THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Secretary Perdue. Thank you for that kind introduction. More importantly, thank you for your lifetime of service to the people of Georgia, and now to all the people of the United States of America. Would you join me in thanking, one more time, the United States Secretary of Agriculture? (Applause.) Sonny Perdue, thank you so much.
Thank you so much for letting Karen and I stop in to this important event today at such an important time in the life of the state of Georgia and the life of this region. And as the President said yesterday, when he visited in the Macon area and he visited the Gulf Coast and the Panhandle of Florida, let me say to all the farmers gathered here today in the wake of Hurricane Michael: We are with you, and we will stay with you until we rebuild and recover better than ever before. (Applause.)
It’s just an incredible time to think about this generational storm through which so many of you gathered here have just passed. And seeing you here today, seeing your smiling faces, it just reminds me — coming from a Heartland state, as I do — of the strength, the resilience, the character, and the faith that is synonymous with agriculture.
So thank you for demonstrating your character by being out at this important expo today. It is a real privilege for me to be here today, seeing all of you standing strong at the 41st annual Sunbelt Expo. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.)
Let me also say thank you to some other great Georgia leaders who are with us today. We’ve already been in discussions with leaders in the Congress of the United States who represent this state, and leaders of this state. And I want to assure you that we’ll be working very closely with them, far beyond — far beyond the USDA and traditional programs, we’ll be working to make sure that Georgia and all of those areas affected by Hurricane Michael recover.
I want to thank, in particular, Governor Nathan Deal, who has done such an extraordinary job for the people of Georgia over the past eight years. (Applause.)
I also want to thank your two senators, both of whom are traveling with us today. After I leave you, we’ll be traveling across the region and seeing firsthand the impacts on farmers and families and businesses and agriculture. And these two senators are emblematic of what I like to call “servant leadership” — people who come into public life not to be served, but to serve. So join me in thanking Senator Johnny Isakson and Senator David Perdue for being here and for the job they do for Georgia every day. (Applause.)
I’m also grateful to be joined by a man who has become a great friend of mine and is a great leader for Georgia — past, present, and future. And he’s been working tirelessly across this region in the wake of the hurricane. Join me in thanking Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is with us here today. (Applause.) He’s such a good man and a great leader.
Also, the hometown congressman, who I actually had the opportunity to serve with when I served in the House of Representatives. He is a tenacious advocate of this district. And I promise you, he was already bending my ear backstage about the unique challenges that Hurricane Michael has presented to this region. Join me in thanking Congressman Austin Scott for the job that he’s done for the people of his district and this state. (Applause.)
We gather today in the wake of Hurricane Michael — a once-in-a-generation storm that dealt a direct and devastating blow to Florida’s Panhandle and to the Sunbelt’s farm country. We always begin by grieving with those who grieve, and mourning with those who mourn. And so I know I speak on behalf of all of you here when we extend our condolences and our prayers to the families who have lost loved ones in the midst of this hurricane.
But as the President and the First Lady saw firsthand yesterday, and I learned in a briefing at the USDA hours after the storm ended, the impacts of this storm go far beyond — far beyond businesses and homes that were impacted. Hurricane Michael had a devastating impact on Georgia’s Sunbelt and on agriculture across the region, and the American people deserve to know it.
Later today, my wife Karen and I will travel to Decatur County. I’m told there that we’ll visit the Flint River Mills. It’s been around for about 90 years. And I’m told that, actually, this mill that provides feed for about eight states across the region has never been closed in those 90 years until Hurricane Michael showed up.
We’ll also be visiting a pecan farm, and we’ll talk with local farmers, many of whom have literally lost everything.
In Decatur County alone, Georgia farmers and producers lost up to 70 percent of their fall vegetables, 90 percent of their sweet corn, 95 percent of the unharvested cotton crop, 95 percent of poultry, and 100 percent of the pecan crop.
And here in Colquitt County, I want to assure you that we’re aware of the monumental damage that has taken place to cotton and pecan crops, along with poultry houses, and that — the fact that power outages have made it impossible for livestock producers to use their wells to water animals.
Across the state, Hurricane Michael has inflicted an estimated $2 billion worth of damage to Georgia’s cotton, pecan, and peanut crops.
And today, as we gather here, 70,000 Georgians are still without power. Some communities are still being advised to boil their water. And countless families and businesses will be dealing with property damage well into the future.
All of that being said, let me say to all of you gathered here: The spirit of the people of this region, the strength of the people of Georgia is inspiring America. It truly is. (Applause.)
The compassion — neighbors coming out for neighbors; neighbors who have experienced damage on their own land and in their own property, experienced loss, still being out and coming alongside those that they believe need the help worse. It demonstrates a level of strength that is synonymous, frankly, with southwest Georgia and with the people of this great state.
But let me assure you, under President Trump’s leadership, we have taken and will continue to take decisive action to address the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. President Trump took action even before the storm made landfall. As Secretary Perdue himself said, the President has been “making a reputation for being more connected to state and local partners” than any administration he could ever remember. And I believe that to be true.
The President signed emergency declarations and major disaster declarations for Georgia and Florida to marshal the full resources of the federal government, assist communities hardest hit, and begin the long road to recovery and rebuilding.
And I want to assure all of you, our administration will continue unrelentingly to deploy the manpower and resources of the federal government to this region and to these communities until you come all the way back. (Applause.)
Damage assessments are ongoing. If you need any help accessing these programs, all you need to do is contact your local Farm Service Agency office. They’ll work with you.
You can also go to USDA’s website, Farmers.gov. Use their disaster assistance discovery tool to discover programs to get the support you need on the timeline you deserve.
But as we can all appreciate, while disaster assistance will be important, a growing economy will be just as important. And I’m here to report to you that, since the outset of this administration, President Trump has been working every day to keep the promises that he made to the American people. And as a result of the policies that your senators have supported, that your Congressman has supported, I’m pleased to report to you that, in the city and on the farm, the American economy is roaring back to life. (Applause.)
4.2 million jobs created since Election Day 2016, and it’s a result of the policies — the policies the people of Georgia supported in 2016. We’ve been rolling back the heavy hand of government. This President has actually signed more bills, repealing federal red tape, than any President in American history. And he even signed a measure repealing the Waters of the USA to reaffirm our commitment to private property in America. (Applause.)
The President signed the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history, and in so doing, he actually eliminated the death tax for virtually every American family farmer. (Applause.)
And with this President’s leadership and the strong support of our partners in the Congress, we’ve taken decisive action to open up the world to American agricultural products as never before.
And just a short while ago, with the strong support that Zippy and other agricultural leaders provided from around the country, President Trump announced a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a win for American farmers and it’s a win for American workers. (Applause.)
So we’re making great progress. I promise you, we’re going to continue to advance policies and create a growing economy. And we’re going to continue to come alongside all of those impacted in the wake of this hurricane to make sure that the resources that the American people have made available for our countrymen at such times as challenge — is available to each and every one of you.
So let me first — or rather, close by saying, again, thank you. Thank you so much for your support of this administration and the policies that have got America working again.
But beyond that, let me thank you for your inspirational example. Standing before you today, I was — we had made plans to travel to the region a few days back. And when the team told me that, as I was planning to come to southwest Georgia, that there was an agricultural expo that was still going on, I can’t tell you that I was surprised. Because, as I mentioned before, I come from an agricultural state in the Midwest. I was born and raised in the state of Indiana. I grew up with a cornfield in my backyard. We had some cows when I was growing up, about 100 head of cattle I got to look after for my dad, who otherwise ran a gas station business in the city.
I know the character of American agriculture. And so I cannot say that I am surprised that you are all here and that you are gathered with one another. Because I know the strength and the faith and the resilience of the people of agriculture.
But I also know what it means to be together and what a blessing it must be for some of you who’ve been in the hardest-hit areas to be here among friends and to be able to be encouraged and supported, and know beyond that that you’re being prayed for.
You know, I’ll always marvel at how many times the Nazarene pointed to the farmer in the Sacred Scriptures. He would say, consider the farmer. And I believe that’s because, in the farmer, we see the characteristics and the qualities that really have always made America great. We see faith. We see hard work. We see character. We see resilience. We see everything that I see today looking out at so many farmers from across southwest Georgia and across the whole Sunbelt region that have been affected by this hurricane. And I thank you for your inspiration.
And I promise you, as I said at the very beginning, on behalf of your President, on behalf of our administration, on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture, and our great partners in the Congress, I know that we will get through this challenging time. We will rebuild these crops and these communities. We will restore southwest Georgia. We will restore the Sunbelt region bigger and better than ever before. And the best days for Georgia, the best days for American agriculture, and the best days for America are yet to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.) God bless you. God bless Georgia. And God bless the United States of America. It’s an honor to be with you all.