July 21, 2017
By Jeff Helms
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, second from right, visits the farm of Baldwin County Farmers Federation Board Member Jay Corte, left. From left are Corte, Baldwin County Farmers Federation President Hope Cassebaum, Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell, Perdue and U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala.
Alabama farmers are hopeful a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture today laid the groundwork for improved farm programs, trade and communication.
Secretary Sonny Perdue told Alabama Farmers Federation leaders he wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to partner with farmers.
“My goal is to make....the USDA to be identified, recognized and acknowledged as the most efficient, the most effective, the most customer friendly, responsive agency in the federal government by the time we leave,” Purdue said during the Federation's County Presidents Conference in Point Clear.
Perdue was invited to the meeting by U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Strange said Alabama farmers are blessed to have a USDA secretary who shares their values and background.
“We don’t need a translator for Sonny,” said Strange as he introduced the former governor from Georgia. “He speaks our language, he’s our neighbor, and he understands the needs represented in this room. President Trump could not have picked a better person to lead the USDA during a time that farmers are hurting across the country.”
Perdue and Strange addressed Federation county presidents and state board members during a luncheon before a roundtable discussion. The talk included about a dozen commodity leaders and Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan.
Dale County farmer Monica Carroll said meeting the secretary was an honor.
“I was very impressed with his vast knowledge of everyday agriculture and his genuine concern for the challenges we face on our farms,” she said. “I really appreciate Secretary Purdue taking the time out of his busy schedule to come to Alabama and sit down with farmers one on one.”
Topics of discussion included the 2018 farm bill, foreign trade, food safety, feral hogs, conservation programs and animal health.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell thanked Perdue and Strange for listening to Alabama farmers.
“Secretary Perdue was raised on a farm, has worked in agriculture and understands the importance of farming and forestry to our economy,” Parnell said. “It was an honor to have him visit with our county presidents and state board members on issues important to their farms and our state’s economy.
“We appreciate Sen. Strange serving on the Senate Ag Committee and using his influence to bring Secretary Perdue, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts to Alabama this summer,” Parnell added. “Having these men visit our state and hear from our farmers will make a difference when they’re in Washington working on policies that affect Alabama agriculture.”
Perdue and Strange also toured Baldwin County Farmers Federation board member Jay Corte's farm. His farm suffered crop losses due to excessive rain earlier this summer.
Perdue said visiting farmers like Corte is vital to making USDA more responsive.
“I believe in the people on the ground,” he said. “That’s just the way I grew up. I’m not thinking all the wisdom comes out of Washington, D.C. That’s why I get out here.”
Perdue has met farmers across the country and said he finds hardworking families who love what they do everywhere he goes.
“We’re all the same people…and when you deal with farming people, you’re dealing with the salt of the earth,” he said. “You’re dealing with the kind of people who made this country great and, by gollly, I think if our president has his way, and we have our way, we’re going to make it great again and make agriculture great again.”