”

Kind said it’s too early to predict what a Trump administration will focus on, but he wants them to focus on economic issues that improve the lives of everyone in Wisconsin and America. He said a growing economy can solve a lot of the country’s problems.

Heim believes the Trump administration will work quickly to advance a conservative agenda, much like Gov. Scott Walker did when the GOP gained power in Wisconsin in 2011.

– John Davis

Episode Credits

  • Hope Kirwan Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Representative Ron Kind Guest
  • Joe Heim Guest