Newly confirmed Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue joins ‘farmers roundtable’ discussion at White House as Trump issues executive order

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a new executive order targeting economic development in rural America.

The executive order calls for the creation of a special task force dedicated to promoting job growth, infrastructure and general prosperity in rural parts of the United States. The available supply of farmworkers for year-round jobs in the livestock industry, food safety and crop-protection tools will also be among the task force’s immediate concerns.

The task force has 180 days to issue a report with recommendations for legislative or administrative actions that will improve “quality of life issues for rural America,” according to the executive order, which came a day after Sonny Perdue was sworn in as the 31st U.S. secretary of agriculture.

“President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side,” Perdue said at a “farmers roundtable” event at the White House.

The roundtable included farmers, food producers and other ag interests from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Minnesota, Florida, California, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and New York.

Perdue will serve as chairman of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

The task force will include officials from nearly two dozen different federal departments and agencies.

In addition to its focus on rural development, the task force is charged with ensuring that “water users’ private property rights are not encumbered” by government regulation. An Obama administration order known as the Waters of the United States rule previously sought to clarify what the Environment Protection Agency could lawfully regulate.

The rule was widely opposed by agricultural interest groups and farmers who viewed it as a land grab, but supported by environmental advocates who saw it as a much needed measure to ensure the protection of wetlands.

The agriculture secretary was the second-to-last spot in Trump’s cabinet to be filled.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “rural” as all populations, housing or territories not included within urbanized areas of 50,000 or more people or urban clusters of at least 2,500 people.

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