Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

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.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·


Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo