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Perdue Talks Mother Nature, Farm Bill at FFA Convention

Secretary Perdue was in attendance at the 2017 national FFA convention in Indianapolis on Wednesday, where he moderated a discussion about the necessity of balancing U.S. crops for human food consumption, animal feed, and fuel, and also delivered remarks to FFA members at the convention’s opening general session.

In large part, his address encouraged FFA members to learn and lead in agriculture, and pointed to Ted McKinney, USDA Undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, as an example of success. McKinney was an FFA member in Indiana and will now represent the U.S. in trade efforts around the world.

Perdue also used the opportunity to comment on the tremendous challenges recent natural disasters have caused for producers. “I saw on [my family’s] faces a time of great celebration when the crops were good and the markets high,” he said to FFA members. “I remember as a young child, my parents surviving a severe drought in 1954. It really almost cost us the family farm. I watched my father struggle every day, waiting for, hoping for, and praying for rain. And then, 40 years later, in 1994, a terrible flood devastated farms across the middle and south of Georgia.

“Just this year, again, we’ve seen the ravages of nature,” he continued. “The hurricanes of 2017 destroyed cotton, citrus, and other farms across the Southern states. The horrific fires out West are again destroying farmland and crops as well. You know as well as I do that Congress cannot pass a law that makes crops grow. We can’t write a legislation at the USDA that prevents hurricanes or floods, drought, or fire.”

Yet, Congress is working to protect and provide for producers in the next farm bill, he assured reporters earlier in the day. “Virtually all farmers in this country would rather have a good crop at a fair price than a program and payment from the government, and that’s what we want to do.” Farmers aren’t made whole with crop insurance, he said, and they aren’t made whole with a government program, “but we don’t want it to be a career-ending situation.”

“The ’14 Farm Bill made a lot of progress in helping establish that insurance base and risk mitigation for our producers, and I think you’ll see more of the same. Obviously, we know dairy and cotton didn’t fare as well in the Farm Bill as they would like, so there will be some tweaks to those, probably separating the producer from the produced. I can’t speak for congress, but those are the kinds of things they’re talking about.”

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