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Sonny Perdue

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of Georgia, right, talks with a group of Iowa farmers, veterans and ag officials during a breakfast forum in Urbandale Friday. Also participating in the event during the USDA leader’s fourth trip to Iowa was U.S. Rep. David Young, a 3rd District Republican from Van Meter, left.

URBANDALE — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Iowa farmers Friday to expect a “bumpy ride” as the Trump administration works to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement — but to look for good results in the end.

On his fourth trip to Iowa — the most to any state — Perdue met with veterans, farmers and agriculture officials at a breakfast forum.

Perdue said he wants to see Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey confirmed to a top USDA post “as quickly as possible.” But he added the administration won’t meet with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who is delaying the confirmation in a dispute over the Renewable Fuel Standard.

NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada got off to a rocky start and are slated to resume later this year. Attendees at the breakfast expressed concern states dependent on exports are worried about a financial “train wreck” if disputes don’t get resolved.

“Hang on and don’t get overly anxious. I think we’ll get there,” was the USDA secretary’s advice.

“This not going to be a smooth negotiation. I think you already see that,” Perdue told a crowd that included U.S. Rep. David Young, a Van Meter Republican. He said Trump is a tough negotiator who wants a “more U.S.-friendly” deal.

“I think we will get to a good agreement for American farmers and producers. But again it may be bumpy in the meantime," he said.

Perdue called Northey “an authentic farmer” and an experienced leader whose expertise is needed. He expressed frustration with the Senate confirmation process.

Perdue said he expected Sam Clovis will continue to serve within the administration after the White House liaison with the USDA last week withdrew his nomination to be the agency’s chief science officer.

“I think Sam made a very selfless, courageous decision when he realized that his situation was being drug into the whole Russia deal, which has gone on way too long,” Perdue said. “I think he didn’t want the president to be distracted in that way.”

Court records this month revealed Clovis, an Iowan who served as a Trump campaign adviser, encouraged another campaign adviser to meet with Russian interests. That meeting never took place.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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