Sonny and Mary Perdue from Savannah, Georgia, visited their Canadian friends Lawrence and Frances MacAulay at their farm in Midgell, Prince Edward Island, on Friday.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s visit with Agriculture Minister MacAulay in PEI was, as expected, a friendly affair, especially in the context of the recent narrative between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau and the U.S. imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada on the basis of national security.
“Nation to nation, you can have meetings, but when someone invites you to their home, it’s a special honour,” Perdue told reporters early in the day.
The ag secretary raised the usual points of contention for the U.S. — dairy, grain grading and provincial wine policies — in the bilateral meeting that took place in MacAulay’s barn on Friday morning.
Given President Trump’s recent focus on Canadian dairy policy, most of the media questions for Perdue and MacAulay revolved around supply management.
“The U.S. ambition is not to dictate to Canada to do away with its supply management system…we do think that we have a request that the supply be managed so that we do not overproduce and depress world milk solid prices in that way,” said Perdue, reiterating what he said a year ago.
“It’s not our job to tell Canada they shouldn’t have a Parliamentary system or supply management, but they can’t use their supply management system to negatively affect our dairy producers south of the border,” Perdue told reporters in an end-of-day media conference call.
His comments were directly aimed at the Canadian dairy industry’s new class 7 designation, which was set up to price domestic skim milk components competitively with imports from the U.S.
“Frankly, I don’t know how we can go forward if Canada insists on a class 7 part of their program, and hopefully we can make that clear to them,” said Perdue, when asked whether the U.S. is demanding complete removal of class 7, or whether there were other ways to address this specific concern.
The partnership between the U.S. & Canada remains strong & important as noted in bilateral meeting today w/@L_Macaulay on #PrinceEdwardIsland. Discussion centered around food waste, Farm Bill, broadband connectivity for farmers, market access for U.S. dairy, among others. pic.twitter.com/Z3LNhrVWnz
— Sec. Sonny Perdue (@SecretarySonny) June 15, 2018
The U.S. ag secretary was also frank in describing the significance of his meeting with MacAulay in the context of the NAFTA re-negotiations.
“We’re here to continue the conversation. You know that neither of us are the official negotiators. While we can have conversations about these issues that are pertinent to NAFTA and continuing discussions, it’s not our job, nor our role or responsibility to negotiate the details of the ongoing NAFTA discussions,” he said.
Following the bilateral meeting at the MacAulay farm, the ag leaders toured a local lobster fishing operation, a potato processing plant, and Greenwich National Park.
The Perdues’ visit to PEI comes almost a year after the MacAulays’ trip down to Savannah, Georgia.
PEI is home to some of Canada’s most unique and beautiful national parks. Frances and I had a lovely visit to Greenwich National Park today with American Secretary of Agriculture @SecretarySonny and his wife Mary. #PEI @ParksCanada @ParksCanadaPEI pic.twitter.com/xH8e8O8REi
— Lawrence MacAulay (@L_MacAulay) June 15, 2018