‘Hello, Mr. President’: Perdue takes a call during Farm Progress Show

Sonny Perdue, U.S. secretary of agriculture, had to answer a phone call from the White House during a live taping at the 2019 Farm Progress Show with farm broadcasters Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong. The president called his secretary of agriculture to talk about progress on resolution of his trade war with China and a pending trade deal with Japan.

DECATUR, Ill. — Normally, during a live taping of “This Week in Agribusiness,” a guest taking a phone call might be frowned up.

But legendary farm broadcasters Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong were willing to cut a break for their special guest at the 2019 Farm Progress Show — as well as for the person calling him.

“Mr. President, we’re having an interview with Max and Orion here,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. secretary of agriculture, on stage with the duo on the second day of the farm show.

Just minutes earlier, Perdue’s phone bleated and he took it out, apologizing to the two.

“I have to take this,” he announced. “It’s the White House.”

Then the audience packed to see and hear Perdue got a bonus as Trump chatted with his ag secretary about some top ag matters.

“Essentially, I can make a quick deal with China, and I could turn that deal into a tremendous amount of agricultural products. I could do it immediately, and I’d be a hero. I would easily win the election, but that would be the wrong deal,” Trump said.

The president then presented an alternative.

“Or, I could do it the right way, which should have been done over the last 35 years and do it the way we are doing it now, stay the course. China is now losing their jobs, they are losing their companies and they want to make a deal. They would rather make a deal with somebody else. They want to make a deal. So, I could make a quick one and look like a hero, or I can do it the right way, but it will take a little time,” he said.

Campaign Trail

Trump also took some swipes at some of his competitors on the Democratic side for the 2020 presidential vote.

“They would rather deal with sleepy Joe Biden than deal with me,” he told the two farm broadcasters.

“They want to wait for a Democrat. They want to have a Democrat get in. But you know what will happen? Within two seconds after I win the election, we’ll make the greatest deal you’ve ever seen. It may happen before then,” Trump said.

“Well, we hope so. Mr. President, these farmers are long-term players,” Perdue responded.

Trump also reminded his audience of the two Market Facilitation Program payments that have been authorized under his administration, to reimburse farmers for economic damage suffered by the ongoing trade war with China.

“I’ve given the farmers — the year before last I gave them, Sonny, I believe it was $12 billion, and this year I gave them $16 billion to make up for the difference because China targeted our farmers, thinking they could get to me because they know I love the farmers,” he said.

Trump also took shots at the media, despite Perdue taking the call during a live taping of a farm show.

“I sometimes see where these horrible, dishonest reporters will say that, oh, gee, the farmers are upset. Well, they can’t be too upset because I gave them $12 billion and I gave them $16 billion and it all came out of the tariffs and we have a lot of money left over,” Trump said.

Meat Market

Trump also touted a trade deal with Japan, the details of which weren’t available when he spoke to Perdue over the phone.

“I want to just tell you that we made a big deal, a very big deal, with Japan. It’s a big win for our farmers and ranchers. Japan is our No. 1 pork market and our third largest agricultural market and they are buying billions of dollars worth of product,” Trump said.

The call started to break up and then the call dropped, prompting Perdue to use the moment to promote a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative that has growing support throughout the rural United States.

“That’s why we need broadband across the country, Mr. President, to have a good signal here,” said Perdue to a round of cheers and applause.

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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