As farmers worry, Agriculture Department will promote trade


WASHINGTON (AP) — As farmers fret over President Donald Trump’s criticism of international trade agreements, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is trying to reassure them by creating a top post to oversee trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

The new undersecretary position is a sign of Perdue’s efforts to promote the U.S. agricultural industry as Trump has sought to undo trade pacts that benefit it.

Perdue was to make the announcement in Cincinnati later Thursday, standing along the Ohio River, where barges filled with grain bound for overseas markets were to serve as the backdrop.

“This nation has a great story to tell and we’ve got producers here that produce more than we can consume,” the former Georgia governor said in remarks prepared for the event. He said the new position “fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world.”

On his second day in office last month, Perdue helped persuade Trump not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, arguing that doing so would hurt U.S. farmers. Trump has said he will work to renegotiate the pact instead.

Perdue said the new undersecretary will work with the U.S. trade representative and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to “ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world.”

As part of the USDA’s reorganization, one undersecretary will be in charge of farm programs and conservation efforts.

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