As of Monday, August 6, 2018
I was delighted and honored that the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, accepted my invitation to travel to Central Washington last week to hear questions and concerns from farmers and ranchers. Secretary Perdue showed himself to be very knowledgeable while answering questions from me and farmers in our area on how the administration’s policies are impacting them, and I appreciated him taking the time to engage with the agriculture community in the Pacific Northwest.
According to the Tri-City Herald, it was the first visit of an Agriculture Secretary to the Tri-Cities in a generation. A few of the most important issues on the minds of farmers were trade, agriculture labor, sensible food safety regulation, and an adequate water supply.
In the Tri-Cities, at a breakfast hosted by the Washington Farm Bureau, Secretary Perdue fielded a question on how to tell the story of how important a reliable water supply is for our area. Secretary Perdue encouraged farmers to engage in a positive way to show people who may not understand the extent to which water is the lifeblood of our agriculture region and that we farm in a sustainable way. He made a great point that as fewer and fewer Americans are engaged in agriculture, the need arises to educate the public on what it takes to produce safe, abundant, and nutritious food for Americans.
Asked about H-2A reform to make the legal agriculture workforce program work better, Secretary Perdue agreed that H-2A is cumbersome and pointed out that legislative reform is the best way to get that done, which is an effort I continue to push in Congress. Secretary added that USDA is also taking a “double track” approach to improve the H-2A process administratively and through better regulation, working with other agencies to be a “friendly face for farmers” to meet their needs.
Secretary Perdue was cheered when making the point that farmers want to comply with federal regulations, but there are so many overlapping agencies charged with enforcing competing rules that compliance can be difficult. He sees the necessity of reforming agencies and rules to be more efficient to improve the ability of farmers to follow the law.
On one of the most pressing concerns of the impact of tariffs, Secretary Perdue responded to a question saying that the Administration is actively working on measures to mitigate trade disruption that impacts agriculture as the Administration keeps the pressure on China and other countries. He made clear that the President does not expect farmers to bear the brunt of trade policies, but he is willing to put other countries on notice. I will continue to advocate for the Administration to address this matter effectively.
It was encouraging to hear from Secretary Perdue, showing that this is certainly a highly-engaged Administration that is paying close attention to the concerns of farmers and ranchers in Central Washington.