Perdue chats with students on key issues in agriculture


After giving the 179th Landon Lecture, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sat down with students from colleges around campus including the College of Veterinary Medicine to form a question and answer session relating to topics in agriculture.

Sporting the professional agricultural attire of a suit, tie and Georgia-seal embroidered cowboy boots, Perdue addressed his stewardship, lifelong curiosity within agriculture and how lessons on the farm growing up have assisted him today.

Students and doctoral candidates from across campus discussed topics including watersheds, the Ogallala aquifer, human nutrition —specifically with children in schools— rural community development and gene editing through CRISPR advancements.

Perdue’s home state of Georgia has been known in the past for its cotton production. However, in recent years, Kansas has become a larger producer in the fibrous staple.

During the Q&A session, Emily Pascoe, doctoral candidate in apparel and textiles asked the secretary for his thoughts on the cash crop production and how it affects water usage within the state of Kansas, and the hot topic on water usage of the Ogallala Aquifer.

Perdue said he disagreed with Pascoe’s later statement of cotton needing large amounts of water.

“To my knowledge cotton is a very drought-tolerant crop,” Perdue said.

Jokingly, Perdue stated he would need to sit down and talk with the professors in apparel and textiles department to discuss the matter of cotton production and exports.

The secretary answered all questions asked in the hour-long session with one thing he noted to be most important when communicating with consumers and agriculturalists: truth, facts and when he wasn’t sure of something, to admit it.

Jordan Martin, senior in computer science, said he was curious on how Perdue is addressing the search for new research areas and how economics play a role with the decision.

“It comes down to where consumers are located, the compassion for economics in those areas and what the culture is of the areas they are looking into,” Perdue said. “When comparing the cultures of individuals in Washington D.C. and Kansas, it’s a large separation.”

Perdue said he is searching for an area that best fits the feel and compassion of the agricultural industry.

Throughout the session, Sen. Jerry Moran also addressed topics and issues concerning the state of agriculture in the United States. In some rural counties in Kansas, community development is of major importance and plays a key role into some of the questions asked at Thursday’s Q&A session.

As a movement to help rural development in Kansas, and in response to an open letter written by Moran in September regarding the state of Kansas’s status as a prime candidate for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture sites, Moran and Perdue will be heading out to southeast Kansas later in November to tour different communities and further discuss the potential of these facilities.

“[Perdue] gave his honest perspective on the state of our environment and agriculture within the United States,” Kelsey McDonough, doctoral candidate in biological and agricultural engineering, said. “He was very wise and helped in answering everyone’s questions.”