George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III (born December 20, 1946) is an American veterinarian, businessman, and politician currently serving as the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture since 2017. He previously served as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. He was the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.
|31st United States Secretary of Agriculture|
|Assumed office |
April 25, 2017
|Preceded by||Tom Vilsack|
|81st Governor of Georgia|
January 13, 2003 – January 10, 2011
|Preceded by||Roy Barnes|
|Succeeded by||Nathan Deal|
|Member of the Georgia State Senate|
from the 18th district
January 9, 1991 – January 9, 2002
|Preceded by||Ed Barker|
|Succeeded by||Michael J. Moore|
George Ervin Perdue III
December 20, 1946
Perry, Georgia, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1998–present)|
|Democratic (before 1998)|
|Relatives||David Perdue (cousin)|
|Education||University of Georgia (BS, DVM)|
|Years of service||1971–1974|
Founder and partner in an agricultural trading company, Perdue served from 2012 to 2017 on the Governors' Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He is the second Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South; the first was Mike Espy of Mississippi, who served under President Bill Clinton from January 1993 to December 1994.
On January 18, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture. His nomination was transmitted to the U.S. Senate on March 9, 2017. His nomination was approved by the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on March 30 by a 19–1 voice vote, and by the entire Senate in a vote of 87–11 on April 24.
Early life and education
Perdue was born in Perry, Georgia, the son of Ophie Viola (Holt), a teacher, and George Ervin Perdue Jr., a farmer. He grew up and still lives in Bonaire, an unincorporated area between Perry and Warner Robins. Born George Ervin Perdue III, Perdue has been known as Sonny since childhood, and prefers to be called by that name; he was sworn in and signs official documents as "Sonny Perdue". Perdue is the first cousin of U.S. Senator David Perdue.
In 1971, Perdue earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, and worked as a veterinarian before becoming a small business owner, eventually starting three small businesses.
Perdue is not related to the family who owns and operates Perdue Farms (commonly associated with "Perdue Chicken").
State Senator (1991–2002)
After serving as a member of the Houston County Planning & Zoning Commission in the 1980s, Perdue ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly. He defeated Republican candidate Ned Sanders in 1990 and succeeded Democratic incumbent Ed Barker as the senator representing the 18th district.
Perdue was elected as a Democrat in 1991, 1994, and 1996. He served as his party's leader in the Senate from 1994 to 1997 and as president pro tempore. After his first year in office, Senator Perdue wrote then Lt. Governor Pierre Howard asking for more responsibilities, and Howard obliged. He shortly after became a committee chairman, then climbed the leadership ladder to majority leader, then Senate Pro-Tempore. Many credit Pierre Howard for helping Perdue build the early foundation of what would become his future political career.
His committee assignments included Ethics, Finance & Public Utilities, Health & Human Services, Reapportionment and Economic Development, Tourism & Cultural Affairs.
Governor of Georgia (2003–2011)
In December 2001, Perdue resigned as state senator and devoted himself entirely to running for the office of Governor of Georgia. He won the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial election, defeating Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes 51% to 46%, with Libertarian candidate Garrett Michael Hayes taking 2% of the vote. He became the first Republican governor of Georgia in over 130 years since Benjamin F. Conley.
In 2006, Perdue was re-elected to a second term in the 2006 Georgia gubernatorial election, winning nearly 58% of the vote. His Democratic opponent was Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes was also on the ballot.
- Economic issues
Perdue advocated reforms designed to cut waste in government, most notably the sale of surplus vehicles and real estate. Prior to Perdue's becoming governor, no state agency had compiled an inventory of what assets were owned by the state.
In January 2003, Perdue signed an executive order prohibiting himself and all other state employees from receiving any gift worth more than $25. During his governorship, Perdue collected at least $25,000 in gifts, including sporting event tickets and airplane flights.
Late in the evening of March 29, 2005, the penultimate day of the legislative session, Representative Larry O'Neal, who also worked part-time as Perdue's personal lawyer, introduced legislation making capital gains tax owed on Georgia land sales deferrable if the income goes to purchase out-of-state land, also, unusually, making the tax break retroactive. Perdue signed the legislation into law on April 12, 2005, three days before tax day. Perdue then used the new law on his 2004 tax return to defer $100,000 in taxable gains from the sale of land.
In 2007, Perdue convinced a skeptical legislature to approve a $19 million fishing tourism program he called Go Fish Georgia. Perdue then decided that the Go Fish Education Center would be built down the road from his home.
- Education reform
In education, Perdue promoted the return of most decision-making to the local level. After Perdue took office, in 2003 and 2004, Georgia moved up from last place in the country in SAT scores. Although it returned to last place in 2005, Georgia rose to 49th place in 2006 in the combined math and reading mean score, including the writing portion added to the test that year. In 2007, Georgia moved up to 46th place. In 2008, Georgia moved up again, to 45th place. Perdue also created additional opportunities for charter schools and private schools.
- Georgia state flag
After Democratic Governor Roy Barnes replaced the 1956 state flag, which was adopted by Georgia to protest integration, because it featured a battle flag emblem of the Confederacy, Perdue promised in his 2002 election campaign that he would let the state's citizens vote to determine the state flag of Georgia. The choices given to Georgian voters were a modified version of the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America with the Georgia State Seal prominently displayed inside a circle of 13 stars, or the version of the flag created in 2001 by the Roy Barnes administration. The design of the 2001 Georgian flag was widely unpopular, being derisively named the "Barnes flag", and the North American Vexillological Association deemed it the ugliest U.S. state flag. Perdue disappointed some Georgians by not including the 1956 flag as a choice on the ballot despite his campaign promises to do so. However, Perdue was faced with a Democratic House that would not consider having the 1956 flag on the referendum due to its Confederate origins, and he needed support for a tobacco tax he wanted to pass to raise revenue. Georgia voters chose the flag resembling the Confederate flag.
- Environmental issues
In 2004, Perdue sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block environmental regulations on reformulated gasoline. In a 2014 editorial published by National Review, Perdue criticized attempts by "some on the left or in the mainstream media" to connect climate change to weather events. Perdue wrote that "liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality."
- Georgia drought
On November 13, 2007, while Georgia suffered from one of the worst droughts in several decades, Perdue led a group of several hundred people in prayer on the steps of the state Capitol. Perdue addressed the crowd, saying "We've come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: to very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm" and "God, we need you; we need rain". According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "As the vigil ended, the sun shone through what had been a cloudy morning. In fact, for the next two weeks after the prayer, the state's epic dry streak grew worse."
- African-Americans in the Confederacy
According to a March 5, 2008, proclamation by Perdue, "Among those who served the Confederacy were many African-Americans, both free and slave, who saw action in the Confederate armed forces in many combat roles. According to the Georgia government's website on Confederate History Month, they also participated in the manufacture of products for the war effort, built naval ships, and provided military assistance and relief efforts ..." The proclamation was criticized by historians for its historical inaccuracies, although there were, in fact, African-Americans who served the Confederacy, some voluntarily.
- Disaster preparedness
In 2008, Perdue worked with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to implement Ready Georgia, a campaign to increase disaster preparedness throughout the state. The next year, Georgia was affected by the 2009 Southeastern United States floods, which were the most severe floods in Georgia's recorded history. The floods resulted in Perdue declaring a state of emergency in 17 counties.
- Go Fish Education Center Criticism
Beginning in 2007, Governor Perdue began to pursue the goal of making Georgia the "bass-fishing tourism mecca". The administration began acquiring bond money for the Go Fish Education Center near his home in Perry,GA. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, payments on the Go Fish bonds, approved by Perdue and the General Assembly in 2007, runs through December 2027 with most payments $1 million a year in bond money.
Upon the end of Perdue's term as Governor, many in the Georgia General Assembly condemned the project and Perdue after an advisory council (appointed by Perdue) began to funnel additional bond money to the project located in his home county. "To me it was a boondoggle because of the amount of money they were spending and the location," said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "You have got to have stuff where there is a lot of traffic. It's a little off the beaten path."
The project overall has been scrutinized as a waste of taxpayer money due to mismanagement of bond money and extremely low visitors. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources figures showed 21,101 people visited the Perry facility in fiscal 2015, which ended June 30. It generated $102,077 in revenue, or about 11 cents for every dollar it cost to run the center in years past.
During his governorship, the Georgia State Ethics Commission received thirteen complaints against Perdue. The State Ethics Commission ruled against Perdue twice, finding that he had taken improper campaign contributions from donors including SunTrust Banks and that he had improperly used one of his family business's airplanes on campaign, for which the Commission, fined the sitting governor.
In mid-2003, Perdue purchased 101 acres (0.41 km2) of land next to his Houston County, Georgia home. The land was adjacent to the 20,000-acre Oaky Woods preserve being sold by Weyerhaeuser. The land was eventually sold to developers; however, the state was evaluating bidding on the property and keeping it as a reserve. After the state dropped out of the bidding and the land was sold to developers, the value of Perdue's property more than doubled. Perdue failed to disclose his ownership of the property in required financial disclosure forms.
In December 2004, Perdue bought $2 million worth of land near Disney World from a developer whom he had previously appointed to the state's economic development board.
Perdue was constitutionally ineligible to seek a third consecutive term as governor in the 2010 Georgia gubernatorial election. In 2011, he founded Perdue Partners, which facilitates the export of U.S. goods and services.
Secretary of Agriculture (2017–present)
On January 18, 2017, incoming President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Perdue to be United States Secretary of Agriculture. The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry overwhelmingly approved his nomination on March 30, with a 19–1 vote. The sole vote against him came from Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Senator David Perdue (R-GA) abstained, as he is the nominee's first cousin. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 24, with Bernie Sanders and nine Democrats including Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren voting against him. He was sworn in by Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
Perdue was the designated survivor on January 30, 2018 for President Trump's first State of the Union address.
During his tenure as Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue has focused on helping new farmers get started in agriculture. In August 2017, he announced a mentoring program for new farmers. Other issues addressed by Perdue include assisting rural communities, helping farmers operate with less regulation, increasing exports, passing the 2018 Farm Bill, and addressing crop damage caused by dicamba. In December 2018, he changed the nutrition standards for school lunches to allow more refined grains, allow milk with added sugar, and increased sodium.
Under Perdue, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) has been accused of suppressing science for political reasons. Longtime observers were startled in 2017 when the department hired a large number of people who were Trump donors, but had no significant agricultural knowledge, as confidential assistants. Economists in the DOA's research branch were told to include disclaimers in their peer-reviewed publications stating that the findings were "preliminary" and "should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy". In August 2019, plant physiology climate scientist Lewis Ziska, a longtime DOA employee, quit the department after administrators took steps to impede the publication of one of his studies. Ziska's research indicated that rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are causing rice crops to lose essential nutrients. This could presage possible malnutrition for over a half billion people around the world who depend on rice as a dietary staple. Science Advances, which published the study, anticipated that the findings would provoke widespread interest. It alerted the paper's authors to prepare resources for media covering their findings. However, the DOA obstructed dissemination. Its officials canceled a press release regarding the team's findings. The DOA further requested that the University of Washington, a collaborator on the paper, also avoid promoting it. When CNN solicited a Ziska interview, the DOA's press office rejected the request. That action was without precedent, according to Ziska, causing him to resign and go public. In an interview with Politico Ziska "... painted a picture of a department in constant fear of the president and Secretary Sonny Perdue's open skepticism about broadly accepted climate science, leading officials to go to extremes to obscure their work to avoid political blowback". Perdue's public rejection of climate change science had been, "leading USDA officials to go to extremes to obscure their work to avoid political blowback". Ziska said scientists had a "sense that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don't agree with someone's political views". He said the situation "feels like something out of a bad sci-fi movie". The journal Science Advances published the study and anticipated it would attract widespread interest. It advised its authors to prepare resources to respond to media inquiries, but the DOA suppressed a response, with officials killing a press release promoting Ziska's work. It also requested the University of Washington, a collaborator on the paper, to avoid promoting it as well. CNN requested an interview with Ziska but it was prohibited, a unique situation, he stated.
Perdue and his wife, Mary (née Ruff), were married in 1972 after dating for four years. They have four children (Leigh, Lara, Jim, and Dan), fourteen grandchildren (six boys and eight girls), and have also been foster parents for many children. Perdue lives in Bonaire, Georgia.
Perdue is an avid sportsman. He enjoys flying and, in a 2003 incident, was accused of flying a state helicopter without a license.
As State Senator
|Democratic||Sonny Perdue (Incumbent)||28,920||100|
|Republican||Sonny Perdue (Incumbent)||24,543||100|
|Republican||Sonny Perdue (Incumbent)||30,681||69.2|
As Governor of Georgia
|Democratic||Roy Barnes (Incumbent)||937,062||46.3|
|Libertarian||Garrett Michael Hayes||47,122||2.3|
|Republican gain from Democratic||Swing|
|Republican||Sonny Perdue (incumbent)||1,229,724||57.9||+6.5|
|Libertarian||Garrett Michael Hayes||81,412||3.8||+1.5|
- List of American politicians who switched parties in office
- List of Governors of Georgia
- "Sonny Perdue (b. 1946)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. August 25, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "7 things to know about Sonny Perdue". National Hog Farmer. January 19, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
- "Former Georgia governor tapped as Trump's agriculture secretary, sources say". NBC News. January 18, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
- "Company Overview of Perdue Partners, LLC". Bloomberg. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- "BPC Congratulates Sec. Sonny Perdue on Confirmation to Lead Dept. of Agriculture" (Press release). Washington D.C. April 25, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
- Congressional Record for March 9, 2017
- "Business Meeting Transcript" (PDF). U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.
- "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress – 1st Session". Senate.gov. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
- "Ancestry of Sonny Perdue". Wargs.com. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- "Meet David Perdue—He Might Be Georgia's Next Senator". The Atlantic. May 21, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- James Salzer, Greg Bluestein and Shannon McCaffrey (January 19, 2017). "Trump taps Perdue as agriculture chief". Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Kappa Sigma Fraternity: Prominent Alumni
- National Governors Association: Sonny Perdue
- Tony Pugh and Anita Kumar (January 18, 2017). "Trump taps former Georgia governor for agriculture secretary". McClatchy.
- "Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue – Perdue Farms Plans Major Expansion in Georgia". Sonnyperdue.georgia.gov. July 14, 2005. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 22, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Our Campaigns: GA Senate 18
- Charles S. Bullock, III, The Georgia Political Almanac, The General Assembly 1993–94.
- "Sonny Perdue the Democrat". AJC. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- "Official Results of the November 5, 2002 General Election". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
- "Georgia Election Results". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
- Bipartisan Policy: Sonny Perdue Archived February 2, 2017, at the Wayback Machine
- Eric Lipton; Steve Eder (March 9, 2017). "Ethical Lapses Trail Nominee For Agriculture – Conflicts of Interest as Governor of Georgia". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- Salzer, James (October 1, 2006). "3 minutes, 1 tax bill, $100,000 for Sonny Perdue". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- Johnny Jackson (August 30, 2005). "Georgia SAT scores in the basement". Clayton News Daily.
- "Georgia climbs in SAT rankings despite drop in score". AccessWDUN. August 29, 2006.
- "State, local SAT scores slip". Early County News. September 5, 2007.
- "2008 SAT Results Highlight Need for Rigor" (Press release). Georgia Department of Education. August 26, 2008.
- Bill Crane (January 2011). "Georgia View: Sonny Perdue's Non-Legacy". GeorgiaTrend.
- Joshua Green (March 2004). "The Southern Cross". The Atlantic.
- Larry Copeland (March 2, 2004). "Georgia leaders try to skip controversy in flag vote". USA Today.
- Jim Galloway (January 19, 2017). "Tom Price, Kasim Reed, Sonny Perdue and the Art of the Georgia Deal". Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Sonny Perdue (October 20, 2004). "Statement of Governor Sonny Perdue Regarding Court Ruling to Stay Transition to Reformulated Gasoline". State of Georgia.
- Sonny Perdue (May 8, 2014). "The Common Core Blame Game". National Review.
- "Georgia Enacts a Tough Law on Immigrants". New York Times. Associated Press. April 18, 2006.
- Greg Bluestein (January 10, 2017). "That time Sonny Perdue prayed for rain". Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The "Great Truth"
- Josh Israel (January 2, 2017). "Trump could name Agriculture Secretary whose drought strategy was to pray for rain". Think Progress.
- John Stauffer (January 20, 2015). "Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here's Why". The Root.
- "About Us". Ready Georgia. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
- Edward Martin (September 24, 2009). "USGS Release: Atlanta Flooding Sets New Records". USGS. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
- "Gov. Sonny Perdue issues state of emergency for 17 Georgia counties". Savannah Now. September 21, 2009.
- James Salzar (October 28, 2015). "Go Fish Center". AJC.
- James Salzar (October 27, 2015). "Five Years Later Go Fish Center". AJC.
- James Salzar (October 27, 2015). "Five Years Later Go Fish Center". AJC.
- "Perdue fails to disclose '04 purchase of land". Associated Press.
- HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH (January 18, 2017). "Trump to announce Sonny Perdue for Agriculture". Politico.
- "U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote PN90". www.senate.gov. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- "Sonny Perdue Sworn in as 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture". USDA Press. April 25, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
- "Sonny Perdue is Trump's 'designated survivor' for State of the Union 2018". January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- Eller, Donnelle (August 5, 2017). "Perdue tells second Iowa Ag Summit he wants to support new farmers". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
- McGinnis, Mike (August 5, 2017). "USDA's Sonny Perdue on a Roll In Iowa". Agriculture.com. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
- Hopkinson, Jenny (September 21, 2017). "Trump hires campaign workers instead of farm workers at USDA". Politico.com. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
- McCrimmon, Ryan (May 7, 2019). "Economists flee Agriculture Dept. after feeling punished under Trump". Politico.com. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
The administration didn't appreciate some of our findings, so this is retaliation to harm the agency and send a message.
- Buchanan, Gale and Catherine Wotecki (June 7, 2019). "At Trump's Agriculture Department, science is being plowed under". WashingtonPost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
- The Trump administration is suppressing climate science, Columbia Journalism Review, Jon Allsop, August 7, 2019. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
- 'It feels like something out of a bad sci-fi movie', Politico, August 5, 2019. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
- Sandra D. Deal, Jennifer W. Dickey, Catherine M. Lewis. Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia's Governor's Mansion.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Perdue's wife takes up cause". Athens Banner-Herald. March 1, 2003.
- "Agriculture secretary pick Perdue led big political change in Georgia". Star Tribune. January 25, 2017.
- "Official: Perdue flew copter without license". Athens Banner-Herald. April 29, 2003.
- "±Governor Perdue Makes Acting Debut in "We Are Marshall"". State of Georgia. June 14, 2006.
- Tom Crawford (May 3, 2006). "Georgia's affluent candidates".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sonny Perdue.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sonny Perdue|
- Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue
- Official Governor Website
- Biography of Sonny Perdue at the National Governors Association website
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Georgia State Senate|
| Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 18th district
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
| Chair of the Republican Governors Association
| Governor of Georgia
| United States Secretary of Agriculture
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of the Interior
| Order of Precedence of the United States
Secretary of Agriculture
as Secretary of Commerce
|U.S. presidential line of succession|
as Secretary of the Interior
| 9th in line
Secretary of Agriculture
as Secretary of Commerce