When U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue planned his third “Back to Our Roots” RV tour, chances are an accelerating trade war with China wasn’t on the agenda.

Yet it was top-of-mind for farmers, who made up much of the crowd of about 250 who attended a Town Hall luncheon, co-sponsored by Ohio Farm Bureau, in Lima April 4.

Escalating trade rhetoric has thrown farmers, particularly pork and soybean producers, into the crosshairs as China threatens to retaliate against U.S. threats of steel tariffs with tariffs of up to 25 percent on certain agriculture products.

Perdue told audience members in Lima that he was personally assured by President Trump that he wasn’t going to “let our farmers be a casualty of these trade disputes.

“There’s a legitimate anxiety…but these are announcements,” Perdue said. “Our goal, frankly, is to get China to the table to discuss some of the unfair trading practices.”

Trade wasn’t the only topic of conversation at the Lima event. Perdue spoke about the importance of relieving the burden of numerous regulations on farmers, who he noted are small business owners. He also answered questions about environmental issues, such as the phosphorus load in waterways in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

“This is a long-term problem that requires a long-term solution and ag gets blamed more often than it should,” he said. He talked about work farmers are already doing to decrease nutrient runoff, including use of cover crops, nutrient management plans and precision agriculture.

“We’re going to continue to progress with what we know is working using smart conservation techniques,” he added.

Perdue also answered questions about the 2018 Farm Bill and the risk programs within it – including Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs. He said he expects those programs to remain, or potentially be rolled into one program.

“It will be a more evolutionary than revolutionary farm bill,” he said. Perdue said he is hopeful it will be passed this year, but cautioned that is it an election year and the focus of Congress may be distracted.

Administrator Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration, accompanied Perdue on his Ohio RV tour stops. The two signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the USDA and the SBA in Lima to promote stronger businesses and agricultural economies in rural America.

CAPTION: USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Administrator Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the USDA and the SBA in Lima to promote stronger businesses and agricultural economies in rural America. 

Ohio Farm Bureau membership

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
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Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
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Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
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Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
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Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
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Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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