Commentary: Perdue foresees ‘brighter days ahead’ for farmers

Issue Date: January 29, 2020
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue speaks during the 101st American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.

[Editor's note: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue updated farmers and ranchers on U.S. Department of Agriculture priorities during a speech to the 101st American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Austin, Texas. Following are excerpts.]

We know that 2019 has been a pretty tough year when it comes to farming: Disasters and unfair trade retaliation and low prices squeezed essentially every farmer in America. But you farmers did what you always do: You kept on keeping on and you persevered.

President Trump directed me at USDA to help producers with the uncertainties surrounding trade. He was determined not to allow you to bear the brunt of that trade retaliation alone. So at his direction, we created a $16 billion support package on top of the $12 billion package from 2018 to try to tide you over.

We know that it doesn't ever make it up for a producer. Farmers want to grow stuff and we heard, "I'd rather have trade than aid," but when you don't have trade, the aid was welcomed and I very much appreciate the president allowing us to do that.

I do believe we have brighter days ahead. New trade deals and strong consumer demand in the United States and abroad are a great sign of brighter days ahead.

In the trade area, the huge success for American farmers was the overwhelming, bipartisan support of the USMCA. I know there was a great gasp when the president talked about withdrawing from NAFTA, but as we appealed, he gave us room to negotiate and literally at his urging, you get a better deal than we've had before, with access into Canada markets for dairy, eggs, poultry and others.

The big news is President Trump signed the Phase 1 China deal. People like to talk about the trade war of the last two years. Folks, we've been in an economic trade war with China for 20 years. The president recognized that and he stood up to China and said, "Enough's enough. We're going to reset the relationship."

And that's exactly what's happened: a first step in fixing the longstanding structural issues, the non-tariff barriers that we face there, forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, and a real biotech approval process. This is the first trade deal I've ever seen with real teeth of enforceability, unilateral ability to enforce that agreement with China.

We're working at USDA to diversify our trade portfolio across the world. 2020 I believe will be a record year for agricultural exports. We've got plans for North Africa, the Philippines, Spain, Portugal, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and the UAE. We're going around the world, selling the products that you great farmers and ranchers are producing.

President Trump has continued to remove the strangling regulations from the backs of American farmers and the American economy. Repealing WOTUS is a big deal. I want to thank again the American Farm Bureau for being the point-of-the-spear advocates for ditching the rule (see story).

He's also streamlining regulations on biotechnology and agricultural chemicals, and signed an executive order requiring agencies to revoke two regulations for every rule they want to issue. At USDA, we've tried to best that. The bottom line is this administration is trying to make it easier for you to do your job.

We also continue to build out our digital tools that make customer service easier. We want farmers to be able to focus more on farming and profitability and less on bureaucratic, antiquated processes. We're improving and we'll add more tools like the disaster discovery tool and the very popular H-2A education tool.

We've launched our ReConnect broadband pilot program to deploy high-speed internet connectivity to the nation's rural communities, especially at our farms, our fields and our farmsteads. Ag technology is booming, and farmers need reliable connectivity to utilize and take advantage of this wonderful precision ag technology.

At USDA, we're also working on programs to ensure that they work best for you and your needs. For example, we rolled out the Dairy Margin Coverage program. And for those interested in hemp, USDA has worked aggressively to develop a regulatory framework that provides a fair, consistent and science-based process for states, for tribes and individual producers who want to participate in the domestic hemp program.

We value communications from your leadership and from you all. As a farmer, you've got to be an optimist. I'm a farmer. I'm an optimist. I think 2020 is going to be a great year.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

Special Reports



Special Issues

Special Sections