USDA’s Perdue tours farm
By Darcy Dougherty Maulsby
NEVADA -Read a 17-page speech written by USDA staff, or speak from the heart? U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue endeared himself to farmers and other ag leaders when he chose the latter during a town hall meeting at a Nevada-area farm on May 5.
“You don’t forget the sights, smells and sounds of the farm,” said Perdue, who recalled the feel of an “old slimy Holstein tongue” as he described his years growing up on a dairy and diversified row-crop farm near Bonaire, Georgia. “My heart is in agriculture, and I’m proud to be called an agriculturist.”
When asked what qualifies him to serve in government, he’s even more candid. “I’ve got the boots, gloves and shovel,” he joked during his first major farm policy speech, which he delivered on the Couser family’s farm near Nevada.
Perdue, who became the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on April 25, brings a wide array of practical ag experience to his new role. “Sonny Perdue is the perfect person to be Secretary of Agriculture,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who spoke during the town hall meeting. “He has a wonderful ag policy background and has already made an impact on the Trump administration about the importance of trade for agriculture.”
Uniquely qualified as a former farmer, Air Force veteran, agribusinessman, veterinarian, state legislator and governor of Georgia, Perdue said he’s happy to be an “adopted Iowa son.” “I’m here in Iowa to learn,” emphasized Perdue, who pledges to be the most unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.
USDA motto: Do right and feed everyone
The farm community’s willingness to share knowledge fits with USDA’s new motto: ‘Do right and feed everyone,'” Perdue noted. Under Perdue’s leadership, this motto is reflected in USDA policies guided by five key principles, including:
1. Less government interference. Perdue believes the American government should try to remove every obstacle so farmers and ranchers have every opportunity to prosper. President Donald Trump also embraces this mindset, Perdue said. “Our president believes in Team USA and government that works for the American people, not against them,” Perdue said.
2. More international trade. Trump and USDA understand that agriculture is vital to the U.S. economy, said Perdue, who praised Iowa and Governor Terry Branstad for building international relations. In 1985, China’s current president, Xi Jinping, was a Communist party official and feed cooperative director from Hebei Province who toured eastern Iowa farms with a small group of other Chinese officials. “Seeing the magic and majesty of Iowa agriculture made quite an impression on those young men,” Perdue said. “Xi Jinping also remembers your kindness and hospitality.”
Perdue noted that American agriculture needs a strong advocate to promote its interests to international markets. The relationship between the USDA and its trade representatives, as well as with the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce, will be essential, he added. “People do business with people, so we will promote U.S. worldwide. You grow it; we’ll sell it.”
3.Food security. International buyers and American consumers expect a safe, secure food supply. USDA will continue to ensure that food products meet strict safety standards. “Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist,” Perdue added. “Thank you and God bless you, America’s farmers and ranchers. You are part of our national security.”
Sound science. Under Perdue, USDA will be facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. “That’s what works,” said Perdue, who praised the Couser family for their high-tech, scientific approach to row-crop farming and cattle production. “Sound science allows farmers to not only grow healthy food, but a healthy environment.” While American agriculture is the most advanced manufacturing industry today, more creativity and innovation will take it to the next level, Perdue added.
4. “Ag-vocacy.” Perdue knows that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. These land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more people around the globe, added Perdue, who emphasized that this remarkable story must be told. “We can’t just be great producers. We must be great communicators who share American agriculture’s story around the world.”
Manson-area farmer Brent Johnson liked what he heard at the town hall. “I was really impressed by the way Sonny Perdue speaks the farmer’s language,” said Johnson, who owns Labre Crop Consulting and serves as the District 4 Iowa Farm Bureau Federation board representative. “He’s easy to relate to and is an unapologetic advocate for agriculture.”
Johnson also liked Perdue’s common-sense approach, which was reflected in one of Perdue’s final remarks about farming and family during the town hall meeting. Even when Perdue’s father wasn’t sure he’d have the opportunity to farm rented land the following year, he added lime to improve the soil. “As stewards of the land, it was our responsibility to leave the land better than we found it,” Perdue said. “This philosophy reflects our heart in agriculture and at USDA.”
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