Every year, the annual Commodity Classic show tends to mark the end of the winter show season and beginning of planting since it’s held in late February/early March. Another yearly highlight of this event tends to be a keynote address from the current Secretary of Agriculture regarding key market trends. The 2019 Commodity Classic was no exception as Sonny Perdue once again spoke to the more than 9,000 attendees in Orlando, FL.
Perdue began his talk by acknowledging the intelligence and fears of today’s U.S. growers. “Farmers are pretty smart people because of the complexity of all the technologies they use in their operations,” he said. “But it’s anxious out there, and many farmers are hoping for better days.”
Foreshadowing one part of this “better days” desire, Perdue pointed to President Donald Trump’s mandate that will allow for the year-round sale of E15 gasoline. This 15% ethanol/85% gasoline blend was previously only available during certain times of the year.
“With E15 available year-round, this added demand should help use up some of the excess corn being produced by farmers,” he said.
Next, Perdue talked about the importance of trade to U.S. growers. “I’d like to give you all a hand for your trade associations and their support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” he said, applauding the audience. “This agreement will be important for the American economy, not just the agricultural economy.”
He also discussed the ongoing trade dispute with China, pointing out that the country hasn’t complied with the conditions of the World Trade Organization in its dealings with the U.S. in the current administration’s view. “They were jerking us around in a lot of ways,” said Perdue.
With talks currently underway between the U.S. and China, Perdue said he was “cautiously optimistic” that some kind of agreement could be reached between the two countries. “We need to rebalance this relationship,” he said. “And if we can come to an agreement, it will be very good for you because China needs your stuff.”
Finally, Perdue mentioned what he called “food fear” – an effort by some food producers to negatively portray certain ingredients to promote their products. As an example of this, he cited the now infamous Bud Light Super Bowl ad that called into question the use of corn syrup in other beer brands. “In that ad, they said they don’t use some of the products you produce anymore,” he said. “Now I don’t use theirs anymore.”
But beyond just this example, Perdue told attendees that this “movement to create fear of our food” was something that U.S. growers and the entire agricultural industry should not tolerate. “As farmers, we kind of just sit back in our machines doing what we do,” he said. “But folks, we need to get outside of the farmgate right now and tell what we are doing and how we are doing it. Open up your farm and let them see what you’re doing. You don’t have a thing in the world to be ashamed of for producing the safest and most affordable food in the world.”