June 26, 2018 / 5:26 PM / 21 days ago

U.S. agriculture secretary says farmers understand China trade fight

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Most U.S. farmers understand President Donald Trump’s trade row with China is necessary to get the biggest buyer of U.S. agriculture commodities to change its behavior, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue waits to testify before a Senate Appropriations Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the FY2019 budget request for the Agriculture Department, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Perdue visited agricultural hub Chicago after commodity prices fell sharply this month on escalated tariff threats from Beijing and Washington.

“They understand that China has not been a fair player,” Perdue said in a speech to a trade show for the fresh produce industry.

He said Trump had authorized him to protect farmers from economic harm caused by trade fights and he hoped to have a plan in place by the time farmers begin their fall harvest if no resolution has been reached.

“We will not allow agriculture producers to bear the brunt of China’s retaliation as we defend our own interests as a nation,” Perdue said.

Perdue said at a news conference the Commodity Credit Corp (CCC) could be one of the major tools used in any plan to compensate farmers hurt by the trade fight. The CCC has broad authority to make loans and direct payments to U.S. growers when prices for corn, soybeans, wheat and other agricultural goods are low.

Congress lifted certain restrictions on the U.S. agriculture secretary’s authority to use CCC funds in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

In an opinion piece published in USA Today on Monday, Perdue said he would not tip his hand about what the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned to do.

The economic impact on farmers changes daily based on market conditions, Perdue said.

Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures are down 12 percent this month, corn futures are down 10 percent and wheat futures have fallen 8 percent.

Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by Susan Thomas and Chris Reese

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