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Surrogates tout Biden campaign's farm platform

In support of the Biden-Harris campaign, former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined former members of Congress from North Carolina in a virtual roundtable this week to discuss the revitalization of agriculture and economic aid for rural areas in the state.

Pender Sharp, a former chair of the state Farm Service Agency committee, joined the call on Monday night from a farm his family has run in Wilson County for more than a century.
“After the last election, the wheels ran off of agriculture in Eastern North Carolina,” Sharp said. "If things don't change financially, there will be no way to attract my grandson to stay on this farm.” Sharp blamed agriculture’s problems on bad trade deals by President Trump.

John Ashe, a farmer from the Reidsville area, bought his farm four years ago and grows soybeans and tobacco.
“Everything looked so good,” he said. “We were selling soybeans, 14, 15 dollars a bushel. Now, they’re $8 a bushel.” Relief payments the Trump administration sent to farmers hurt by the trade war with China, he said, won’t cover half of what he lost. “I don’t think he has any comprehension of what he has done to agriculture. None whatsoever. And we have got to change that, y’all.”

Vilsack said, "Trump didn't deliver a good trade deal."

“Here is the story,” the former ag secretary said. “We have the lowest trade surplus in agricultural products that we’ve seen in quite some time and, potentially, for the first time in 60 years we risk the possibility that we may not have a trade surplus at all in agricultural products.”

After flying to Charlotte for the opening day of the Republican National Convention on Monday, Trump boarded Marine One for a ride west to Mills River. There, he touted the Farmers to Families Food Box program, an initiative launched in the spring in which the USDA buys produce, meat and dairy products from farmers to feed families hurt by coronavirus-related job losses.

Commenting on Trump’s visit earlier that day, Vilsack said, "I wonder if he had the opportunity to talk about how many broken promises he is responsible for to the people of North Carolina and rural Americans across this great country."

A former Iowa governor who served as agriculture secretary under President Obama, Vilsack said Trump promised better trade deals, agriculture-based sustainable fuels and such infrastructure improvements as broadband internet and better roads in rural areas. "That didn't happen," he said.

Biden and Harris have a plan for dealing with these issues, Vilsack said. They will grow a trade surplus, invest in conservation, create better-paying rural jobs, support renewable fuels, and improve health care in rural areas.

Eva Clayton, a former representative from North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District who served on the House Agriculture Committee, said education is a foundation for rural communities. “Economic development, combined with structure and investment in education, makes us far more attractive," she said.

“I do know one thing about rural folks,” Vilsack said, “and that is, your word is your bond. The reality is that Donald Trump made a promise to rural America, he made several promises. He promised better trade deals, he promised support for the renewable fuel industry, he promised new opportunities for infrastructure improvements. He delivered on none of those promises.”

Jobs, infrastructure, quality of life — “that is what Joe Biden can deliver on,” he said. “The Biden-Harris plan is exactly the roadmap to get it done.”