WASHINGTON (AP) — Agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue says he will step down from several positions at companies bearing his name, restructure family trusts and create blind trusts to avoid a conflict of interest if he is confirmed.
In a written agreement with a government ethics agency, the former Georgia governor said he will also step down from positions at the National Grain and Feed Association and the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
"I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter in which I know that I have a financial interest directly and predictably affected by the matter," Perdue said in the agreement.
The agreement is routine for any member of the Cabinet. Senators have been waiting for more than seven weeks for Perdue's letter, which is dated March 7 but was posted on the Office of Government Ethics website over the weekend.
Donald Trump chose Perdue for the job on Jan. 18, two days before the inauguration, but the formal nomination was only sent to the Senate last week.
A financial disclosure form released by the ethics office shows that Perdue holds substantial assets from agricultural companies, including a grain merchandising company called AGrowStar that is worth between $5 million and $25 million.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has received the paperwork, a final step before scheduling a confirmation hearing. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Monday that the committee is reviewing the forms and he hopes to schedule a hearing before the end of the month.
The ethics agreement is required by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, passed after the Watergate scandal.
In the weeks since he was chosen, Perdue has held several meetings with senators on Capitol Hill. Farm-state senators have mostly praised his nomination, including Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who said she would support him.
Perdue, 70, is a farmer's son who would be the first Southerner in the post in more than two decades. He built businesses in grain trading and trucking before becoming the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.
Like Trump, Perdue declined while serving as governor to put his assets in a blind trust, as his immediate predecessors had done. He said then that he did not want to abandon businesses that were still operating. That set the stage for critics to question various land deals and tax breaks and prompted charges of conflict of interest.
While Perdue's nomination is pending, acting Agriculture Deputy Secretary Mike Young is in charge.
Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.