U.S. ag secretary says farmers aren’t giving up on Trump

DECATUR, Illinois — American Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said reports that farmers have lost patience with President Donald Trump are not accurate.

“They (farmers) realize that China, not just in the last little bit but for a long time, has built their economy on the back of American innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, and has stolen technology and has used that to build their economy, their military, and their goal of world dominance,” Perdue said during a media scrum at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.

He said he understands producers are concerned they could permanently lose market share because of the trade war, but at the end of the day commodity markets are based on price.

“We’ll get these markets back because they know we have the quality, and the reliability of production, and we have contract law that does what we say we’re going to do,”

“There is none of this turmoil about whether the U.S. can be counted on, that’s why the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement) is so important to make deals with our nearest neighbours.”

When asked if he thought U.S. politics is delaying ratification of the USMCA he said he thinks Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is just making sure the Democratic caucus has enough opportunity to address their constituent’s questions over enforceability issues in the trade pact.

“I think the ambassador (Robert) Lighthizer is doing a very good, patient job to deal with them, up rightly, fairly, transparently, about what things can be tweaked and what things cannot be tweaked. I’m hoping she (Pelosi) will come to the conclusion her caucus is ready to vote on that sooner rather than later,” Perdue said.

Trade disruptions are not the only reason there has been rising tension between farmers and Trump’s administration.

Earlier this summer, Trump ordered increased blending of corn-based ethanol in fuel, but recently granted waivers to 31 smaller oil refineries that can now avoid blending billion of litres of ethanol and biodiesel into their fuel.

Responding to farmer backlash over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) waivers, Perdue said Trump will soon announce a mitigation effort that will offset the market loss caused by the waivers.

He said something will be announced “hopefully in the next couple of weeks. They’re trying to work on the president’s schedule,” Perdue said.

Perdue said the administration is working to increase ethanol demand, especially with year-round sales of E15 ethanol.

“Going from E10 to E15 is very important, that’s like 50 percent,” Perdue said. “We can’t expect that kind of growth in corn export demand, two billion bushels over that period of time. Will it be a process? Yes, and we need to build that process out as quickly as possible,” he said.

Responding to a question on how the recently announced trade deal with Japan compares to the CPTPP, Perdue said the new deal is just about complete, and that he thinks it will be a well-received agreement.

“There may be a few sectors or industries that feel they got back to the finish line on that, but I think it’s going to be equal if not better. I think certainly our livestock group will feel good, and wheat and others, ” Perdue said.

Contact robin.booker@producer.com

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