Illinois farm bodies ask for trade certainty

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

Three months after he was nominated, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the country’s agriculture department. Illinois’ agriculture industry is ready for some security in foreign markets.

After Monday’s vote in the U.S. Senate, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is now the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert hopes Perdue is aggressive in securing and opening up foreign markets for Illinois agricultural products, especially in Mexico and Canada through NAFTA, a trade agreement Trump has criticized.

“Trying to build markets is difficult, it’s never easy. And that’s one market that has been very good to corn farmers in the state of Illinois, and we’d like to see that continued,” Guebert said.

State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and said his farming constituents supported Trump, but there were some concerns “when you heard about some of the NAFTA changes, where they’ve been very good for the agriculture community in Illinois, when you heard that one of the biggest importers of U.S. grain, Mexico, would not be dealing with us but dealing with Brazil.”

Bennett said it’s important there’s stability and now it’s time to improve Illinois’ access to other markets.

“When any one of our major importers is saying, ‘We’re not going with the United States, we’re going to go with somebody else,’ that should send shockwaves through the system and should make us pay attention,” Bennett said.

Guebert said the Illinois Farm Bureau is happy that both of Illinois’ U.S. Senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, supported Perdue.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said he looks “forward to working with Secretary Perdue to give our farmers and producers a greater voice in government.

“This is a critical time for U.S. agriculture and as we look to craft the next farm bill, we must put policies in place that empower a new generation of farmers to feed a growing population,” Davis said.

Guebert said he hopes Trump moves forward with tax reform that will benefit farmers and also focus on immigration reform as another issue that he said will help Illinois farmers with harvests.

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