U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue fielded several trade questions while visiting Purdue University Tuesday morning including numerous inquiries about the potential economic impacts of the southern border crisis.
Mexico is one of the U.S.’s closest trading partners, with more than $1 billion worth of goods passing across the border each day.
Perdue says while immigration reform is needed, shutting down the border, as President Donald Trump has threatened, would hurt American farmers.
“I certainly hope we can get this Mexican border issues solved without closing the borders,” says Perdue. “That would be devastating to both of our dairy, pork and corn industries in that way.”
He also addressed the nation’s trade dispute with China and its effect on Hoosier farmers during the visit. Perdue says farmers are anxious as they try to keep their businesses afloat.
“The farmers have been very resilient and very loyal to the long game that the president has called us to, but there is economic duress and stress out there,” he says. “No doubt about it.”
Perdue notes the tariffs President Trump has enacted come after five years of low commodity prices, making farming less profitable and making the industry a tougher sell for younger people.
“You’ve got parents there that have children here at Purdue or other universities that are not sure they want their children to come back because of the rigors of economic stress that we’re going through right now,” he says.
To make the agricultural industry profitable again, Perdue believes trade issues need to be resolved, rather than giving farmers financial subsidies, which the Trump administration also did last year to quell some of the economic pain wrought by the tariffs.
He says while an agreement with China is still uncertain, he does believe the new U.S., Canada and Mexico trade agreement will be ratified.