President Donald Trump's agriculture secretary flopped hard when he tried to warm up an audience of angry farmers in Minnesota.
Sonny Perdue met earlier this month with farmers at the annual Farmfest in Redwood Falls, where he tried to cut the tension with a joke toward the end of a contentious town hall meeting, reported the New York Times.
“What do you call two farmers in a basement?” Perdue said. “A whine cellar.”
According to the Times, "a cascade of boos ricocheted around the room."
American farmers have been hit hard by the president's trade war with China, as buyers in the massive Asian market have looked to Brazil and Canada for soybeans, pork, wheat and other agricultural products.
Farm bankruptcy filings have jumped 13 percent since last year, and loan delinquency rates are rising, according to the American Farm Bureau.
That presents a political problem for Trump as he seeks re-election.
Farmers have largely stuck by the president, who has promised his trade war will hand American agriculture a long-term win, but their patience is beginning to wear thin.
“We’re not starting to do great again,” Brian Thalmann, the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, told Perdue at Farmfest. “Things are going downhill and downhill quickly.”
Thalman publicly abandoned the president Monday, after Trump escalated his trade war over the weekend.
“At some point we have to quit playing games and get back to the table and figure this out,” he told the Times. “There’s no certainty to any of this.”
Perdue, a one-time Democrat and former Georgia governor who worked to strengthen his state's business ties to China, has gained a reputation as a "Trump whisperer" as agriculture secretary.
He has won over the president and other conservatives by proposing massive cuts to food stamps, which would be replaced in part by "harvest boxes" selected by the government, and chasing away nearly 400 researchers from the Agriculture Department by relocating part of his agency to Kansas City.
“It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” said Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. “I know that because a lot of them work for me and I’ve tried and you can’t do it.”
But farmers in southern Minnesota weren't as impressed by Perdue.
“We shouldn’t have to whine to get paid,” said Joel Schreurs, a farmer from Tyler. “They should be grateful that we’re taking one for the team.”