At the fifth-annual Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue noted his admiration for the level of innovation that continues to be developed in the agricultural sector. During his discussion with Forbes CEO Mike Federle, the Secretary described the agtech environment as being “on the cusp” of making revolutionary improvements to the field of agriculture and noted that USDA wants to help facilitate those advancements.
“We want to help form a regulatory framework that works with our innovators, and creators, and entrepreneurs rather than against them,” said Secretary Perdue. “We have the ability here at USDA, through our land grant universities and our extension service, to get that to the ground floor of producers, to understand the new technology here.”
Many of the technologies being developed for agricultural application are going to rely on consistent internet access. The issue of broadband internet, which the Secretary described as having a “transformational capacity,” will need to be addressed with improvements to infrastructure. “As we move as a society to the internet of things, agriculture is going to be one of the beneficiaries, but it’s going to rely on connectivity,” Secretary Perdue noted. “We’ve got some gee-whiz kind of productivity increases out there in precision agriculture that could be utilized today but they’re dependent upon connectivity.”
Along with agricultural innovations, the Secretary also addressed trade concerns as they relate to China. While the troubling trade market is not likely to remain the status quo, Secretary Perdue noted that it is because of American farmers success that they carry much of the burden when trade tensions run high. “We’re blessed to be in a nation where we can produce more than we can consume domestically,” said Secretary Perdue. “Farmers, because of the trade surplus that they enjoy in agriculture, they’re the tip of the spear. When people are going to retaliate then that’s where they go.”
The Forbes AgTech Summit was one of several stops the Secretary made on his most recent trip to California. Secretary Perdue visited the indoor vertical farming company Plenty to review the techniques being used to grow food in an urban environment. The Secretary also toured Driscoll’s Berries, as well as the C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant, a key component of the Central Valley Project. During his California visit, Secretary Perdue also met with local politicians and community members at several town hall events that took place in Clarksburg, Watsonville, Los Banos, and Yolo County.
Listen to Secretary Perdue’s discussion at the Forbes AgTech Summit below.