Perdue to farm co-ops: Talk to Congress about USMCA |

Perdue to farm co-ops: Talk to Congress about USMCA

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, center, poses with Washington-based interns of co-op groups at the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives meeting.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urged executives from the nation’s farm co-ops today to talk to Congress about voting for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.

Noting that he can’t directly encourage lobbying, Perdue told members of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives at their Washington meeting that they should follow their hearts and minds in talking with Congress.

Perdue was also positive about the role of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying she is “taking her deliberations very seriously” and that he believes there are “some tweaks that are doable” to satisfy Democrats who are critical of the bill.

He also noted that southeastern fruit and vegetable producers are not satisfied with the USMCA, and that he and others are trying to convince them that the agreement is “not going backwards” and will help others in agriculture, even if it does not improve their situation.

Perdue said President Donald Trump had called him for a consultation before leaving today for the G-20 meeting in Japan and a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

He said he told Trump that farmers like him because both he and the farmers are “builders.” He also said he told Trump the farmers want trade, not aid, just as he would prefer to finish a building that he starts.

Trump also called him about the small refinery waiver for ethanol, Perdue said.

He also said that more details on the Market Facilitation Program should be coming shortly, noting that USDA has been “opaque” about the details because the administration did not want the trade aid program to influence planting decisions. But he said with planting season almost done, it will be more appropriate to release more detailed information.

The MFP rule is still at the Office of Management and Budget, he said.

Asked about possible challenges to the trade aid program in the World Trade Organization, Perdue said the Trump administration believes the program will fall within the subsidies allowed to the United States, and that the administration is ready to defend the program against any complaints.

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