Perdue, Duvall address convention
PRINCETON — The 100th annual meeting of the New Jersey Farm Bureau last month welcomed USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Perdue and Duvall spoke to a capacity crowd at dinner at the Westin Hotel.
Earlier in the day on Nov. 12, Duvall and Perdue visited three New Jersey farms. Duvall spoke at last year’s Farm Bureau dinner meeting but this was Perdue’s first trip to the Garden State, as the USDA Secretary.
After viewing a video detailing the centennial of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Duvall told the crowd, “you all have a beautiful state with great farmers.”
Although the current political climate in Washington — and much of the rest of the country may be a divided one, Duvall said he still expressed hope.
“We have hope because we’re in America and we can work through our problems,” Duvall said, “and I know that our farmers will do that.
“In my experience in the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve never in my lifetime seen a President of the U.S. who acknowledges, talks about and brags on American farmers and agriculture as much as this one we have today,” Duvall said. “He even called me and congratulated me on being elected your president. Since that day we’ve had a relationship with the White House where we’ve been able to work your policies into this administration.”
“The other hope I have is you, you’re the power and strength in this organization,” Duvall said. “It’s our time because we have people who are listening to us and want to hear what our needs are and what we’ve been experiencing on the farm.”
The final reason he has hope, Duvall said, “is because of USDA, we have our dream team, all the people that are sitting up here come from commissioners of agriculture from all across the country. This team has been put together from all across America, and the leader of our team is Mr. Sonny Perdue, who comes from Georgia, where he was a great Governor. He understands agriculture and I brag on this because he’s the 31st Secretary of Agriculture in our country, but he’s only the 4th Secretary of Agriculture that actually farmed as an adult.”
After a pause to recognize veterans in the crowd, and thanking them for their service, Perdue said he and Duvall have a close working relationship because “he’s an authentic farmer and a continuing farmer who understands the power of organizations like the American Farm Bureau.”
“The indomitable American spirit is embodied in American farmers, all across this country, an optimism and faith and a work ethic, and I think that’s one of the things President Trump admires about American farmers, they embody that American spirit that he holds so strongly as well,” Perdue said.
After arguing that “too many Americans don’t associate New Jersey with agriculture, having visited three farms today, I can see it’s alive and well here. I congratulate all of you for helping to feed our nation as well,” he said.
Perdue said he was most impressed with how well the landmark Lee Turkey Farm fit in with its suburban surroundings in East Windsor.
“You are the forerunners here with urban rural interface farming and we saw that today at Lee’s Turkey Farm where the farm is surrounded by development and co-existing well with its neighbors. You’ve all done a wonderful job in planning things better and we’ll have to learn more from you as our population grows here in the U.S.”
Perdue commended Garden State farmers and produce managers for more than 150 farmers’ markets in urban areas, “and many of you use that as a sales tool and revenue source for your farms as well. I think you’ve also got one of the strongest right-to-farm laws in the nation and I applaud that. There are constant challenges and we’ve got to be ever-vigilant.”
Perdue also mentioned continuing trade talks with countries including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and China.
“We face the [trade] challenge because you all are so good at what you do, we produce more than what we need here and so we are dependent on trade to get rid of the excess. We help to feed the world and to help feed the world we’ve got to have free, fair and open markets throughout the world. Free, fair and reciprocal trade is a serious Trump administration priority. Frankly, we’ve talked about fair trade practices in the past, but President Trump is the first one that’s really addressed that and put action into all the verbiage.”
“We’re concerned about China’s subsidization and over capacity with steel and aluminum, and I’d like to say that farmers are ones who follow the rules, the law of the land teaches you that you can’t plant in August and harvest in September. There’s a season to plant, to water, to fertilize and a season to harvest and I think that’s why farmers like people who follow the rules,” he said, “we know that China has not been following the rules and we know because of your productivity the agricultural sector is often a target of retaliation when we act against other trade sectors.
“Tariff retaliations made it clear that we need to find other places to sell our products and that’s what we’ve been about in USDA. That’s why I brought in under-secretary Ted McKinney from Indiana, the first secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. Ted has been a million-miler on airplanes, knocking on doors around the world and a tireless salesman for U.S. agriculture. He’s raised complaints about unfair trade practices that we’ve had, even with the European Union,” he said, noting the new agreement the U.S. has with Canada and Mexico should prove far better than what existed with NAFTA.
“Ted McKinney has led productive trade missions to Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa and South Korea, and in 2019 we look forward to holding trade missions in Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom and Colombia.”
Perdue touched on agricultural labor complications and the implementation of the new federal FSMA act and cited the out-of-control deer and bear populations in the Garden State, as more of their natural habitats are destroyed for strip malls, office parks and housing developments.
“We know you have an overpopulation of deer here and you need to fence your crops in to protect them; deer can also pose a food safety risk, as you know. NRCS has supported your farmers by elevating the issue with New Jersey Fish and Wildlife and working with state agencies on deer population control strategies.”
In closing, Perdue acknowledged the table of FFA students in front of the dais. “Farmers face challenges every day and you all find solutions. Your resilience is just absolutely amazing, whether it’s finding new markets, labor, regulation, weather, you get out there every day and meet the challenges head on. There is a bright future for agriculture and I’m hopeful, just like Zippy Duvall, the tremendous breakthroughs in science will improve agriculture and one of these young people right here in front of me may make that next breakthrough to help to feed a hungry world.”
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