Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is currently touring rural America on his “Back to Our Roots” RV tour. The goal is to gather public input on how to restore prosperity to rural America as well as get insights on what rural Americans want and need in the new Farm Bill. Perdue says it’s been an interesting experience for him to tour through the Upper Midwest:…
“This is with the people on the ground, farmers and young competitors in the hog shows and cattle shows, and it’s been a great tour. Just, on the ground conversations with producers and farmers about what their hopes are for the ’18 farm bill are, how we can do better, what they need, and how we can get out of the way and let them produce for the world’s hunger.
We’re also going to visit and FSA office, and talk to our folks on the ground, there, we had about 150 USDA employees with a lot of good information from them about what’s working within their respective offices. So, we’ve had a very productive tour.”
Perdue answered a variety of questions during a Monday morning conference call with reporters. One question involved a California case in which a nursery owner named John Duarte stands accuses of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally filling in a wetland when he plowed it for wheat. The litigation began when President Obama was in office and Duarte is looking at $2.8 million in fines. Perdue says he’s aware of the case and will be looking into it further when he returns to Washington…
“When I get back to DC, I plan to get the straight scoop from Scott Pruitt, Administrator of EPA, and also talk to Attorney General Sessions about their continued prosecution. My understanding was that there’d been some reconciliation over the case, but it appears that it’s going forward.
“This, unfortunately, is an extension of the EPA’s efforts in the last administration over the Waters of the US, and I’m hoping the US Justice Department can see fit to hold off on that until we get a better definition of the Waters of the US.”
He says this case could potentially send a chill over farmers across the country if they could face civil and criminal penalties for normal agricultural practices.
The upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations are on the Secretary’s radar as well. He says he’ll be involved in the negotiations, saying while NAFTA has been a big benefit for American agriculture, there are some issues that need to be worked out…
“I think again, from a NAFTA perspective in our relationship with Mexico and Canada, we have a lot to gain, we certainly have an issue with Canada over their dairy supply management system, and the oversupply that’s creating some problems, we’ve got Canadian lumber. We’ve got some issues with Mexico over pork, and potatoes and things like that. But, those are really minor type issues that I think we can resolve.”
His main message for negotiators is do no harm to agriculture and don’t hurt American farmers.