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USDA’s Sonny Perdue on a Roll In Iowa

Farmers need to shout aloud about their story.

Much like his tour across the Midwest in a recreational vehicle, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue covered the gamut in an address to the Iowa Ag Summit Saturday.

He covered issues such as helping young farmers get started in agriculture, helping rural communities, helping farmers operate with less regulation and urging farmers to remain confident that the USDA will stay focused on increasing exports, 2018 Farm Bill, and the dicamba crop damage.

On the sidelines of the Iowa Ag Summit, Secretary Perdue told that he is monitoring the hot agriculture topic of dicamba, the herbicide that is doing damage to crops that weren’t sprayed with the product.

In a recent article on the dicamba issue, it was reported that dicamba damage complaints have been rampant. “So far, Arkansas has received 760 reports from farmers of dicamba drift damage – a record for one product – spanning 209,000 acres, according to the state plant board,” the report stated.

The recent article on dicamba went on to state, “Arkansas has taken a tough stance against the chemical, banning its use for 120 days starting July 11. Missouri imposed a one-week ban starting July 8. Tennessee placed tight restrictions on when dicamba can be sprayed.”

The Arkansas State Plant Board relies on the “honor system” to enforce its ban, said director Terry Walker. Violations are punishable by fines up to $25,000.

At the Iowa Ag Summit, Perdue reassured farmers and agribusiness leaders that U.S. President Donald Trump is focused on helping farmers sell more products around the world.

“Our number one customer for ag exports is China. The good news is that the Chinese customer is not the issue, it’s the trade barriers allowing us to get more products in there,” Secretary Perdue says. “They love our products. They love that USDA stamp of approval.”

During a recent visit to China, Perdue explained that grocery shoppers were asking what products he trusted. “They trust the American consumer because they know that we have had a safe system for years.”

Secretary Perdue weaved into his speech the purpose of his Back To Our Roots RV tour. “Much like I’m talking to you, the young farmers that we are talking to after this event, we started our tour in Wisconsin visiting with farm groups, visiting farms. We’re finding ideas where we can be of help and counsel for Congress in thinking about the next Farm Bill,” Purdue says.

“We want a stable safety net for producers. While we recognize that we don’t want Congress interfering with the market, we want producers producing for the market and not the (Farm Bill) program,” Purdue told the Iowa crowd.

Also, Purdue reminded farmers and agribusiness attendees that although this is a time when folks think that the lawmakers have their minds made up on farm policy, it’s not true.

“It’s just like voting. Make your voice count. We (USDA) need to hear from you. And collectively, the voice of the whole industry is more powerful than our individual ones. I hope you will be encouraged to have your voice heard in Washington, D.C.”

Perdue reminded those in attendance that no longer can farmers talk amongst themselves only.

“All of us in ag country can’t just stay on our farms and only talk to neighbors and talk in a huddle. We know now that federal, state, and public policy is going to influence what we do as farmers everyday,” Perdue says.

Plus, the consumer is having increasing influence as to how we do our business in agriculture.

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