Sonny Perdue moves to loosen federal school lunch rules

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue eats lunch with students at the Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va., on May 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Georgia’s former governor has become the guy in charge of bringing the French fry back to school cafeterias. From the Washington Post:

After only six days on the job, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue moved to stall one of former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature accomplishments: stricter nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches, which feed more than 31 million children.

 

Speaking at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va., on Monday with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Patricia Montague of the School Nutrition Association, Perdue announced that his department would be slowing the implementation of aggressive standards on sodium, whole grains and sweetened milks that passed under the Obama administration.

Our AJC colleague Ty Tagami adds this:

Neither the Georgia School Nutrition Association nor Georgia Organics, which is behind the “farm to school” movement, were immediately available for comment. Nor was the Georgia Department of Education. But the announcement that states will be allowed to exempt schools from serving grain in everything will likely appease schools that find piles of uneaten food in the trash bins while rankling those who link school food to declining student health.

The rate of obesity among children has more than tripled over the past four decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Perdue’s influence over school lunches is small stuff. Given the importance of rural America to President Donald Trump’s political future, the former governor could quickly become an essential figure in the administration. We’ve already told you of the role Perdue played in Trump’s decision to hold off on abandoning the free trade pact that links Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

Former Insider Tom Baxter, over at the Saporta Report, goes one better and suggests that the former Georgia governor could turn Trump’s head on immigration:

On his fourth day in office, Perdue waded into controversial waters once again, saying he had hired a labor lawyer away from the American Farm Bureau to help him draft a blueprint for a program that would allow undocumented agricultural workers to stay in the United States, provided they broke no laws. The president, he said, was on board with this.

“He understands that there are long-term immigrants, sometimes undocumented immigrant laborers, out here on the farms, many of them that are doing a great job, contributing to the economy of the United States,” Perdue told Harvest Public Media. “That is not his focus nor will that be my focus.”

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The Washington Post points out two signs that Sixth District Republicans are “less than fully united” behind Karen Handel in her bid for the Sixth District congressional seat. From the story:

Dan Moody, a former Georgia state senator who ran fourth in the primary, has pointedly declined to endorse her. And the Club for Growth, which is on the air in some swing districts to bolster support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, is absent after running negative ads against Handel in the first round. One ad attacked the Republican as a “big-spending career politician we can’t trust with our money” — a message now in sync with that of the Democrats.

Moody has, indeed, gone silent since his disappointing finish in last month’s vote. Club for Growth’s absence is less surprising: We’re told that Handel should count herself lucky that it doesn’t continue running attack ads against her.

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Shot fired: State Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, isn’t in the governor’s race yet, but he’s already shown he’s ready to brawl with the presumed GOP frontrunner, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

In a quick Twitter assault, Williams criticized Cagle’s tax cut plan as too modest — and accused him of blocking another tax-cut proposal besides:

Williams is all but guaranteed to enter the race. Cagle, who formally launched his campaign over the weekend, hasn’t responded to Williams’ tweets. At least, not yet.

***

In a sit-down with the Gainesville Times, Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp, currently the secretary of state, struck a populist tone, with one exception:

But unlike Trump, don’t look for an infrastructure spending campaign from Kemp — especially in the Atlanta area.

 

“I think we’ve got to continue to be innovative — and also have those local communities buying in to what they’re doing,” Kemp said. “People in Atlanta clearly will pay for congestion relief, but I’m not so sure that people outside of Atlanta will.”

 

He noted that congestion is clearly a problem in metropolitan areas, but not in most areas of the state. In general, Kemp talked much more about encouraging private sector innovation than public cash for infrastructure.

***

Also this morning, the Kemp campaign released a list of endorsements from 50 county officials across the state. Take a gander:

Commissioners for Kemp Co-Chairs Nancy Thrash, Lamar, and Commissioner Lee Allen, Madison

Commissioner Kenneth Ashworth, Elbert

Commissioner Dennis Bell, Stephens

Commissioner Theresa Bettis, Madison

Former Chairman Hunter Bicknell, Jackson

Commissioner Danny Blackmon, Quitman

Commissioner Jason Boone, Telfair

Commissioner Lee Bradford, Walton

Commissioner Ronnie Cowan, Newton

Commissioner Tony Crowe, Paulding

Chairman Mark Daniel, Terrell

Chairman John Daniell, Oconee

Former Chairman Melvin Davis, Oconee

Commissioner Randy Davison, Brantley

Commissioner Mick Denham, Turner

Commissioner Keri Denney, Heard

Commissioner Brent Dubois, Twiggs

Commissioner Myra Exum, Brooks

Commissioner Scott Gibbs, Hall

Commissioner Terry Goodger, White

Commissioner Luke Gowen, Charlton

Commissioner Robert Griner, Berrien

Former Commissioner Tommy Gutherie, Atkinson

Commissioner Jim Hayes, Quitman

Former Chairman Wayne Hill, Gwinnett

Commissioner Herschell Hires, Wayne

Commissioner Randy Howard, Sumter

Chairman Terrell Hudson, Dooly

Chairman Andy Hutto, Bacon

Commissioner David Kinsey, Quitman

Commissioner Jimmy Kitchens, Coffee

Commissioner Carvel Lewis, Quitman

Chairman Kevin Little, Walton

Chairman Sam McCard, Turner

Commissioner Tom McMichael, Houston

Chairman Walker Norman, Lincoln

Chairman Billy Pittard, Oglethorpe

Chairman Allen Poole, Haralson

Former Chairman Dale Provenzano, Glynn

Chairman Mike Riddle, Long

Chairman Ted Rumley, Dade

Commissioner Marty Seagraves, Jackson

Commissioner Grady Smith, Richmond

Chairman Marty Smith, Carroll

Commissioner Neal Stanley, Telfair

Commissioner Tripp Strickland, Madison

Commissioner Mark Thomas, Oconee

Chairman Gary Usry, Greene

Commissioner Lee Vaughn, Elbert

Commissioner John Westmoreland, Baldwin

Commissioner Bubber Wilkes, Oconee

Commissioner Shag Wright, Wayne

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With Casey Cagle in the governor’s race, expect the battle for the state’s No. 2 job to heat up.

The only candidate so far in the race is state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, who is said to have locked up the support of GOP mega-donor Rick Jackson.

Senate President pro tem David Shafer, R-Buford, also appears likely to take the plunge. Other GOP senators who have ruminated about a run haven’t yet stepped forward. With Butch Miller of Gainesville and Brandon Beach of Alpharetta apparently opting out of the contest, other names have surfaced, including those of Steve Gooch of Dahlonega and John Kennedy of Macon.

As for Democrats, we are picking up word that former state senator Doug Stoner is eyeing a run.


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