Ag Secretary Assures Farmers That Trump Will Protect Them In Trade War

Photo: REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue assured farmers and agriculture businesses Thursday that President Donald Trump is committed to protecting their financial security in the midst of a looming trade war with China.

“The president has told me to tell them [farmers] that he’s not going to allow them to bear the brunt of these trade disruptions and to make a plan for mitigation unless we are unable resolve the trade issue,” Perdue told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday.

The Department of Agriculture has a number of methods to reimburse farmers suffering from depressed market prices and low sales, but Perdue would not elaborate on what actions the administration is considering.

American farmers would prefer to settle the trade disputes and “would like to have trade,” Perdue said. “They want to sell their products, they’re the most productive in the world. They’ve come to depend on exports, and that’s their first choice. But if they don’t, they have to pay their bills like everyone else.”

Farmers are “patriots, but they also know that patriotism can’t pay the bills, and that’s where they’re concerned,” Perdue said. They also “understand China has not been paying fair.”

In response to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products, the country has announced several rounds of impose counter-tariffs. Agriculture is typically among the first industries to be hit in trade disputes. Rural states and farm counties supported Trump in 2016, and for that reason Perdue has urged caution in waging trade wars. (RELATED: Apple Growers Beg Trump To End Trade War)

Perdue would not say what methods the government would use to protect farmers, but said that his office is continuously calculating whether trade disruptions are adversely affecting agriculture commodity prices.

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