WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — After a keynote address to hundreds of representatives of the domestic and global agriculture industries, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue welcomed Canadian Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Victor Villalobos for a “fireside chat” covering the three countries’ cooperation efforts as well as North America’s trade outlook with the rest of the world.

In his initial remarks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2019 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Perdue also welcomed Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Bárcena Coqui, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft. Noting agriculture’s importance in touching businesses, industry and every family on the planet, Perdue said, “I think we have the best neighborhood on Earth, here in North America.”

Perdue said rather than focus on the projections and numbers he said Chief Economist Robert Johansson and other speakers would cover during the conference, he chose to speak about agricultural research, extension and education in the United States, calling those programs “revered and emulated around the world.”

“I think it’s a key component there,” he said. “I think it’s contributed to the development of tools, including biotech and other progressive types of technologies leading to better, more efficient production of food, fuel and fiber around the world.

“As leaders in agriculture, I believe our job is to ensure farmers, ranchers, and foresters have proven tools to produce efficient and affordable food and secure better access to the global marketplace. That’s why we’re coming together in North America.”

Perdue outlined the challenges facing the agriculture industry tasked with feeding a global population projected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050, which will require a doubling in production of food, feed and fiber sustainably despite limitations including land.

A top concern for Perdue is the “growing movement telling consumers they need to fear their food because of the use of technology both old and new in agriculture and the food system.”

Perdue challenged agriculture leaders in attendance to advocate for agriculture and to fight the “fear-your-food movement,” talk about the commitment to ensure food safety and environmental stewardship of the land going forward and help the world’s consumers understand crop protection tools and technologies help feed the world.

“These tools are tested, inspected, retested, studied, and tested multiple times again,” he said, noting the Environmental Protection Agency’s rigorous science-based standard in regulating pesticides used in food production.

Perdue said addressing changing perceptions that may lead to bad policy requires total transparency.

“We must get better at telling own stories rather than letting others fill in the void,” Perdue said. “It’s all of our responsibility to talk about what we do.”