Perdue: Ag ‘bonanza’ on tap for American producers

Thousands of producers from across the Midwest watch Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on the jumbotrons as he speaks to the current state of American agriculture and foreign trade during the Farmer2Farmer convention in Omaha on Dec. 12.

There’s a boon coming for American agriculture.

That was the word from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue during his visit to Nebraska on Dec. 12. Addressing thousands of producers in attendance at the Farmers Business Network’s Farmer2Farmer conference in Omaha, Perdue said President Trump is keen on sealing new deals with China, including the “Phase One” agreement to the tune of $40-50 billion in additional U.S. agricultural exports in the coming years.

“If we can get those kind of numbers and commitments, and enforce them, and actually do the deal,” Perdue began, “then there’s going to be a real bonanza for agriculture here going forward.”

A bonanza promised is a bonanza received, as a day later, the Phase One agreement was inked by both countries. It arrived not a moment too soon, with the Dec. 15 deadline looming for the new U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods — and subsequent retaliatory tariffs from China — to take effect. After breathing the new agreement to life, both countries set aside the new tariffs in favor of continuing negotiations.

Admitting that American farmers have been “hard-hit” by trade disruptions the past two years, Perdue said the president is committed to resetting the U.S.-China trade relationship. To that end, Perdue lauded Trump’s achievements in regaining American access to the Chinese market on poultry and beef, and relieving tariffs on soybeans and pork.

“We’ve been in an economic war with China for 20 years,” Perdue said. “We just didn’t know it, and that’s the problem.”

Perdue’s visit at the conference was timely, speaking fresh off the deal struck between Trump and congressional Democrats for the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Perdue said he hoped ratification of the USMCA would be a “Christmas present” for all this month.

“This is a certainty going forward about how we can continue to swap,” Perdue said. “It’s a big win for American workers, for the economy, and especially for agriculture.”

He also highlighted the bilateral agreement with Japan — which ensures substantial tariff cuts on U.S. exports — as another win, and a productive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And though rice didn’t make the bilateral cut with Japan, Perdue noted that Trump secured a new market for rice growers in the agreement with South Korea.

With Brazil’s adoption of an agreement for 750,000 tons of American wheat duty-free added into the mix, Perdue said significant gains were being made to bridge the financial gap that has widened for American farmers since 2017.

“We must continue to gain access to those other new markets all across the Pacific Rim, and really all across the world,” Perdue said.

Concluding his thoughts, Perdue commended the work of organizations such as the Farmers Business Network, which assists more than 9,000 U.S. producers in sharing a wide range of data, from seed and herbicide prices to analytics on growth and markets in an effort to save on production costs.

Producers helping one another to be more profitable, he said, is key to market transparency and sustainability, and the effect trickles down to the benefit of all.

“The American consumer is benefiting from your productivity and much of the time, your economic sacrifices, by adding almost a trillion dollars in their disposable income pocket that they wouldn’t have to spend in agriculture, on food,” Perdue said. “That’s what you all have been doing for the American consumer. It’s time we started telling that story, and we hope to do that out there.”

Katy Moore can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.

A Kansas native, Katy is the daughter of a farmer and a cowgirl. She has been a professional journalist since 2008 and is the Editor of Midwest Messenger. She can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.