Trade, water quality, immigration, regulations, infrastructure and renewable energy were among the many topics Ohio Farm Bureau members and other farmers discussed with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Perdue visited Cincinnati on Thursday where he announced the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other organizational changes. He met with a handful of farmers for a roundtable discussion of current topics before holding a news conference along the shores of the Ohio River, a major transportation route for agricultural products.
“You’ve talked about wanting a voice at the table. This is your table and you are here today,” Perdue said in response to a comment that agriculture needs to have a voice in trade discussions.
Farm Bureau members who participated in the roundtable were OFBF First Vice President Bill Patterson of Chesterland, OFBF Treasurer Cy Prettyman of New Bloomington, OFBF Board Trustee Lane Osswald of Eldorado and Nationwide Board member and former OFBF Board Trustee Craig Adams of Leesburg.
Both Patterson and Osswald, whose families have produce operations, described their experiences complying with the myriad of regulations farmers face each day and working through all the required paperwork.
“If you don’t jump through all the hoops, you’ll go out of business,” Osswald said. “I hate to hear about guys who have been farming for 35 years quitting because of all the regulations.”
Perdue told the farmers they “wouldn’t find a more pro business guy than President Trump” and that he would continue meeting face-to-face with farmers to hear what issues they are facing on their farms and in their businesses.
“We’ve got to find out thread by thread what’s binding us up (on issues),” he said.
Perdue had a word of advice for farmers. “The only way you’re going to get (change) is to speak up,” he said.
Patterson said he was impressed by Perdue’s candor during both the roundtable and a luncheon. Both Patterson and Prettyman had lunch with the agriculture secretary where they described the voluntary efforts of farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin to protect the state’s water and the need for a continued partnership with USDA.
“It feels like the ag secretary is truly out there looking for feedback from farmers and not just a sound bite,” Patterson said.