‘I Will Not Support Any Policies That Diminish the RFS,’ Says Perdue
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke to corn and soybean farmers gathered at the Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California, as the ethanol debate becomes increasingly contentious around the country.
The arena cheered as Perdue announced Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has been confirmed as USDA undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural service. The announcement first came Tuesday after a hold placed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was lifted.
When asked at a press conference what Ted Cruz got to get the nomination moving again, Perdue replied plainly, “Nothing.”
Perdue expressed his excitement to work with Northey by saying, “The more I get to know him, the better I like him. I know Bill Northey will lead with distinction and compassion.”
Perdue also took time to address concerns about his support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) saying, “I’m beginning to know what President Trump feels about fake news.” He stressed his stance has not changed despite headlines suggesting otherwise.
“President Trump stands with corn and biofuels – and he stands for the RFS. I stand with him, and I stand with you,” Perdue said. “I have not, I will not support any policies that diminish RFS and our producers.”
The audience of farmers gave the secretary a standing ovation as he emphasized his point. “I am a farmer first, and a farm businessman next… I know the value of demand. The demand structure is vital to the economy today.”
Again, at the press conference Perdue called out inaccuracies in media reporting about wavering support. “I cannot say it any more clearly.”
Steve Censky will be at the White House meeting with oil and ethanol representatives on Thursday while Perdue makes additional appearances at Commodity Classic.
As he transitioned to highlight some of his goals and accomplishments in the USDA over the past year, Perdue welcomed the crowd to Disneyland, holding the business out as an example of customer service. Businesses like Disney and Chick-Fil-A are known for their customer service, Purdue said, and USDA is striving to develop the same reputation.
The secretary said he wants the USDA to be the most efficient agency in the U.S. government. “You and the taxpayers of America, are our customer,” he said.
As Northey begins his new role in USDA, he will lead efforts to streamline FSA, the Risk Management Agency, and NRCS.
The new USDA website Farmers.gov will eventually allow farmers to submit forms, look at GIS maps, relevant farm bills, or the latest happenings in Washington, D.C. There is excitement about the modern platform and partnerships with the White House Office of Innovation. High-speed engineers are working on the site to ensure it is easy to use and farmer-friendly.
In closing his remarks about the new and improved agency, Perdue highlighted the benefits of having people who know the business of agriculture in Washington D.C. The USDA moto continues to be, “Do right and feed everyone.”
Getting out of the Beltway
Perdue highlighted his trips across the heartland on the Back to Our Roots Tour: an important way to listen to the people living and working in agriculture. Meeting people in machine sheds and dairy barns in 33 states around the country has given the secretary an opportunity to listen to the first-hand accounts of the regulatory, trade, and labor issues farmers face.
Echoing similar statements Trump made at the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, Perdue highlighted the administration’s track record of slashing regulations. For each new regulation that has been introduced, 22 have been eliminated, far surpassing the original two for one goal.
Perdue praised the administration saying it is the most interrelated he has ever seen. EPA, Fish and Wildlife, and others are all coordinating decisions for the safest recommendations for America.
Trade is Important
Perdue assured farmers trade is also on his mind. “Trump understands the importance of trade with Mexico and Canada. I have confidence that when he says America first, he will look out for American agriculture,” he said.
“I’m a grow it and sell it kind of guy,” the secretary said.
Labor is Essential
Perdue also took time to highlight the importance of a legal, reliable work force in agriculture saying the industry is caught in the crosshairs of the emotional immigration debate.
The secretary called out the H2-A visa program specifically as cumbersome, complicated, and in need of improvement.
“President Trump knows we have a need for a legal workforce – to get agricultural workforce included in a comprehensive immigration bill,” the secretary said.
Farm Bill Principles
While the USDA doesn’t write the farm bill, they are an important source of data and information for Congress. In January, Perdue announced his farm bill principles, and reviewed them in his speech today.
- Basic farm safety net to help weather tough times
- A variety of crop insurance products
- Forward-looking for the next generation
Perdue also took some time to explain the consequences of 199A in the new tax bill were unintended, saying Congress is working feverishly to resolve the issue. The tax bill is not supposed to pick winners and losers, he said. As it reads now, the law puts independent operators at a disadvantage by giving farmers a large incentive to sell their grain to co-ops. Once a correction is made, the secretary expects it to be retroactive through the first of the year.