Martha Roby: Latest Cabinet picks encouraging for veterans, farmers

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President Donald Trump continued to fill out key administration posts over the last week, including two positions that will have a significant impact on our district and state: Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has been nominated to serve as the next Secretary of Agriculture, which I believe is a strong selection that is good for Alabama. Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and the policies carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) affect Alabama farmers in meaningful ways.

Gov. Perdue was raised on a farm and built his career working in the agriculture industry. As the former governor of neighboring Georgia, Gov. Perdue brings valuable understanding of Alabama-produced commodities from peanuts and cotton to poultry and forestry. He’s been a longtime friend to farmers, and a friend of farmers is a friend of mine.

It won’t be long until Congress begins crafting a new farm bill. As we do, I’m eager to work with Gov. Perdue to ensure that USDA programs and services adequately address the needs of farmers and rural communities in Alabama.

For Secretary of Veterans Affairs, President Trump has tapped Dr. David Shulkin, who currently serves as VA Under Secretary for Health. Some  criticized this nomination because, as a current VA official, Dr. Shulkin isn’t viewed as the “outsider” that many expected from the Trump Administration.

I understand these concerns, and certainly no one has been more vocal than me about the need to clean house at the VA.  However, it is important to remember that Dr. Shulkin is relatively new. He came in from the private sector to replace those who were dismissed in the wake of the national wait time scandal, so it’s not fair to pin all of the problems on him.

I have met with Dr. Shulkin in my office and worked with him on VA reform legislation. He is a physician with a great deal of experience managing a large health care network. I believe he truly wants to reform the system, and we owe it to him to give him a chance to lead.

Alabama’s 2nd District has one of the highest concentration of veterans in the country. We’ve made significant progress improving the Central Alabama VA that serves our area, but much more work remains. It is important for me to have relationships with top VA officials so that we can turn their attention to problems in Alabama when action is needed.

Cabinet posts like Agriculture and Veterans Affairs might not come with the same fanfare as more visible roles like Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, but they are critical posts for issues impacting those I represent. I look forward to working with both Gov. Perdue and Dr. Shulkin for the benefit of Alabama farmers and veterans.

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Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.

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