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Perdue touches on trade, RFS, Iowa culture during visit to Urbandale

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U.S. Secretary of Agriculutre Sonny Perdue answers questions from local media Nov. 10 at the Urbandale Hy-Vee. (Photo: Aaron Putze/Iowa Soybean Association)

Perdue touches on trade, RFS, Iowa culture during visit to Urbandale

By Aaron Putze, APR

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made his fourth appearance in Iowa Friday (Nov. 10) since his confirmation in March. The nation’s 31st ag secretary held an open forum at the Urbandale Hy-Vee to salute veterans for their service to the country and recognize the critical role they play in growing the nation’s food supply.

Nearly 40 guests, including several farmers, attended the informal event that also included ample time for questions from the audience. Perdue provided perspectives on a host of timely agricultural topics.

Veterans

“A higher percentage of our rural men and women serving our country in the military come from our rural communities. We need to make sure they have an opportunity when they complete their service. They have a history of coming home, getting involved and helping rebuild their rural communities. We need to provide them the opportunity and resources to continue doing so.”

North American Free Trade Agreement

“The administration recognizes the importance of NAFTA. There’s a lot of anxiety about it and how we’re going to manage it moving forward. We know that pork and grain and dairy have benefited greatly from NAFTA. I’m hopeful we’ll get a renewed agreement. It’s good for America and it’s good for Mexico and Canada, too. President Trump knows how to get good deals; he wrote a book about it. He likes to engage one-on-one. That’s why he likes bilateral rather than multilateral agreements. He knows how beneficial it’s been for agriculture. My advice to farmers is to hang on and don’t get overly anxious if you hear bad news coming out initially. We’ll eventually get there (a good deal for agriculture) in the end.”

Bill Northey’s nomination for USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation

“Bill Northey has demonstrated his ability to understand what the needs are of farmers. We need him in (Washington,) D.C. as quickly as possible. We have skilled staff but we need him there. We need to start a viral ‘Free Bill Northey’ campaign. It’s a sad day when we get in an intra-squad squabble that has nothing to do with him or his character or qualifications.” 

Renewable Fuels Standard

“The president is a smart businessman and knows what would happen to grain and soybean prices if the nation withdrew from the volume requirements for renewables as called for the Renewable Fuels Standard. Iowa Sens. Grassley and Ernst went to him and made the case for the RFS and were successful. The president ultimately made the decision he did based on the commitment he made.”

Technology

“Even with the weather and drought we’ve had, we’re growing another record crop. The USDA came in a bit closer than people thought with its yield projections and now we need to sell the crop. With the low commodity prices, we need volume per acre but I’m not sure how long we can depend on that if we get another weather issue.”

Farm Bill

“We must continue to find new uses for our products. We don’t need to restrict acres. We need to let farmers farm for the marketplace. The farm program doesn’t need to make those decisions – they can make those decisions and find a place to go for their product.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

“Trade, labor and regulation have a tremendous impact. One of the first things the EPA administrator did was withdraw us from the onerous Waters of the United States. He’ll bring some common sense in that way to the department. There are other regulations, too, that need to be reviewed. What I’ve learned is that it’s almost as tough to get rid of a regulation as it is to get one approved.”

Water quality

“Iowa farmers are leading the nation in water quality. I want Sec. Northey confirmed and in place so he can help us do the same nationwide. Precision agriculture is a valuable tool, helping farmers use only what we need. We’ve determined how to do that through research and this will continue.”

Agricultural trade

“Trade is so important to farmers. Twenty cents of every dollar of farm income comes from world trade. We need to sell more. On the whole, farmers don’t have a balance sheet like it was in the ‘80s as they aren’t as severely leveraged. But there are challenges and we need to bring some strength back to the ag economy. We need to be very careful that we keep things in balance. What we saw during the great years of 2008-13 for agriculture was a run up in both prices and input costs. However, input prices haven’t come back down the way market prices have. We’ve had 4-5 years of good worldwide weather and we know that won’t continue so there’s a good chance we’ll get some higher prices moving forward.”

Transportation

“The president knows the importance of good transportation and the inland waterways and is committed to getting the funding needed to improve these systems and keep them operating for generations to come.”

Iowans

“Iowans are salt-of-the-earth people and good Americans. The productivity and technology at work here in agriculture and in Iowa and the diversity of what we’re growing here is remarkable. I like the culture of Iowa and the productivity. That’s why I like to come here and spend time as often as possible.”

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com.

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

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