U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue got a chance to stop and smell the flowers in Michigan last week as he toured the state to take the pulse of farmers and listen to their concerns.
Perdue’s tour included a stop at Summer Dreams Farms in Oxford, Michigan, where owner Michael Genovese showed him around and got a chance to offer a flower grower’s perspective on trade, the competition from imports and the importance of the American Grown Act and the Cut Flower Caucus. Summer Dreams Farms grows dahlias in Oxford, about an hour north of Detroit.
Perdue was in Michigan to hear from farmers at a time when tariffs and trade agreements are major concerns. Perdue also visited a sugar beet farm, a town hall meeting with farmers in Frankenmuth and Better Made Potato Chips.
At the town hall meeting, Perdue fielded questions about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would replace the North America Free Trade Agreement. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is still being debated in Congress. Opponents are concerned about enforcement and the prospect of losing American jobs.
“The world is watching,” Perdue told farmers. “If we cannot get an agreement with people on the north and south of us, how can we have an agreement with the world on trade?”
Perdue said he intended to take what he heard back to Washington and President Trump.
“Farmers are interesting, they like to look you in the eye,” said Perdue, according to a report on WWMT-TV. “They can send an email or write an email, but they respect when you come and respect them by looking at the ground, feel challenges they have here, feel the heartbeat of what they’re struggling with. That’s my job. That can make me a more effective advocate to the president and to the administration.
“He asks me when I get back, ‘how’s it going out there, Sonny?’ I have the opportunity to tell him. I told him a few weeks ago, ‘Mr. President, it’s tough and it’s getting tougher.’ He says well that’s negative and I say well you pay me to tell you the truth and that’s what we do.”
Amid all the serious concerns, Perdue’s visit to Summer Dreams Farms left an impression on him.
“Several of his staff came up to me and said they had not ever seen him so excited on a farm tour in a long time,” Genovese said. “I was also told he was talking about the flower farm the entire drive to and during the next stop on his tour.”