USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue served as a warm-up act for his boss this afternoon, offering a prelude to President Donald Trump’s speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) which is expected to focus on rural development. Perdue told the crowd he stands ready to formally present the recommendations of the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force to President Trump when he appears before the body at 3 central this afternoon.
The report, which encompasses the work of 22 federal agencies, outlines more than 100 recommendations to improve broadband connectivity, quality of life, the rural workforce, technology and overall economic development.
As part of the initiative, Perdue took to the road to visit 30 states in his first year as secretary. “People believe that folks in Washington D.C. had stopped listening to rural America over the years,” Perdue said of those who came out to his town hall meetings. “In fields, dairy barns, machine sheds and front yards, thousands of people turned out for town hall meetings to express their frustrations and offer suggestions.”
The successes of the first year of the Trump administration were outlined by the Secretary, highlighted by regulatory reform and work to eliminate the Waters of the U.S. rule which would have expanded the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory reach beyond “navigable waters.” Perdue said regulatory reform has just begun with another 27 regulations identified to be eliminated in 2018 for a savings of $56 million annually.
Secretary Perdue also promised an announcement soon on “major, substantive and beneficial changes” to how farmers interface with USDA, hinting at a long-awaiting revamp of the Farm Service Agency computer system.
While trade is top of mind as farmers wait to see if President Trump follows through on threats to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Secretary gave no hints as to whether the President will offer reassurances this afternoon. Perdue only touched lightly on trade as he pointed to the work of the department’s first undersecretary for trade, Ted McKinney.
Watch President Trump’s speech to the 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation Convetion live on AgWeb.com.