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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visits Michigan farmers

farm with barns and silos
Creative Commons

At a town-hall-style listening session with US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Michigan farmers praised federal support of farmers during the pandemic.

Representatives from the state’s dry-bean, soybean, dairy, and sugar industries thanked Perdue for his support during the pandemic. Farmers said they were particularly happy with the way the federal government listened to them in developing the second Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

President of the Michigan Farm Bureau, Carl Bednarski, called Perdue “the farmer’s secretary.”

Joe Cramer is the Executive Director of the Michigan Bean Commission.

“We had record sales during the pandemic. Our acreage increased, our prices have been good,” he said. “No complaints from the dry bean world.”

John Boothroyd, manager of Government Relations for the Michigan Sugar Company, said he has concerns about early drafts of updated guidelines from the USDA that would lower the daily recommended amount of added sugar individuals should consume.

“It would affect the industry and anyone who sells food to a state or federal agency who follows those guidelines, school cafeterias being the biggest one,” he said. “So it could affect long-term demand.”

Secretary Perdue said the regulation is one of two that he expects to be controversial. The regulations are developed by a panel of scientists.

“You may know the other controversy is the alcohol recommendation for men, they want to move it from two drinks down to one,” he said. “We’re hearing from our friends in the spirits industry as well”, Perdue said.

Farmers also voiced concerns about trade agreements moving forward.

The secretary described trade with the European Union as “intractable” but said if President Trump wins reelection he’s hopeful the president will “bear down” on the EU.

One of the USDA’s other pandemic programs - the Farmers to Families Food Box initiative - has been hit with charges of “waste, fraud, and abuse” by congressional Democrats.

Perdue defended the program - which purchases produce from farmers who otherwise might have destroyed it during the pandemic after demand from restaurants dropped off.

“It’s been very effective and we’re going to continue that through the year,” he said.

Democrats, and some experts, said the program hasn’t been as effective at bringing food to those in need as the existing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Earlier this month Secretary Perdue was fined for violating the Hatch Act - by encouraging voters to support Trump at an official state event.

While speaking to reporters Friday he was asked why people should vote for Trump in 2020.

"You know, I’m here in my official capacity as Secretary, I think you’re trying to get me to violate the Hatch Act,” he said, laughing. “I’m a big believer in the ballot box. I think people are smart enough to figure it out for themselves,” Perdue said.

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