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Upstate Hosts Ag Secretary; Pushed For Immigration, North American Trade Deals

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) hosted U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in Geneva, Wednesday, for a roundtable discussion with local farmers. Trade deals, China and labor were highlights of the conversation.

Dick Kimball, a dairy farmer in Chautauqua County, said tariffs imposed by other countries on U.S. dairy products, over ongoing trade disputes, have hurt his prices.

“We might even have lost some market share, because other countries have gone in and fill the void,” Kimball said.

He said he hopes that new trade deals will have the teeth to make U.S. dairy farmers competitive on the world market. Secretary Perdue defended President Donald Trump for seeking a fairer trade deal with China.

“He’s thrown the flag on a cheater," Perdue said. "That’s China. They’ve used the American consumer and producer for many years by creating barriers to letting our products in their country, while they want to overwhelm us with their products.”

Perdue and Congressman Reed both touted the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, as being better for the dairy industry. But that still needs to be passed by Congress.

“There’s a legitimate anxiety and frustration," Perdue said. 'We’ve got low farm prices. The dairy program that Congressman Reed and his colleagues passed, the farm bill, will be very helpful in this part of the country. The USMCA, the trade agreement, once its ratified, will be very helpful to dairy farmers in this region, as well as other farmers.”

Local farmers also had concerns about immigration and getting enough seasonal migrant workers to do the jobs Americans won’t do. Reed said he thinks a bipartisan deal on immigration, which might include border security, a pathway to citizenship for some, and a merit-based system, could be coming together.