This week, Sonny Perdue became the penultimate nominee for President Trump’s cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate. Between Secretary Perdue taking office, and key remarks this week by a White House agriculture adviser, the food and agriculture policy agenda for the Trump Administration has begun to form.

In remarks before a meeting of the North American Agricultural Journalists, and reported in several outlets, Ray Starling, the White House Special Assistant on Agriculture, Trade, and Food Assistance, indicated that USDA intends to develop a final rule implementing the mandatory bioengineered food disclosure law by the July 2018 deadline mandated by Congress. However, Starling suggested that the compliance date for the bioengineered food disclosure rule likely would be several months after the deadline.

Industry groups have expressed support for, and Starling acknowledged that the administration is considering, coordinating the compliance dates for the bioengineered food disclosure rule and FDA’s revised nutrition facts panel.

Other issues that will be on Secretary Perdue’s immediate horizon include the following:

  • An Executive Order issued this week that calls for a six-month review of regulations affecting agriculture and food policy;
  • Nominating candidates for a number of political appointee positions within USDA, including a newly created position required under the last farm bill – Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs;
  • Trade issues, including dairy trade with Canada and the renegotiation of NAFTA being undertaken by the Administration; and
  • The Administration’s proposed 21 percent budget cut for USDA.

Another key development regarding Secretary Perdue that was reported this week is that he is expected to have more control over staffing and policy compared to other departments. As we have noted previously, the White House has been micromanaging the personnel process and there has been speculation that it would translate into a micromanaging of the policy decision-making process. However, granting Secretary Perdue additional flexibility on these matters only has resulted in more speculation that the White House will not place much focus on food and agricultural issues going forward.