“Hello?” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue answered his phone while on stage at the Farm Progress Show. “Mr. President, it is Sonny here.”
The standing-room-only crowd gathered in the Hospitality Building at the Farm Progress Show to listen to Perdue discuss issues impacting America’s farmers and ranchers. However, the group was a bit surprised Wednesday when President Donald Trump called from the White House.
The president talked about the USDA Market Facilitation Program where so far, over the last two years, farmers have received $28 billion in payments. Trump said the payments made the difference in commodity prices due to the trade war with China and where prices would have been without the trade war. However, the president upped the ante on the dispute stating, “China targeted our farmers thinking they can get to me because they knew I loved the farmers.”
When it comes to trade issues, Trump touched on the recent deal with Japan. “It is big. Japan is our No. 1 pork market and third largest agriculture market.” The deal with Japan has been reported to include buying U.S. corn. Japan imports about $14 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products and the agreement would open markets to more than $7 billion of products including beef, pork, wheat, dairy products, wine, and ethanol. The details are not iron clad.
“It should be completed and signed,” Trump said via the phone call. “I have a good relationship with the (Japanese) Prime Minister. I don’t think anything bad will happen, but if it does, they know they have to pay the price if they back out.”
Trump told farmers to stick with him, because he’s working on solidifying more trade deals to benefit them. “I hope you like me even better now than you did in '16,” he said. Some farmers applauded, while a few ‘booed.’
The presidential phone call was cut short due to connection problems. Perdue quipped, “That’s why we need broadband across the country Mr. President, we don’t have a good signal here.”