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2017 Real Estate Deal Involving Former USDA Secretary Under Scrutiny

In this file photo from August 2019, then-USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue answers questions from farm reporters during a news conference at Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.

A report from The Washington Post questions a real estate transaction made in winter 2017 involving a company owned by Sonny Perdue, around the time he was nominated to become USDA Secretary.  According to the Post‘s investigation, Purdue’s company bought a grain facility in South Carolina from ADM for $250,000, years after ADM purchased the facility for $5.5 million.  However, the county the facility is located in appraised the property at $530,000 in 2018.

An ADM spokesperson told the Post that the deal was, “nothing more than a business decision to sell a significantly underperforming asset.”  Both a representative of ADM and Perdue’s company, which was sold in 2018, confirmed the negotiations for the transaction started in 2015, when ADM originally sought $4 million for the property.  The price eventually came down to $250,000 when Perdue and an ADM official signed a deal in December 2016, amid reports that Perdue was on the shortlist to become USDA Secretary.  The deal closed the following February, shortly before Perdue agreed to transfer his agribusiness assets into an irrevocable trust as a condition of his confirmation to USDA.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow called the findings disturbing.  Responding to the report, Stabenow says she has called on the Office of Government Ethics to conduct an expedited review of the transaction.

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