CHENOA, Ill. — Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told those attending a tour of the Evergreen FS plant in central Illinois that he wished the public could see the plant and hear first-hand about the environmental and safety standards.
He encouraged farmers to invite people to their operations and to communicate with consumers.
“We’ve got a great story to tell. You don’t have to be embarrassed about how we do business,” the former Georgia farmer and grain business operator said.
The stop was part of his five-state “Back to Our Roots” tour this month, meeting a variety of groups and gathering information for the 2018 farm bill.
Farmers having freedom to farm in a fair market is one of the core principles he sees as being needed in the next farm bill.
Perdue said he believes crop insurance should remain as a safety net for farmers, but he doesn’t want to see a plan that encourages farmers to “farm to a program.”
“Crop insurance is a safety net, not an investment,” Perdue said, adding that this is palatable to consumers, but taxpayers don’t want farmers looking at insurance as a $1 investment to get $1.10.
He said the 2014 Farm Bill was an improvement over the 2008 version, and he hopes the 2018 bill will see further improvements, especially for cattle and dairy producers, rice and specialty crop growers who still need to see some improvements.
The Secretary of Agriculture will be in Korea and Japan in the coming weeks talking about trade. He acknowledged that some people were disappointed when President Donald Trump withdrew from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, but he believes bilateral talks will be successful.
Perdue said advisors have also convinced the president that not all Americans are against the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, Perdue said there is room for improvement, for example, in strengthening the U.S. position in dairy trade with Canada. He said he believes Canada, Mexico and the U.S. — working together — could be more powerful in trade agreements with Asia and other export partners.
To a question about the future prices for fertilizer, Perdue said he doesn’t know if they will go up or down.
“I don’t think anyone knows,” he said.
In the private sector, he was in the grain business, but he doesn’t have a prediction where prices will go there either.
“You can’t go broke making a profit,” he said of marketing a crop.
Don Loeffler, who farms with his family in Central Illinois in McLean County, was among the group meeting Perdue in Chenoa.
“It’s good to get someone who is grassroots and knows what we do,” he said.
In addition to the visit to Chenoa Monday, Perdue talked farm bill to a group in Rochester, Ill., and attended a livestock show at the Georgetown fair in eastern Illinois. He also visited a farm in Aledo “the rhubarb capital of Illinois,” where the farmer, Kate Danner, baked him a rhubarb pie.
Kendall Miller, general manager for Evergreen FS, said, “I didn’t realize his background was so impressive. There was not a topic we discussed that he didn’t have a firm handle on.”