Remarks by U.S. Secretary for Agriculture Sonny Perdue at G-7 Session two

U.S. Secretary for Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaking at the G7 Agriculture Press Conference in Bergamo, Sunday October 15, 2017

“I don’t really know how you can develop rural areas without empowering farmers”

October 15, 2017

(Transcript from audio file)

I think the topic today ‘empowering and developing rural areas and enhancing cooperation among ourselves,’ really ties in with the message yesterday. I don’t know really how you can develop rural areas without empowering farmers and I think again as we focus on those interrelationships there, our rural areas are only going to be developed with the empowering and the profitability of our farming sector on a sustainable basis. We’ve got to do that certainly within the appropriate ecological goals, environmental goals, and food safety goals in all of our sectors but that’s essentially the only way that we can develop our rural areas is with an economic profitability of those that live that live in those rural areas.

I think along those lines we talked a little bit yesterday but not very much really about the effort that new technology, innovation and creativity bring, particularly with regard to precision agriculture. I think we’ve seen some great steps over precision agriculture, innovation and technology in the United States and worldwide where we’re using much less inputs and with greater productivity. But that’s based on technological innovation such as broadband – precision agriculture is based on a reliable broadband connectivity that would allow us to specifically measure where we’re placing that within a very small band of fertilizer and seed in order to have that productivity increase while using less inputs.

Also the advantage of broadband connectivity in rural areas is health improvements, telemedicine for our rural areas, allowing them to have access to healthcare they may not have without that. It has educational impacts as well, and also has e-commerce. We all should be welcoming I think the e-commerce from smaller producers who may not be part of the great transnational chain that was identified earlier this morning which would allow them to participate in the e-commerce person-to-person, community-to-community in the greater globe, in fact bypassing many of the normal supply chains through e-commerce. Those are the benefits that ubiquitous broadband connectivity can provide for our communities and I think that is a policy area in which we all should be engaged in empowering our farmers for profitability, but certainly in developing our rural areas through education opportunities, healthcare opportunities, e-commerce business opportunities and just general sociology. I tell our rural communities in Georgia, those country kids are not going to go to town and see all their cousins playing on these devices and go back home and be content to read the paper and look at the cartoons there. It’s becoming a sociological necessity today, but the benefit of that can truly develop our rural areas in many ways.

Most of you probably have seen my bio and know that I was raised in a farm family. So I’ve known that thrill, having grown there and my career has been in agribusiness – I’ve known the thrill of a great crop at a fair price. I’ve also known the despair of drought and floods. In 1954 as a young boy I can remember my father talking about the impact of a devastating drought in Georgia that almost put him out of business. I remember that scared him and ultimately scared me and my memory of my life. In 1994, forty years later we had a massive flood. I was in agribusiness and many of our customers were harmed at that point with a devastating flood. And now in 2017 we’ve seen the impact of hurricanes in Georgia, Florida, Texas and certainly in Puerto Rico and our Virgin Islands. So if we are going to develop rural areas we have to develop that resiliency, we’ve got to empower them from a profitable perspective in that way and technologically innovation and creativity, if we have any hope of feeding 2 billion more people in the next few years.

The cooperation that we must do really depends on all of us and how well we understand that these ravages of nature that will happen from time to time, irrespective of the cause, we’re going to have floods, we’re going to have fires, we’re going to have hurricanes, we’re going to have tornadoes, we’re going to have earthquakes but the benefit of international global trade based on a free, fair, sound science basis is imperative because your nation may be affected or my nation may be affected. I may need what you have and you may need what I have  – that’s the very essence of why we gather here today to develop the rules and regulations of fair exchange of not only ideas but products in the future as we go forward.

Thank you Mr. Minister for your hospitality here in the beautiful city of Bergamo. I’ve enjoyed the relationships that we’ve been able to gain here with our bilateral discussions and our personal visits within the hospitality you’ve offered. Thank you very much.