REDWOOD COUNTY, Minn. (KEYC) - Farmfest continues to bring agriculture enthusiasts from across the Midwest to Redwood Falls.
A special guest Wednesday drew a large crowd, as topics such as China, trade and the hunt for alternative international trading partners were on everybody’s minds.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to Farmfest,” said United State Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Ag. Secretary Perdue and congressmen and women took a seat on stage and listened to Farmfest attendees’ concerns about the state of the current farming economy.
“To visit with these folks, visit with these farmers. It’s my job to get out here to listen to the hinterlands. It’s been a tough year in ’19,” Perdue said.
Recent disagreements between China and the U.S. are taking center stage after President Donald Trump announced a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports.
In retaliation, the Chinese Commerce Ministry announced they would no longer be purchasing U.S. agricultural products.
“The ball is in China’s court. We had made great progress up until April and apparently the hardliners in China got a hold of President Xi and they backtracked and reneged on several commitments regarding agriculture purchases as well as some of the cyber issues we were dealing with,” Purdue explained.
But he says other trading partners are already in the works.
“We’ve been looking for more, we’re going around the world from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, looking for other hungry mouths to feed,” Perdue continued.
Among other concerns was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade deal many have been waiting on and was a hot-topic throughout the day.
“The best thing we can do right now in order to move trade forward is to pass the USMCA trade agreement," said Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) of Minnesota’s First Congressional District. "We get that thing through, we can build momentum for the deals we’re doing with Japan and then put pressure on China to make that deal down the road.”
A dairy industry currently taking hard financial hits got their turn on the microphone, with high tensions regarding the financial aid packages from the government.
“Last time I had to sign up, they barely got their premiums back," stated a concerned dairy farmer. "It was not a good program. This time, with what money are they supposed to pay their premiums?”
“That is the wrong way to look at this. This is a guarantee for their operation," said U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson (D-MN). " And we’re hoping it gets better because if it gets better, then the government doesn’t have to pay; that’s what this is about.”