Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue coming to see Iowa farmers

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, May 5, 2017

Sonny Perdue, the nation’s new agriculture secretary, will meet with Iowa farmers during a town hall meeting Friday, said Bill Couser, a Nevada cattle producer who’s hosting the event.

Perdue’s office confirmed the visit Wednesday.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said it’s telling that Perdue will visit Iowa, an agricultural powerhouse, in his second week on the job.

“I think Iowa farmers will like his style,” Northey said. “He’s very down to earth, very ag focused and will be very comfortable around farm folks.”

Perdue, a veterinarian and former Georgia governor, wants to listen to farmers’ concerns, the state ag secretary said: “How will you approach trade with the president? How will you approach regulatory issues, ethanol issues?”

“He’ll be able to … answer some of those questions,” said Northey, who met Perdue along with President Donald Trump last week at a town hall meeting with farmers in Washington, D.C.

Despite assurances from Trump, some farmers have been concerned the new administration will weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard, a mandate that calls for blending ethanol and biodiesel into the nation’s fuel supply.

Couser said Iowa farmers and rural investors built renewable fuel plants to help reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil and help create domestic demand for corn and soybeans.

Iowa leads the nation in ethanol, biodiesel, corn, pig and egg production; it ranks second in soybean production and seventh in cattle production.

“All this corn would be leaving the state for processing” without rural Iowa communities investing in renewable fuel production, Couser said.

“When Perdue looks out the conference window, he’ll see a cellulosic ethanol plant, a (grain) cooperative, a starch-based ethanol plant and a dozen windmills,” said Couser, who will host the event in his farm’s cattle lot and feed supply room.

The nearby DuPont cellulosic plant makes ethanol from corn stalks, husks and other plant material and is considered the next generation in ethanol production. Most ethanol is made from corn.

Couser said Iowa farmers were spoiled with Tom Vilsack as the nation’s former agriculture leader.

The former Iowa governor led the Agriculture Department for eight years and had a deep understanding of the state’s farming issues.

“We have to start the dating game all over again,” Couser said.