One-on-one with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Washington, D.C. is a far-cry from farmland. But inside the offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Secretary Sonny Perdue has spent his first two years of the Trump administration working on deals he believes will benefit American farmers.
First, new trade deals that impact the dairy industry, a result of modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement, what’s now the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“It gives better access to the Canadian market, which we wanted,” Perdue said during a one-on-one interview with Erie News Now’s Washington Correspondent Matt Knoedler on Tuesday.
That deal could provide new markets for more than 100 dairy farmers in the Northeast and Midwest impacted by a series of contract cuts earlier this year. The USMCA limits how much milk Canada can export, and regulates what are known as Class 7 milk products, like milk powders and proteins.
“(Canada) has a supply management policy, but they haven’t managed the supply,” Perdue said.
Perdue and the administration are planting roots in other agricultural fields, as well. Most recently, by lifting restrictions on year-round E15, a blend of gasoline with higher amounts of corn-based ethanol.
And with rising oil costs, Perdue believes it’s a blend that could save drivers money.
“As more ethanol is blended into petroleum, I think you’ll see a lower (price) option for drivers as well,” he predicts.
Right now, there are a little over 1,400 stations selling E15 across just 29 states. But the Renewable Fuels Association estimates nearly 2,000 new E15 stations will be installed in the next two years.
But there is still one thing that both Sec. Perdue and farmers alike are both waiting on, and that’s the Farm Bill. The existing Farm Bill expired October 1, leaving some wondering what’s next. However, funding for programs such as crop insurance and the supplemental food program SNAP has been appropriated through Dec. 31.
“We’re able to continue those programs just as we have so that farmers won’t notice a big difference until after the first of the year,” Perdue assures.
The outcome of the Farm Bill is out of Perdue’s hands. Congress is expected to resume negotiations when they return after the election.