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Trade resolution with China will be a 'bonanza' for America's farmers, says USDA's Perdue

Article cover photo
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue assures the crowd at Commodity Classic in Orlando, Fla., that negotiations continue with the Chinese and that the president won't accept a deal that is not fair for the American farmer. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Aaron Putze, APR, ISA director of communications and external relations

The role of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture is to serve as a liaison between the President of the United States and the country’s farmers and ranchers.

Sonny Perdue is ideally suited for it and he proved so again today in keynote remarks delivered at Commodity Classic’s general session in Orlando, Fla. 

Thousands of soybean, corn, sorghum and wheat farmers who gathered for the annual event granted Perdue a standing ovation as he outlined the administration’s focus and progress on agricultural trade. 

“Doing business with China is a priority for President Trump and he has the back of America’s farmers,” said the former Georgia governor and state senator. “That said, we have a lot of work to do to come to an agreement. I’m hopeful that one is eminent, but I also don’t want to unfairly raise expectations.

“These things can take time because the president, just like he’s proving with North Korea, is not going to accept an agreement that’s unenforceable and not good for the American people.” 

Perdue said no one benefits if America continues to turn a blind eye while China fails to fulfill its commitments as called for under the World Trade Organization. 

“They were posing unfair trade barriers and jerking us around,” he said. “This can’t continue to happen while our trade deficit grows. Inaction poses a tremendous financial hardship for America and one that will grow if this behavior continues.” 

Perdue acknowledged that when the administration “threw the flag on China” last year, farmers would be the first to feel the economic pain because of their productivity and dependency on exports. 

A scan of commodity sales data proves it. Since China’s implementation of a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans last summer, exports of the legume to the country of 1.4 billion people have declined by almost two-thirds. U.S. soybean prices are also off nearly $2 per bushel. 

But as he is accustomed to doing, Perdue ultimately struck an optimistic tone.

“While there are a lot of hurdles and details to work out, we’re setting the foundation for the leaders of both countries to come to an agreement. China needs our stuff and a resolution will be a bonanza for American agriculture,” Perdue said. 

As talks with China proceed, Perdue underscored the need for swift passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, or USMCA. 

A coalition of U.S. farm, commodity and business organizations, including the American Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have voiced support for its ratification.

“I always say we live in the best three neighborhoods in the world,” Perdue said, referencing America’s neighbors to the north and south. “We’re excited about having a new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement to help U.S. ag, labor and auto manufacturers. Canada and Mexico are always in the top three markets. We need them, and they need us.”

Progress on trade – including getting a deal done with Japan – will remain the administration’s top priority, Perdue added. 

"The president has a natural affinity for farmers; he understands the risks you take. Perhaps that's because, like him, you build things, too,” he said. “It’s been quite a roller coaster ride. But farmers are farmers and you’re tough and resilient. We’re hoping this ride ends well.”

While much of the discussion in agricultural circles is rightly focused on trade, the ag secretary said the industry must also stand united against a movement committed to “creating fear about our food.” 

Some non-government organizations and brand merchandisers are going to great lengths to sow doubt about certain foods and farming practices. 

Perdue said he will have none of it. Farmers must rise, dispel the myths and take ownership of their commitment to growing safe, quality food. 

“We used to sit behind our farm gate doing what we do. But we must get outside the farm gate,” he said. “Farmers have nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to growing the world’s safest, best and most abundant food. 

“We need to speak up locally and globally that there’s nothing about our food to fear and you can be assured that we at the USDA will lend a hand.” 

Contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com.

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at kjohnson@iasoybeans.com or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at aputze@iasoybeans.com

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com. Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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