DECATUR, Ill. — Four Republican congressmen from Illinois were on their summer break — but it wasn’t all sun and fun when they participated in an agriculture policy forum at the 2019 Farm Progress Show in Decatur.
“I hope you will be very candid in your comments,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the official guest at the forum.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis acknowledged that farm and rural voters in his district, along with those of his three fellow GOP congressmen, U.S. Reps. John Shimkus, Mike Bost and Darin LaHood, likely weren’t there to lavish praise.
“I know you’re not going to be shy in sharing your concerns,” said Davis as he opened the event on the second day of the farm show.
Shimkus urged those in the audience to present issues and concerns that Perdue could take back to Washington, D.C.
“Secretary Perdue is probably our best ally there. He’s the one who can get the attention of the chief executive officer,” Shimkus said.
LaHood acknowledged the unease in farm country that is a combination of an uncertain and unexpected crop year and concerns around the Trump administration’s handling of trade and biofuels.
“There’s a lot of anxiety out there right now, a lot of uneasiness, a lot of stress in agriculture and I see it in my district, whether it’s the trade issues we’re dealing with, whether it’s the stress, whether it’s the crop report, whether it’s not being able to get the biodiesel tax credit across the finish line,” LaHood said.
Perdue himself said he wanted to hear the issues as a matter of maintaining open lines of communication with rural voters.
“My main responsibility is to listen to you all in the field and advocate on your behalf to the president and administration about what’s happening out here, what your challenges are — I think I know a couple of them — but what your challenges are and be able to take that back to him and the administration,” said Perdue, who likened the relationship between Trump and the farmers who voted for him, and continue to support him, to a marriage.
“It’s really a matter of — just like being married — it’s a matter of communication, and I’m kind of the broker of that. We want to broker good communication back and forth,” Perdue said.