Perdue talks trade, farm bill SNAP in Chicago
In two appearances in Chicago on Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said farmers still face challenges in dealing with China and that his plan to restrict state waivers to ease eligibility for food stamps should make it easier for conservatives to vote for the farm bill.
In a keynote speech to the DTN Ag Summit, Perdue said he is optimistic about the agreement between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement last Friday, but noted that significant retaliatory tariffs by Canada, China and Mexico remain in place against U.S. agricultural products.
“From my perspective, nothing has changed from the tariff damage that farmers experience,” Perdue said.
He also noted that China has made promises in the past it has failed to keep, including assurances more than a year ago to increase imports of U.S. agricultural products.
“It’s all about the delivery of those commitments and those promises,” Perdue said.
Perdue also acknowledged that U.S. tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum remain. In response, Canada and Mexico have placed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm products that U.S. farm leaders, particularly in dairy, say have negated the value of the USMCA.
Perdue said he would like to see a quota system for steel and aluminum that does not encourage retaliatory tariffs.
“We need for those retaliatory tariffs to come off if the president wants to go to a steel-and-aluminum quota system on that,” Perdue said. “That’s what many of us in the administration and cabinet favor.”
Perdue also said that the proposed new farm bill protects crop insurance and will allow farmers to shift between Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs more frequently than under the current program, which requires farmers to make a choice that lasts for the life of the farm bill.
“We’re hopeful it will give us the flexibility for farmers to move back and forth a time or two to make the choice in what’s in their own best agricultural interest and economic interests on their own farms,” Perdue said.
Perdue also spoke to the Illinois Farm Bureau state convention. After the speech, he told reporters that USDA’s proposed rule to rein in waivers that exempt some food stamp recipients from current work requirements could appeal to conservative lawmakers who had hoped that the bill would include stiffer work requirements for beneficiaries of food stamps, formally the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Politico reported.
“Through regulation we’ll be able to please those conservatives who expected more work requirements in the farm bill, as I did, as President Trump did,” Perdue said.
USDA will issue the proposed rule after the farm bill is passed, the secretary said.