President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday to establish a task force aimed at supporting America’s farmers, the White House announced Monday.
Trump will sign the executive order hours after former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is scheduled to be sworn in as the 31st secretary for agriculture Tuesday morning.
Perdue was confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate Monday. He waited more than three months to complete the nomination process, partly due to the Trump administration’s delay sending ethics paperwork to the Senate Committee on Agriculture. (RELATED: Senate Finally Confirms Trump’s Agriculture Secretary Three Months After Nomination)
The executive order will do away with former President Barack Obama’s White House Rural Council and ask the newly-confirmed agriculture secretary to institute a new, interagency task force that will do a 180-day “review of regulation, policy and legislation that necessarily hinders growth of the agriculture sector,” Ray Starling, Trump’s special assistant on agriculture, told reporters Monday.
Obama’s Rural Council, established in June 2011, was “noble in purpose,” but most of its work “was informal and did not focus specifically on economic growth in agriculture or rural America,” according to the Trump administration. The Rural Council produced “very few records, formally, of their meetings. I think a blog was maintained,” Starling said, but there was “very little in terms of their accomplishments.”
Trump’s task force will make recommendations for agencies beyond the Department of Agriculture. Starling said “many farmers, were you to interview them, would say many of their problems came from other agencies.” Farmers have tangled in recent years with regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and other federal agencies.
The Obama administration pushed many programs that directly funded infrastructure projects like broadband access in rural communities, but the Trump administration believes “the best thing we can do economically is to focus on agriculture,” which creates the most jobs in rural America, Starling said.
Some agriculture groups are concerned about the effect of Trump’s trade policies, which threaten to do away with the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump announced that he will impose a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber imports Monday, which could affect other parts of NAFTA.
Trump has been critical of “unfair” trade practices by Canada, particularly imposing tariffs on ultra-filtered milk, which has contributed to a decline in profits in Wisconsin, according to lawmakers and industry groups.
The farmers advising Trump “will make sure they leave the president with an impression of how important agriculture trade is, and particularly how important that trade is just North and just South of our borders,” Starling said.
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