DECATUR — With many farmers frustrated about the prolonged trade war with China and ethanol-blending waivers recently granted to 31 oil refineries, President Donald Trump called in Wednesday to the Farm Progress Show in Decatur.
As U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was being interviewed on stage, he took a call from the president and held his microphone up to his iPhone for the crowd to hear.
“I can do a quick one and look like a hero,” Trump said of a deal with China. “I’d easily win the election.”
“Or I can do it the right way, but it will take a little time,” he said, adding that the country needs to “stay the course.”
He argued that the U.S. is winning the trade war because “prices haven’t gone up” in the U.S. and touted the billions in aid he’s given to farmers hurt by the tariffs “to make up for the difference.”
Farmers received $12 billion in aid last year and $16 billion this year to help offset the drop in crop prices from the trade war.
At a news conference later, Perdue acknowledged that the farm aid doesn’t quite make up the difference.
“All those things combined, we never thought that it would make people whole, but I hope that we’ll make people survive in order to do it again,” he said. “Farmers are kind of used to that. There’s good years, and there’s not so good years.”
He also said he thinks the markets will rebound quickly once the trade “disruption” is over.
“We’ll get these markets back because they know we have the quality and the reliability of production,” Perdue said.
Trump also touted the “agreement in principle” reached Sunday with Japan, though final details of the plan haven’t yet been released.
Perdue said the details are still being worked out, but he thinks it will “essentially” make up for the U.S. withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with 11 other countries.
“I think it’s going to be essentially complete. There may be a few sectors or industries that don’t feel like they got back to the finish line on that, but for the most part, I think it’s going to be equal or better, and I think certainly our livestock group will feel good, and wheat and others,” Perdue said. “We’re still getting additional things there as late as yesterday that enhance the agreement.”
With the 2020 election 14 months away, Trump at one point mocked Democratic candidate Joe Biden and asked for farmers’ support.
“I hope you like me even better than you did in ’16,” Trump said.
The call lasted for about seven minutes before the connection started to peter out and Perdue had to end the call.
“I think China must be cutting out our communication here,” Perdue joked, adding that the poor connection shows “that’s why we need broadband across the country, Mr. President,” one of Perdue’s biggest applause lines.
The Farm Progress Show alternates each year between Boone, Iowa, and Decatur.
It’s the nation’s largest outdoor farm show and claims more than 150,000 visitors over three days, 600 exhibitors and 360 acres of field demonstrations.
It wraps up today.