Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue thanked farm bureau members for their support of the nation’s agricultural policies over the last four years and encouraged members to continue to advocate for what’s best for American agriculture in his virtual address given during the annual American Farm Bureau Convention meeting on Tuesday evening.
“My hope is we will work together to solve the issues facing our nation,” Perdue says. “But that can only happen if you stay committed to the ideas and beliefs that we share.”
He says this includes advocating for the freedom to innovate and to stay on the cutting edge. “We’re on the cusp of new and emerging technologies that will change the way we grow and eat our food.”
Perdue, a strong advocate of trade and expanding agricultural market access during his tenure at USDA, says moving forward, “We need more markets abroad to sell the abundance of American agriculture.” He says this includes more trade deals such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and holding China to their trading commitments. “These deals would not have happened if it weren’t for the near universal support from the agricultural community.”
He adds sights should also be set on southeast Asia, the booming markets of Africa as well as the United Kingdom.
Perdue looks back
In introducing Perdue, AFBF President Zippy Duvall, called him a personal friend of many years, long before the two came to Washington together and adds Perdue’s a friend of the American farmer.
“He knows what we have been through and understands the unprecedented challenges.” Duvall says even with so many challenges, Perdue has also been part of huge accomplishments and partnering together to strengthen rural communities, fight the opioid crisis and get food to those who needed it during the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
The past three years presented many challenges from trade disruptions to the coronavirus, however, Perdue praised farmers for being resilient. He adds, “We’ve not let the farmer stand alone. Through two rounds of trade assistance, we helped farmers weather the storm as we stood up to China who has taken advantage of us for many years.”
He also notes USDA supported farmers with access to more than $34 billion in emergency funds to help meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have done what is necessary to ensure the American agriculture economy remains strong, independent and a global leader in production,” Perdue says.
In the address just one week before he will step down as the new incoming administration takes office on Jan. 20, he says he hopes he lived up to the mission he stated when he came to town. “When I became secretary, I made it my goal to leave USDA better than I found it as the most efficient, effective and customer-focus agency in the federal government.”
During Perdue’s tenure he made sweeping changes at USDA including moving the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s offices to Kansas City from Washington D.C. He also re-organized the mission areas at USDA to put the farmer-facing divisions under one mission. This moved the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and Natural Resources and Conservation Service under the Farm Production and Conservation Agency mission area.
“It’s thanks to you for being good citizens, studying the policy and advocating for what’s best for our country. You all need to continue to do that. I know you love America as much as I do,” Perdue says.