The 31st secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, sat next to President Trump as the he signed an executive order creating a committee to be headed up by Sec. Perdue in front of industry leaders, farmers, and future farmers at the White House.
This executive order means the committee will meet and report a list of recommendations on changes to policy and issues important to farm country and rural America. They’re expected to produce a report in roughly 180 days.
“America’s farmers feed not only the nation, but millions of people around the world,” said President Trump. “We’re going to open that up much more for you folks.”
The order has three main goals: to remove barriers to prosperity, advance innovation and sustainability and expand rural education opportunities.
“[It’s about] agriculture and rural prosperity,” said President Trump. “That’s what we want. We don’t want to be taken advantage of by other countries. That’s stopping and it’s stopping fast.”
He’s referring to recent dairy policy changes in Canada and the impact on U.S. dairy farmers.
“This has been going on for a while, and we’re not going to put up with it,” said President Trump.
The U.S. is posing new tariffs on Canada, which could increase 24 percent on imported softwood lumber. It’s a move the Canadian government strongly disagrees.
“Independent trade panels have repeatedly found these claims to be baseless,” said Jim Carr, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources. “We have prevailed in the past and we will do so again.”
President Trump held a private discussion with more than a dozen farmers and leaders, including Hank Choate, a dairy producer and row crop farmer in Jackson County, Mich.
“We also talked in the area of trade,” said Choate. “[The President] directed the secretary of ag to please draft a letter that [President Trump] and the ag secretary could sign and send to the countries of China and Japan to make certain we build a stronger partnership and relationship.”
Choate says some of the discussion was based on the H2A program and the need for year-round labor for the livestock sector.
“In regard to the year-round worker, [President Trump and Sec. Perdue said] how we need to get a program which meets the needs of the livestock producer,” said Choate.
Choate said another farmer shared his experience with the H2A program who turned to Perdue and said how getting the system corrected is a top priority.
Former President Barack Obama put together a similar committee in 2011.
Choate said the farmer panel also talked to President Trump about immigration, labor, trade, regulatory reform and infrastructure.