Source: Gary Brock videoU.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue talks with staff and students at Central State University Thursday, April 5 during his visit to Ohio.
WILBERFORCE — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited Greene County April 5 and fielded questions from agriculture students, including the hot topic of the U.S. trade war with China.
“The President has told me personally that he’s not going to allow farmers to bear the brunt and to be the victims of trade disputes here,” Perdue said, referring to recent tariffs China put on steel and aluminum, and the issue of China stealing U.S. intellectual property, including agricultural property.
Perdue visited with students and faculty of Central State University (CSU) on campus in Wilberforce during his “Back to Our Roots” RV Tour. While there he went on a tour of the university’s College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture. He also answered student’s questions during a roundtable discussion.
When a student asked how he thinks the trade war issue with China will affect agriculture, Perdue said that President Trump is “acting in the best interest of America, generally, as he acknowledges that a major economy of the world is not playing by the right rules,” said Perdue.
Perdue added that China has violated the rules of fair trade for the past 17 or 18 years “without anyone calling (them) on it.”
“If companies want to do business in China, they’ve been forced to give them the code and the secrets of their company in order to have access to that market,” Perdue said, explaining how this is an unfair practice. “That’s exactly what Trump is trying to stop.”
Students and Greene County CSU Extension agents presented their programs and research to Perdue. Fred Hayes, a third-year student at CSU, talked about his ecology research on wetlands and species conservation. Hayes said that Perdue “is in tune and has a knowledge for agriculture.”
“The future of agriculture is bright,” said Perdue, as he provided answers to students inquiring about future agricultural careers, agricultural policies, women in agriculture and the pros and cons of working in the agricultural industry. Perdue added that the Ag education and communications programs are important for students to consider.
“With social media and much of the information that flows around now, there’s a lot of inaccuracies, a lot of rumors, and a lot of things that aren’t true. Ag communication is a great field to be a truth-teller about what is actually happening in our safe food supply system.”
He continued, “Truthful, candid, good reporting in Ag communications is a very needed field.”
He touched on the demographics and the rising age of the worker in the Ag industry and said that he is seeing a “resurgence of that spirit of the land in millennials.”
CSU President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond highlighted a CSU program called “Seed to Bloom,” a USDA 2-week summer program, adding onto Perdue’s emphasis of teaching young students about agriculture in the classroom. The “Seed to Bloom” program works to teach young children and their families about healthy lifestyle and sustainable agriculture.
“I applaud you,” Perdue told the student who plans to go into early childhood education, “for wanting to be in the classroom with young people to help them get a good start in their life.”
A female student at the roundtable asked Perdue for advice for women in agriculture.
“The good news is agriculture is not gender-specific,” Perdue said. “I’ve been in agribusiness for most of my career and what I saw of the women, certainly, is their contribution to the family lifestyle and the family productivity there. Many of them were really the business keepers of the business.”
He explained to the student, “you won’t find many barriers” and how “that soybean won’t care whether you’re a male or a female.”
Perdue said that he was very impressed with the CSU campus, the administration and the “spirit here of learning and problem-solving.”
“We live in the best country in the world, but we still got a lot of problems,” Perdue said, and added that a college education is about learning how to solve problems with research, investigation and teaching people how to think.
“Agriculture is the source of our nutrition, the source of our health. That’s why colleges and universities like this are so integral to the research and the extension of that knowledge throughout the productive supply chain.”
On his “Back to Our Roots” RV Tour, Perdue also visited other locations in Ohio, as well as in Michigan and Kentucky.
CSU is an 1890 Land-Grant institution and has university Extension offices in Greene, Hamilton, Butler, Lucas, Franklin and Cuyahoga Counties. For more information on CSU, visit: www.centralstate.edu/academics/cse/pages04.php?num=38.