Photo by Wendy Sweeter

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) talk to producers and industry organization representatives at the Poppens farm near Lennox, S.D., Oct. 25. Perdue was in South Dakota visiting Poet in Chancellor, S.D., the Poppens farm and students at Brandon Valley Elementary School in Brandon, S.D.
Photo by Wendy Sweeter Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) talk to producers and industry organization representatives at the Poppens farm near Lennox, S.D., Oct. 25. Perdue was in South Dakota visiting Poet in Chancellor, S.D., the Poppens farm and students at Brandon Valley Elementary School in Brandon, S.D.


By Wendy Sweeter


Drizzle greeted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to South Dakota Oct. 25.

Perdue toured POET Biorefining-Chancellor for his first stop where he toured the plant and discussed opportunities to grow U.S. grain demand and expand markets, as well as the recent announcement of year-round use of E15 around the country. Perdue was joined at POET by South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem.

Following the tour of POET, Perdue, Rounds and Noem, along with South Dakota Sen. John Thune met with producers and representatives from agricultural organizations at the Poppens farm near Lennox. They answered questions about trade, financial issues farmers face, labeling lab-grown protein, new biotechnology rules, traceability and restructuring parts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Perdue noted that the congressional delegation has let his office know about issues happening at home like drought conditions last year. He also talked about the climate of agriculture today.

“We know these are not the best times. My whole theory on rural prosperity is a lot of people like to talk about sustainable agriculture. There’s nothing more sustainable than profitability,” Perdue says.

One question from the crowd was on trade.

“You don’t want to have too many eggs in one basket. We had too many eggs in the China basket,” Perdue says. “We became more dependent on them than they became on us.”

Perdue noted they are finding more markets and created the first undersecretary of trade. The administration has a trade deal with Canada and Mexico and another with Korea. They continue to work to develop new markets and work on new trade deals.

South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association member Steve Ollerich asked what part the USDA plays in trade. Perdue said he is a cheerleader. He said his department is the salesperson.

Noem added that Perdue is educating members of Congress on the importance of agriculture in the country.

South Dakota Farm Bureau’s Scott VanderWal asked what message Perdue had for bankers and farmers on financial troubles in the ag sector. Perdue thought that the ag market has seen the lows. He thought it was time to start going up.

“We’re seeing some demand in places we hadn’t seen before. But, people have to look very carefully at cost of production and make sure we have a farm bill by the end of the year to provide that safety net for crop insurance and other things,” Perdue says.

Additionally, Perdue addressed a question on lab-grown protein from the turkey industry. He said USDA has a dual responsibility with FDA about following regulations. He noted they had a joint public meeting earlier last week about how to regulate lab-grown protein.

Perdue has been hearing from meat producers about lab-grown protein.

“Obviously they’re very concerned. I think many people felt they felt threatened by it. I don’t think they feel threatened by it. I think they want it regulated in the very same way they’re regulated. Americans have the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply is because USDA and Food Safety Inspection Service making sure that happens. They want this new technology regulated the same way. Bring it on, let’s feed everybody,” Perdue says.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association’s Gary Deering asked the secretary about traceability. Perdue noted he would like the industry to lead on this topic. Consumers are demanding it.

“We’re not in the role of picking winners and losers when it comes to technology. We’re going to let industry do the beta thing and see who comes out the winner in that,” Perdue says.

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