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More Farm Aid Is a Miscommunication, USDA’s Perdue Says

Monday’s report is played down by USDA’s leader.

DES MOINES, Iowa — USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says that the reported news of more aid possibilities for financially struggling farmers is a miscommunication.

On Monday, a Reuters newswire story quoted White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow stating that the Trump Administration has already allocated $12 billion of farm assistance and is prepared to do more if necessary.

Perdue Uncertain of More Aid

However, Secretary Perdue played down the prospects of more aid when asked by reporters late Monday afternoon.

The USDA’s leader visited Iowa on Monday, including Corteva Agriscience in Johnston.

“I think that there possibly could be some miscommunication. The president and I have not talked about that,” Secretary Perdue told reporters here.

Perdue added, “We were very forthcoming last year with the $12 billion in the Market Facilitation Program. We did extend the time of getting that money, so people could prove their 2018 yields. But I’m afraid the newswire report (regarding a new round of aid) is not accurate to that degree.”

Perdue Eyes Financial Stress

Financial stress in the agricultural sector is something that Secretary Perdue is watching closely.

“Financial stress is emotional stress, it’s community stress. Farming is tough right now. We can’t deny that,” the USDA leader says.

Though many people like to blame the drop in farm markets on trade and tariffs that the Trump Administration has yet to resolve, Secretary Perdue says there is more to it.

“You’ve got six years of falling prices. Many people like to blame that on trade and tariffs. These prices have been going down for five or six years now. And it’s down to the bottom of the bucket, particularly for younger farmers,” Perdue says.

As working capital diminishes, bottom lines are not profitable, and assets are being eroded, U.S. farmers are dealing with a lot stress on the financial front.

“That creates a lot of emotional stress,” Perdue says.

No Trade Talk Update

When asked if he had a timeline on trade talks regarding the USMCA (U.S., Mexico, Canada) pact, Japan, or European Union trade negotiations, the USDA leader only could express his support for them.

“I wish I did (have a timeline). We are anxiously awaiting. It’s vital to get the USMCA ratified. We just received an International Trade Commission Report last week, fulfilling the legal requirements for Congress to act. President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet about it, and it’s up to her to bring the act to the floor for a vote.”

Farmers Will Stick With Trump

Secretary Perdue reiterated that although farmers are frustrated, he believes that because farmers are “long-game players” that they will continue to stick with President Trump on the ongoing trade negotiations.

“They (farmers) understand that President Trump is playing a  long game (with trade). I applaud the president for calling out China. We have biotech issues there, nontariff barriers there, that this company (Corteva Agriscience) realizes we have to get resolved. Farmers understand this. Farmers are tough and American patriots,” Secretary Perdue says.

Having said that, Secretary Perdue continues to tell the president the same message.

“I’ve told him several times, they (farmers) can’t pay their bills with patriotism, though,” Secretary Perdue says.

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