Ag Secretary Perdue on Trump's message to farmers: You won't suffer in a trade fight with China

Key Points
  • Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says President Trump has told him to assure American farmers that they won't suffer from the U.S. trade fight with China.
  • Perdue says he is calculating the potential impact of trade disruptions on a weekly basis, and making it known to the Trump administration.
USDA's Sonny Perdue: Farmers concerned 'patriotism can't pay the bills'

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Thursday that President Donald Trump told him to assure American farmers that they won't suffer from the trade fight with China.

Perdue told CNBC that Trump instructed him to make a plan for any potential impact of a trade war. Perdue said he is calculating the effects of trade disruptions on a weekly basis and is making them known to the administration.

"The USDA has tools in our tool box," Perdue told CNBC's "Squawk Box," though he did not disclose what those tools were. "We have to determine what are trade disruptions and what are normal market volatility."

Trump instructed the U.S. to identify $200 billion worth of Chinese goods for additional tariffs at a rate of 10 percent. That would be on top of the 25 percent tariffs for up to $50 billion of Chinese products, including soybeans.

Those latter measures, announced on June 15, are set to start July 6. The U.S. has been an important supplier for China, but Beijing's July 6 tariffs will include a 25 percent levy on American soybeans.

Iowa's six-member congressional delegation told Trump on Monday that the trade fight will cause serious problems in the state — an estimated $624 million for Iowa farmers. They encouraged the president to act "expeditiously to save our rural economies."

Speaking on Tuesday to a trade show for the fresh produce industry, Perdue said most American farmers understand Trump’s trade row with China is necessary to get the biggest buyer of U.S. agriculture commodities to change its behavior.

Perdue reiterated on Tuesday that many American farmers support Trump's trade dispute. However, he said that there is some "legitimate anxiety" in the agricultural industry.

"Farmers are resilient. They understand that China has not been playing fair," Perdue said. "They are patriots, but they also know that patriotism can't pay the bills and that's where they are concerned."