US Secretary of Agriculture tours WSU

Perdue visits plant sciences, vet med facilities, notes agricultural diversity



Liam Dixon, left, a master’s student at WSU, explains his drought yield research to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Wednesday at WSU.

IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited WSU on Monday as part of a tour of Eastern Washington and land grant universities with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA.

Perdue began his tour in Spokane before making his way to Pullman, according to a press release. Once on campus, he walked through facilities for plant sciences and veterinary medicine before ending the day at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe, after which he left to visit the University of Idaho.

Perdue’s tour marks the first cabinet member of President Donald Trump’s administration to visit WSU since the 45th president took office. Perdue said he likes visiting various regions around the country to observe the differences in agriculture.

“Obviously, [the Pacific Northwest’s] diverse,” he said. “To see the wheat land here and the beautiful mountains and hills and the diverse agricultural crop, I’ve been delighted.”

In addition to speaking about the diversity of agriculture in the region, Perdue also spoke about the need for food security to accompany rising global population numbers.

“We’re going to have 9 billion people pretty soon,” he said. “We better figure out how to continue to increase productivity.”

When asked about the passing of the U.S. farm bill, Perdue said he was hopeful the bill would be passed by Sept. 30, when the current farm bill expires. He said the legislation was “a ways away, particular with the work requirements for SNAP,” or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

One of the other main issues Perdue spoke with the media about during his stop in Pullman dealt with worries from Washington farmers over the possibility of crop insurance being stripped from the farm bill.

Perdue said Rodgers would not let the protections be absent from the bill.

“Those people who are worried about crop insurance being cut from the farm bill don’t know this lady to my right, Cathy McMorris Rodgers,” he said. “She’s not going to let it happen.”

Rodgers said she appreciated Perdue’s willingness to meet after he took office and thanked him for visiting the area she represents.

“I’m so appreciative the secretary made the trip to Eastern Washington,” Rodgers said.

Perdue said his trip comes at an important time as many farmers are worried about trade tensions and rising tariffs from other countries. These include rising tariffs from Mexico, which have worried some Washington farmers.

He said the tariff issue ultimately rests with the Department of Commerce, but he supports healthy trade with the United States’ southern neighbor and wants to take this stress off of growers.

“I would love to alleviate those [worries] today, but that’s not in my purview,” Perdue said. “We have a U.S. trade ambassador that negotiates these deals. We’re hopeful we can get a renewed NAFTA with Mexico done quickly.”

Part of Perdue’s tour showcased work being carried out by graduate students in agricultural areas at WSU, such as master’s student Liam Dixon, who is working on testing mechanisms of crop yields during droughts.

Dixon thanked Perdue for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s funding to purchase equipment used in such research.

Perdue ended the trip at Ferdinand’s, where he viewed how their products are made by student workers. He was given a bag Wright containing Cougar Gold cheese and the new cosmic crisp apple WSU is making by CAHNRS Dean Andre-Denis Wright.

Perdue enjoyed the products he tasted at the popular dessert location.

“I’m not sure that will make it to Idaho,” he said in regards to the food given to him by Wright.