Photo by Susan Reidy
ATLANTA — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he wants help from agriculture businesses in identifying specific regulatory burdens that make doing business difficult.
His vision is to make the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) a “help mate” or partner with agriculture businesses, in part by reducing the regulatory hurdles they face.
“I’m speaking here today, but I mostly want to listen,” Mr. Perdue said during his address at the Poultry Market Intelligence Forum at the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta.
“My goal at U.S.D.A. is to be the most efficient, the most effective, the most customer-focused agency in the federal government,” Mr. Perdue said. “While we regulate you, we want to treat you as customers, helping us partner together for a better product that we can be proud of.”
He told the audience to visit usda.gov and click on the regulatory input link on the homepage.
“Tell us specifically what it is that doesn’t make sense for you,” he said. “It could be a regulation that’s been there for years or something we’ve done recently. Help us understand how we can help you in a common-sense way to make a safe, sound proud industry even more proud and even safer.”
Mr. Perdue is doing a lot of listening across the country, visiting 30 states in the eight months since he was sworn in as ag secretary. He was heading to Michigan that evening to visit a turkey processor and had visited a quail operation in South Carolina over the weekend.
“I don’t think government or government policy is out to be picking winners and losers,” he said. “Our role as policymakers is to create a fertile environment for you all to do what you do best. We understand that regulations are necessary to create a fair and balanced playing field between the consumers and the producers.”
President Donald Trump has asked his Cabinet that for every new regulation that goes on the books, two get cut. In fact, they’ve been able to cut 22 regulations for every new one, Mr. Perdue said.
“We have a regulatory reform group in the U.S.D.A. look at all the regulations we’ve layered on,” he said. “We’ve looked at how we can unpeel those and remove the productivity blanket off of businesses.”
Another key issue Mr. Perdue addressed was trade and its importance to the agriculture industry. A modernized NAFTA system that both the United States and its partners can live with is vitally important, he said.
“Trade is at the top of our minds,” Mr. Perdue said. “I believe we will be able to resolve a good NAFTA negotiation.”
Canada and Mexico are great trading partners, and the logistics made a trade agreement among the three beneficial. However, those benefits must be equal for all partners.
“The president understood the fact that both countries to a large degree have mined and utilized this great consumption economy in the middle of them to the detriment many times of our wealth and our productivity by virtue of trade deficits,” he said.
Mr. Perdue said he believes the partners can reach a modernized, free and fair trade NAFTA agreement, but everybody has to come to the table.“If our neighbors to the north keep us out of the poultry and dairy business, that’s not a free trade environment,” he said.