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Perdue makes the real case on trade policy

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper Published on 21 March 2019

Listening to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue as he addressed cattle producers at NCBA in February, it was readily apparent this administration is misusing one of its best assets.

For all the controversy that has surrounded President Trump and his tough talk on trade deficits, higher tariffs and redrafted deals with our most valuable export partners, the national media rarely gets to hear from Perdue.

That’s an unfortunate mistake. If his comments at NCBA are any barometer, Perdue is the most skilled, articulate and credible member of the cabinet able to explain the need for fairer terms in trade deals.

Watching cable news, you’ll see the White House trot out officials from departments of commerce, treasury, the Council of Economic Advisors, as well as others from his inner circle. Almost all of them fumble the ball when they try to decipher what Trump’s ambitions are on trade. I get it; that’s a hard task given this president’s swerving explanations.

But when Perdue explains the purpose for tougher negotiations, it makes greater sense. Hearing him before thousands of ranchers, maybe it was just a friendly audience. Maybe it’s become more rehearsed.

But I tend to believe it’s because Perdue, a former governor, farmer, rancher and ag business leader long before he came to Washington, simply gets it. He can speak honestly to the president about what ag voters want, and he can in return translate Trump’s stances back to them with clarity.

Here in a nutshell is how Perdue lays it all out, whether it’s to the president or to the public:

  • Farmers and ranchers know how to produce. They live by the law of harvest – you sow, and you reap. They can produce more and therefore want more customers to whom they can export into larger markets.

  • U.S. producers also know how to play by the rules in the trade arena. They simply want their trading partners in other countries to play by the same rules.

  • Ag is not the only sector at stake. U.S. industries have technology no one else has, and other nations are trying to steal it. This erodes faith in our trading partners, and the laws need to be upheld.

  • As critical as trade is, we cannot become overreliant upon one partner, such as Japan or China. This will push to draft deals in Africa, South America and other parts of Asia.

It’s notable to remember: Amid all the attention given to Trump’s first cabinet choices during his transition, Perdue was one of the last chosen. Almost as if it was the least-concerning pick to make late in the game.

Perhaps it’s time this president stop treating the asset of Perdue as an afterthought. He could be the best spokesman the White House has on such a heavy issue.  end mark

David Cooper
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