Perdue touts RFS, vows easier access to conservation programs

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, May 8, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today promised farmers will see a more efficient, friendlier Department of Agriculture as they seek help with conservation programs.

At a town hall meeting in Iowa, Perdue acknowledged a farmer’s complaint that applying for programs at the Natural Resources Conservation Service is too complicated and can discourage farmers from taking on conservation practices.

“We shouldn’t put you under an interrogation at every point. It should be a one-stop shop,” Perdue said at an event at a Nevada, Iowa, cattle farm.

“I’m on it,” Perdue said.

He also praised such practices as the use of cover crops, which the NRCS encourages to build healthy soil.

Echoing remarks he made to USDA employees on his first day on the job last month, Perdue said he wants to make the agency more customer-friendly, even as the Trump administration aims to cut spending across agencies (Greenwire, April 25).

The cut to USDA in Trump’s proposed budget is 20.7 percent, and the White House has said it wants to trim staff at USDA’s county-level offices.

“Obviously, we have a budget problem. You know that,” Perdue said.

He also touted an interagency task force he’ll lead, at the direction of President Trump, to examine regulations and policies that affect agriculture and rural areas.

“We want to let farmers farm again, and we want to let ranchers ranch again,” he said.

Perdue’s office billed today’s speech, livestreamed on the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Facebook page, as his first major policy address. He didn’t make any major policy announcements but reiterated his support for more agricultural trade, for measures to protect farm labor amid immigration policy changes, and to promote ethanol through the federal renewable fuel standard.

“We’re not going to mess with the RFS,” Perdue said.