NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 8, 2018 – The Agriculture Department is being reoriented with a new focus on farmers, its customers, and has already built a record of success, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said today. He made his comments at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville. Thirty Montana Farm Bureau members are attending the convention.

In his opening remarks, Perdue spoke about the importance of trade to U.S. agriculture and the priority of successful NAFTA negotiations.

“To get a deal, we need all sides to seriously roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Perdue said. “We have put a number of proposals on the table to modernize NAFTA, and critically for agriculture, to address key sectors left out of the original agreement – dairy and poultry tariffs in Canada. Now, we want to see our negotiating partners step up and engage so we can get the deal done.”

In Perdue’s first eight months as secretary, USDA has already reopened the Chinese market to American beef, signed a protocol to allow exports of U.S. rice to China for the first time ever and eased European Union regulations on citrus exports. South Korea lifted its ban on imports of U.S. poultry, while Argentina has allowed American pork back into the country for the first time since 1992.

Perdue said USDA has been rolling back excessive regulations following a directive from President Trump. He cited the Waters of the U.S. rule as an example of regulatory overreach negatively affecting farmers.

“You know, sometimes a mud puddle is just a mud puddle,” he said. “We don’t need the federal government coming in and regulating everything to death.”

USDA has targeted 27 final rules for elimination that will save $56.15 million annually. Perdue asked farmers and ranchers to bring any onerous regulations to USDA’s attention by visiting the agency’s website.

Looking ahead to President Trump’s address later in the day to the Farm Bureau members, Perdue emphasized that the president understands how important rural America is as the breadbasket of the world.

“It is proof of the importance that he places on all of us – rural and urban, north, south, east, west, and Midwest – working together to make our country even greater,” he said.

Perdue highlighted USDA’s newly released Economic Research Service report that shows 99 percent of American farms are family farms that account for 90 percent of production. President Trump, he said, understands that family farms are small businesses that must turn a profit to provide for their families. Perdue cited recent tax reform as a solution that will allow farmers to keep more of what they earn in order to reinvest in their operations.

Perdue said a report from the administration’s Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity will contain more than 100 practical, actionable recommendations for economic growth in five key areas: e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, technology and economic development.

In conclusion, Perdue praised America and American farmers.

“One of the biggest reasons that we are the envy of the world is gathered right here in this room – the farmers of America. You feed this country and the world, with all of your labors every day,” Perdue said.

“The bonds of faith are directly tied to our liberty,” he said in closing. “Every time you plant a seed in the ground, you are exhibiting your faith in a bountiful harvest. There is nothing more American than that.”