Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

ONE DAY left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks during a forum April 18, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Farmers Hit Back as USDA Chief Sonny Perdue Mocks Those Harmed by Trump Trade War as 'Whiners'

"He doesn't understand what farmers are dealing with, and he's the head of the Department of Agriculture. He's supposed to be working for farmers."

Jake Johnson

Farmers facing record bankruptcies and collapsing incomes due to President Donald Trump's escalating trade war with China were not amused by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's joke about their economic pain during an event in Minnesota last week.

"I had a farmer tell me this in Pennsylvania," Perdue told an audience of thousands of farmers gathered in a barn near Morgan, Minnesota. "What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar."

Some laughed at the agriculture secretary's joke, but other farmers booed and denounced Perdue's wisecrack as callous and tone-deaf mockery of the real hardship caused by the Trump administration's trade policies.

"It was definitely not an appropriate thing to say," Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, told HuffPost on Monday. "It was very insensitive. It took everyone by surprise. He doesn't understand what farmers are dealing with, and he's the head of the Department of Agriculture. He's supposed to be working for farmers."

Perdue's characterization of struggling farmers as "whiners" came after the Trump administration announced it will impose a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion of Chinese goods starting Sept. 1, a significant escalation in the ongoing trade war between the two global powers.

China quickly retaliated by canceling all purchases of U.S. agricultural products, a move American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall called "a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by."

With farmers suffering from his trade policies, Trump has attempted to tamp down backlash with targeted aid packages—but, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), most of the assistance has gone to wealthy farmers.

Meanwhile, as HuffPost reported on Monday, "Net farm income in America has plunged by nearly half over the last five years from $123.4 billion in 2013 to $63 billion last year. It plummeted by 16 percent last year alone."

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said last week that Trump's "strategy of constant escalation and antagonism" toward China has "made things worse."

"It's really, really getting bad out here," added Bob Kuylen, a North Dakota farmer, in an interview with CNBC. "Trump is ruining our markets."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo