Agriculture Sonny Perdue (left) greets Robert Sakata of Sakata Farms on May 15 in Brighton, Colo. Perdue’s wife Mary and Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown (behind Perdue) accompanied Perdue. ( Photo Courtesy USDA )

When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visits with farmers, he wants to hear their concerns.

Colorado fruit and vegetable growers got their chance their chance on May 15, and weren’t shy about what’s troubling them: primarily trade and immigration, and how the Trump administration’s decisions in those areas are making it harder for them to do business.

Perdue, on his fourth “Back to Our Roots Tour” visited New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and like the other tours, he visited with fresh produce growers. On May 14, he was in Rocky Ford, Colo., at Hirakata Farms, a melon and vegetable grower.

The next day, he was at Sakata Farms, Brighton Colo., a vegetable grower that recent announced it was ceasing sweet corn production at 50 years, citing labor as a reason. The company plans to increase onion acreage, which requires less labor.

The tour also met with Colorado growers and agriculture leaders at a town hall event May 15 at the Colorado State Department of Agriculture in Broomfield. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown and growers attended the event, hosted by the Colorado Ag Council.

As growers voiced concerns on trade, including recent tariffs on U.S. fruit, nuts, pork, soybeans and other products going to China, Perdue said any negotiations with China will be beneficial for American growers.

“He won’t accept a deal that doesn’t enhance U.S. agriculture,” Perdue said during the event, according to the Denver Post.

Others speaking at the meeting included James Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Monte Vista, according to the Post. Ehrlich and other U.S. potato industry leaders have been trying to crack the 26-kilometer zone U.S. potatoes are limited to in Mexico.

Ehrlich asked that potato exports to Mexico be addressed during the renegotiations to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In Brighton, at Sakata Farms, Perdue and Duvall attended a roundtable on labor issues.

Perdue has visited other specialty crop growers in past “Back to our Roots Tours.”

 
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