When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testified before the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and ranking member Michael Conaway R-Texas, approached him differently.
In an opening statement, Peterson said, “Your visits to the committee over the last two years have come roughly at the same time as the White House’s call for billions in cuts to USDA programs. This year is no different. Just this week, the White House called for a 5 percent cut to non-defense spending. While that is concerning on its own, it’s compounded by your comments that this number may potentially be as high as 10 percent or higher. That worries a lot of us, given the broad range of challenges confronting farmers, ranchers, rural communities and working families.
“It’s worrisome, Mr. Secretary, because the situation hasn’t gotten any better in farm country. In our discussions the last few times you’ve been up here, I’ve sadly started my comments by pointing to the growing economic storm in farm country.
“Incomes continue to decline, wins on trade have yet to materialize, credit and capital are becoming harder to obtain, and folks are deciding it’s easier to sell the farm and move to the city than to continue trying to grind out a living,” he concluded.
After the hearing, Peterson told reporters that the administration’s plan to rein in state work-requirement waivers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program isn’t going anywhere, Politico reported.
“I’ll guarantee you it’s not going to happen,” Peterson said. During the hearing, Democrats criticized the proposal, as they have in the past.
Conaway said Perdue is “at the tip of the spear” to improve conditions in rural America and farm and ranch country.
“You ably defended the critical market access our farmers and ranchers gained under NAFTA while the agreement was improved upon under the USMCA [the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement]," Conaway told Perdue.
“I know you are also working hard to ensure that there is a successful resolution very soon to the ongoing trade dispute with China — a resolution that will help level the playing field for the United States and require China to live by the same rules we do," Conaway continued. "During this process, I greatly appreciate the initiative you took to provide farmers and ranchers with the Market Facilitation Program to help them weather the unjustified retaliatory tariffs that have been imposed.
“And, Mr. Secretary, I am behind you and the administration all the way in your efforts to unwind all of the arbitrary and costly regulatory burdens that have been heaped on our nation’s farmers and ranchers, including the prior administration’s Waters of the U.S. regulation and its climate change regs,” Conaway concluded.
Full House Agriculture Committee hearing – Perdue on the State of the Rural Economy
© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.