U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue touted President Donald Trump’s deal-making ability during a Thursday visit to Kansas City less than 24 hours after the White House announced plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Perdue, who is three days into his role as a Cabinet secretary, touched on a variety of agricultural issues during his visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Kansas City offices. He called Trump a “trader” and framed the president’s previous statements suggesting that the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement with Canada and Mexico as a negotiating tactic.
“Saying something was contemplated is not necessarily saying something was done or going to be done. I think the ultimate outcome is really what we’re interested in,” said Perdue, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this week. “He wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ and he likes to do the deal and I’m persuaded that he has the leadership and the tenacity to make a good deal for Americans.”
Perdue said that on balance NAFTA has been positive for U.S. agriculture, particularly grain producers, but that the Trump administration thinks it can be improved.
Perdue also hinted that next year’s farm bill could include policy changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, which were a major sticking point the last time Congress debated the legislation. The farm bill, which is passed every five years, provides billions in federal funding for agricultural subsidies, food assistance programs and other agricultural-related programs.
“You know the essence of the food stamp program was a temporary situation for someone who had lost their job temporarily, so there will probably be requirements to look for work or be working for work training,” Perdue said. “The goal of this administration is to put people to work with a good paying job where they don’t have to depend on food stamps.”
Kansas is one of the few states that already enforces a strict work requirement for the program, a policy it adopted under Gov. Sam Brownback, who had been considered as a candidate for Perdue’s job.
“I love Gov. Brownback,” Perdue said when asked about the possibility that Brownback could still land a role in the administration. “And I know he was considered really for secretary and I haven’t spoken to him recently about that. I think he loves being governor of Kansas.”
Perdue will meet with farmers from the region Friday morning at the American Royal in Kansas City.