WASHINGTON – Newly appointed US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, attended a farmers roundtable with Pres. Donald Trump to address American agricultural issues. During the roundtable, the president signed an executive order establishing an interagency taskforce on agriculture and rural prosperity. Representatives from throughout American agriculture shared ideas and raised concerns during the discussion as the task force began its mission “to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America,” according to the president’s order.
“The people who are on the front lines of American agriculture don’t have the luxury of waiting to tend to their crops and livestock, so there was no better time to convene this meeting of the minds than on my first day,” Secretary Perdue said in a statement. “President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side.”
More than a dozen farmers and representatives of the agriculture community attended the roundtable and discussed topics including agricultural trade, regulatory reform, rural investment and infrastructure, labor issues, and the Farm Bill with the President Trump and Secretary Perdue.
Participants in the roundtable included:
• Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former Oklahoma House member, Lindsay, Oklahoma
• Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
• Hank Choate, Choate’s Belly Acres, Cement City, Michigan
• Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, Ohio
• Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, Georgia
• Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, Minnesota
• Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Inc., Fanning Springs, Florida (also farms in the state of Kansas)
• A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce, Newport Beach, California
• James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, North Carolina
• Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and farmer, Spirit Lake, Iowa
• Jose Rojas, VP of Farm Operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, Colorado
• Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, Colorado
• Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, New York
• Steve Troxler, NC Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, North Carolina
“The Farmers Roundtable provided the chance for the President to hear directly from the people on the front lines of American agriculture about what they are dealing with every day,” Secretary Perdue said. “By hosting this discussion, the president has demonstrated his awareness of the plight of American farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, his intention to seek input, and his determination to help.”
Secretary Perdue will serve as the chairman of the interagency task force on agriculture and rural prosperity according to the executive order which “ensures the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.”
The text of the executive order reads, “It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture while protecting and supporting the rural communities where food, forestry, fiber, and renewable fuels are grown. It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.”
Items on the agenda for the task force to examine include, but are not limited to, current barriers to economic prosperity in rural America and how innovation and technology may play a role in long-term, sustainable rural development. Task force members will use science to examine crop protection tools used by farmers and address livestock and year-round agricultural labor concerns. The group will also examine tax policies that affect family farms, as well as protection against federal takeover of state-adjudicated water rights, permitting and licensing, and conservation requirements beyond what is provided in law. Finally, the task force will seek to improve the implementation of food safety laws and safe food for the public while keeping sight of farming’s unique nature and diverse business structures.
“It used to be that people in agriculture feared disease and drought as the greatest threats to their livelihoods and their mission of feeding America and the world,” Secretary Perdue said. “While those hazards remain, too often now it is the government – through interference and regulation – that poses the most existential threat to American farming. We aim to put a stop to that.”
The task force will seek input from stakeholders in the agricultural community and is required to issue a report with recommendations for legislative or administrative actions within 180 days.