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Top US Ag official says farmers have reasons to be optimistic in Omaha appearance.

Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 19:50:37-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Low crop prices, tariffs and historic flooding. Farmers have dealt with a lot over the last few years.

"There's not much that could hurt us worse at this point,” says Tracy Zink, a farmer from Indianola, Nebraska.

But things could be looking up. The USMCA trade deal that will replace NAFTA got the go-ahead from house Democrats this week and Ag secretary Sonny Perdue hopes it will be official by Christmas.

"That agreement has been there on the speakers desk for a number of months, I'm happy for her to finally announce. I couldn't imagine her sending her members home for Christmas break without passing USMCA."

Farmers at the conference largely say NAFTA, the previous deal, was good for them and will take a wait and see approach on the USMCA, the new agreement.

"There are so many promises made and so much hype about things, hyperbole, 'oh that's going to be the best thing ever.' Well we don't know, but we'd really like to see, but you can't know if you don't pass it, so we're excited that it's passed," says Scott McPheeters, a farmer from Gothenburg.

Secretary Perdue also said that he wants E-15 gasoline in more gas stations throughout the country.

Farmers at the conference say that will be a major boost for the ag economy.

"We've got to promote to the public the importance of it, not just to keep farmers farming but it's a great product, it's a great product for our vehicles,” says McPheeters.

Secretary Perdue says they need to get gas stations across the us to embrace E-15, farmers say part of that is ending what they believe, is bad rap that ethanol gets.

"But they've been misled to believe that it might harm their car or it's not environmentally friendly and both of those are absolutely not true,” says McPheeters.

It's no secret farmers have also been hit by tariffs and because of that the feds have issued them two rounds of bailout money.

Secretary Perdue mentioned there could be a third round coming but prefers making a deal with China instead.

He also says farmers should plan to not get anymore bailout money.

"I certainly don't want our farming community to become expectant or feeling an entitlement to market facilitation program on an annual basis,” says Perdue.

After visiting Omaha, Secretary Perdue headed to Fremont to tour the Costco chicken plant with Governor Pete Ricketts.