USDA Communications with Senator Perdue’s Office

U.S. Department of Agriculture records in response to our request seeking the communications of Secretary Sonny Perdue and his staff with the office of Georgia Sen. David Perdue, Secretary Perdue’s cousin. You can find records of Secretary Perdue’s emails sent to non-government email addresses here. These records span 2017 to 2019.


USDA Communications with Sen. Perdue’s Office and Georgia Events of Interest

Jan. 26, 2017: An unidentified USDA official sent an email to two members of Sen. David Perdue’s staff, and indicated interest in an open USDA Georgia state director position. They wrote, “I have made quite a few contacts in hopes that I might be able to receive favorable approval for appointment to this position.” 

March 8, 2017: Elizabeth Johnson, a Sen. Perdue staffer, sent Heidi Green, then Secretary Perdue’s chief of staff, a list of potential applicants for different positions at USDA. Johnson wrote: “Attached is the document that was put together for the Romney transition. This actually lays out the names that were presented for many positions in the Department.” 

April 13, 2017: Lauren Hancock, then counsel for Sen. Perdue’s chief of staff, sent an email to Green with a list of resumes. 

April 19, 2017: Hancock sent Green a resume of someone “who helped with DP’s [Sen. David Perdue’s] race in 2014.” 

April 24, 2017: A formal letter of recommendation sent to Green from Sen. Perdue and former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, in which they recommended someone (name redacted) for the position of executive director of the Georgia office of the USDA Farm Service Agency. 

April 25, 2017:  An individual (name redacted) emailed Sen. Perdue staffer Derrick Dickey and indicated an interest in working on the interagency Rural America Task Force at USDA. The email was eventually forwarded to Green, who said on April 27

Sept. 12, 2017: Email from Joby Young, then chief of staff in the USDA Office of Congressional Relations, to Sen. Perdue staffer Daniel Hale, with the subject line “Travel notification.” Young told Hale that Secretary Perdue would be surveying Hurricane Irma damage in Georgia. Hale replied, “Is this something that Senator Perdue could possibly join at some point if his schedule permits?” Young responded with information about where the secretary was traveling, and wrote, “Should be press at both stops.”

Nov. 7, 2017: A calendar entry for dinner with the Georgia Ports Authority at Washington, DC, restaurant Charlie Palmer Steak. Both Sens. Perdue and Isakson were scheduled to attend. 

Jan. 12, 2018: Email a Sen. Perdue staffer sent to Green applauding the nomination of Ken Barbic as USDA assistant secretary for congressional affairs.

Feb. 28, 2018: Sen. Perdue staff sends along a “good word” to Heidi Green for a friend interviewing at the USDA.

July 11, 2018: Email from USDA staff assistant requesting a meeting between James Hubbard (then a nominee for undersecretary for natural resources and environment at USDA; he was confirmed to the position in August 2018) and Sen. Perdue.

Aug. 28, 2018: Email chain regarding a meeting between Sen. Perdue and Naomi Earp, then the nominee to serve as assistant secretary for civil rights at USDA.

Oct. 9, 2018: Email from USDA Assistant Secretary Ken Barbic to Sen. Perdue staffer Derrick Dickey as Hurricane Michael moved toward Georgia. Barbic wrote: “Obviously, your boss knows how to reach the Secretary, but I wanted to reach out directly to you, let me know any ways USDA can be of assistance this week or post-hurricane.”

Nov. 1, 2018: Secretary Perdue invited Georgia’s congressional delegation to a Nov. 14 breakfast. The offices of Sens. Isakson and Perdue said they would be unable to attend.

Dec. 17, 2018: Barbic emailed Dickey to arrange a meeting: “I know our bosses chat all the time, but I have been wanting to sit down and meet you when time allows.”

March 4, 2019: Email from USDA official Lindsay Moore connecting another USDA official, Anna Osterlind, to Emma Johnston, a member of Sen. Perdue’s staff.

March 21, 2019: A USDA staffer sent an email to Sen. Perdue staff informing them that Secretary Perdue planned to attend a Georgia Power event with then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry the next day. 

USDA Georgia State Directors’ Communications

Below are communications of Joyce White, the state director for USDA Rural Development in Georgia and former staffer for Sen. Perdue, and Tas Smith, who was appointed state executive director in Georgia for the USDA Farm Service Agency. Smith, who had previously worked for the Georgia Farm Bureau, has since left the administration to work for the National Cotton Council, a trade organization. These records show regular contact between White and different USDA officials before her appointment, and regular contact with Sen. Perdue staffers after moving to the USDA.

March 24, 2017: Joyce White, then a staffer for Sen. Perdue, emailed Green and asked, “How do you want us to handle resumes of people wanting a job with USDA within the state?”

March 24, 2017: Becky Cecil, an employee of Bay Valley Foods, emailed White the resume of someone who had worked for the 2016 Trump campaign: “I understand about people needing to be taken care of that worked on President Trump’s campaign.” 

April 27, 2017: Lauren Hancock, a lawyer in Sen. Perdue’s office, emailed Green a letter from Sens. Perdue and Isakson supporting Tas Smith’s appointment as state executive director. Smith joined the Farm Service Agency in November 2017.  

Aug. 10, 2017: Green emailed White the job description for the USDA Rural Development Georgia state director position. White replied to on Aug. 15 and wrote: “I am humbled you and the Secretary would think of me for this position. As far as the job is concerned, I know I can handle getting around Georgia and working with the great people of our great state. […] I would have a learning curve I am sure regarding the policies and any technical expertise needed.”

Oct. 23, 2017: White sent an email to Green and another USDA official with the subject line “I’m Well On My Way,” thanking them and the secretary “for allowing me the opportunity to become the USDA State Director of Rural Development. (I’m not even certain I wrote that correctly).”

Nov. 1, 2017: USDA official Joby Young emailed Sen. Perdue staffers Daniel Hale and Derrick Dickey a “heads up” about the White House’s plan to announce Smith and White as new Georgia state directors.

Nov. 12, 2017: A letter from then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to White, congratulating her on her appointment. White officially took on the position on Nov. 27. 

Jan. 17–31, 2018: White and a staffer for Sen. Perdue exchanged emails about a potential visit to Southern Fiber Worx in Cordele, Ga., to discuss rural broadband, following the end of the government shutdown.

April 2, 2018: Fry emailed White to pass on a message from the former mayor Thomasville, Ga., who had asked to talk to Secretary Perdue about rural internet access. Fry forwarded Campbell’s info to White, who replied, “I’ll give him a call.”

July 11, 2018: An email from Ben Fry, a Sen. Perdue staffer, to White about a series of meetings. White replied, “Thanks so much Ben. I will share with Tas and we both plan to be present.”

July 16–17, 2018: Sen. Perdue staff emailed Smith a link to a list of Sen. Perdue’s field representatives and their contact info.

Jan. 22, 2019: A Sen. Perdue staffer emailed White and wrote: “I just met Friday with the Mayor of Centralhatchee (Heard County) and some other from the area. I told them I would put you in touch with them about some grants.” 

April 5, 2019: Email from Smith to a Sen. Perdue staffer with an invitation to a roundtable meeting with Under Secretary Bill Northey. 

SNAP-Related Entries

Nov. 6, 2018: An email from Erin Wilson, a USDA official, to congressional staff and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) officials, announcing that the USDA had approved Georgia’s waiver request for “early expungement” of Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits.

Feb. 21, 2019: An email from Wilson to congressional staff announcing that the USDA had published the report “Characteristics of USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2017.”

March 13, 2019: Wilson emailed congressional staff regarding an informational memo on SNAP provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that had been sent to regional administrators.

March 22, 2019: A USDA FNS memo concerning states’ SNAP percentage exemption totals for able-bodied adults without dependents for the 2019 fiscal year.

April 3, 2019: An email from Wilson to congressional staff and FNS officials announcing the approval of a request from Iowa to initiate D-SNAP operations in five counties in response to flooding.

Other Entries of Note

March 7, 2017: A letter from Secretary Perdue to Stuart Bender, a USDA ethics official, outlining the steps Perdue would take to avoid conflicts of interest should he be confirmed as  secretary of agriculture.

April 27, 2018: Meeting request form submitted by the Food and Beverage Issue Alliance for a meeting with Brandon Lipps, the acting deputy undersecretary of food, nutrition and consumer services.

Sept. 4–17, 2019: A call log produced by the USDA spanning Sept. 4 through Sept. 17, 2019, which includes 11 calls made by Office of Congressional Relations Administrative Specialist Chris Kidd to Sen David Perdue’s offices and one call made by OCR Director Veronica Wong to Perdue’s Atlanta office.