Ag Secretary Talks Trade, Broadband Access at NAFB Convention

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(Washington, D.C.) — Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue made an appearance at the NAFB virtual annual convention in late 2020, and there was a lot to discuss.

Trade has been a hot topic of conversation over the past four years, especially as it pertains to the trade war with China. Perdue says America might not feel as successful as we have been when it comes to dealing with China.

“The actual numbers show economically that farm income, minus government payments, has increased 33 percent over the last four years. I think a lot of times, while President Trump supported that when we were calling out China, and many people wanted to talk about the trade war going on there, we’ve been in a trade war that we didn’t realize we were in for 20 years.”

He says the U.S. approach to dealing with the unfair trade practices of China has yielded some positive results.

“Now, we see the benefits of the trade policy, so sometimes there has to be some pain. Obviously, those transfer payments were there with MFPs One and Two, CFAP One and Two, and COVID payments to help support people so they could continue their livelihood and not get so much into debt that they couldn’t get out. And the good news is now we see those prices we had hoped to have seen four years ago. Actually, when you look at farm income, I was pretty surprised to see it bottomed out in 2016, and it has risen every year since that time.”

In addition to the Phase One Deal with China, Perdue says there are other world trade wins to talk about, such as USMCA.

“We modernized it from a technology perspective and solidified our number one and two customers on the northern and southern border for a long time. Bob Lighthizer, our trade negotiator, got an enforceable agreement. The Japan agreement is too. Again, there was some concern about withdrawing from TPP, but why should the largest customer of some of these countries be treated the same as 11 other countries. We got a better deal that way. The Korean deal was settled as well, as well as the Indo-Pacific, from Thailand and Vietnam and others, have also increased. I think we’ve laid the platform for increased trade.”

Rural access to broadband is another vital issue that USDA is working on.

“It’s vital. It’s no longer a luxury. When we first began, after the day I was sworn in, President Trump signed an executive order on rural prosperity, and as we studied that with other agencies, connectivity is one of the things we came up with that could help rural America, including farms and farmsteads. It’s no longer acceptable for 20 percent of the nation is cut out of the connectivity of electronic commerce. That’s just not acceptable”

More broadband access is critical for rural America in many ways.

“The Re-Connect Programs that the president has directed us, and Congress funded to get connectivity out here with broadband literally to farmsteads. Precision agriculture, E-commerce, farmers are great entrepreneurs. They can market themselves all over the world if they have a connection. Certainly, COVID has shown us with distance learning, what are the country kids going to do when school is not in session? How are they going to learn if they can’t be connected?”

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