KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a long road to confirmation, Sonny Perdue was confirmed as the United States Secretary of Agriculture this week. Fresh on the job, Perdue visited the American Royal Complex in Kansas City on Friday and KMZU was at the event to gather every detail of the former Georgia governor’s remarks.
Secretary Perdue held a town hall meeting with more than 450 farmers and ag industry representatives from around the area. State politicians in attendance were Lt. Governor Mike Parson, Missouri Senator Brian Munzlinger, Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn, as well as representatives from state and national commodity groups.
Many topics were discussed with the farmers, including NAFTA, labor, and the future of the USDA.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has been a big topic of discussion within the agricultural industry. At the meeting, Perdue made it very clear that NAFTA, and other trade agreements, are going to be looked at and adjusted. Perdue stated, “Let’s square up and make it fair so you all, the American producers, both in agriculture and in the industry can benefit.”
Perdue also recounted a conversation about NAFTA and other trade agreements at a round table that took place on Tuesday.
President Trump has been vocal about immigration, which has many in the agricultural industry wondering what will happen to farm workers who are immigrants. That demographic accounts for an estimated 78% of all farm workers by the National Agricultural Works Survey.
Perdue told farmers that President Trump is not targeting farm workers. The president’s immigration reform is targeted towards criminals, he said.
With each new Secretary of Agriculture, a serious question posed is how the USDA is going to be changed under their direction. Perdue didn’t get too far into the weeds on policy and instead shared a quote he said was from his grandfather, “We want to leave it better than we found it.”
Perdue was not only referring to USDA, but also to soil and water conservation in order to create a better agricultural industry for Future generations. Perdue indicated that he considered making sure the next generation has a place on the farm as a top priority. With internet connection scarce in most rural areas, Purdue said he believed the key is making sure young people can stay connected to the rest of the world through the internet even if they live in rural areas.
Other changes that could be coming to the USDA include the agency shifting towards more data driven solutions, more availability to farmers, and helping taxpayers feel like they are getting services that make them feel like they’re getting their bang for their buck.
Sonny Perdue also visited the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Triumph Foods in St. Joseph while in Missouri.