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U.S. Ag secretary visits Duplin County to assure workers of future with new trade deal

On Monday, Agriculture Sec. Sonny Purdue visited the Duplin County Butterball plant to see what it does and the impact it makes on the local economy. (Christina Thompson, NewsChannel 12 photo)

Duplin County is home to the largest turkey processing plant in the world. A major trade deal could impact the future of that company and the county.

Butterball's turkey processing plant employees close to 3,000 employees, making the plant the largest employer in Duplin County. On Monday, Agriculture Sec. Sonny Purdue visited the plant to see what it does and the impact it makes on the local economy.

President Donald Trump wants to replace NAFTA with a new trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico called the USMCA. Al Jansen, Executive Vice President of Sales for Butterball, said if the deal should fall through, it could hurt the plant and the local economy.

"Probably over 3,000 associates in all different areas of the company. Plus we have 341 farmers that grow turkeys for us," Jansen said. "It's a big part of ENC agriculture so it's great to have the secretary of agriculture here.

"There's a lot invested here in eastern North Carolina agriculture. To keep these plants going is to keep the economy going."

Congress hasn't voted on the proposed new trade deal. Purdue said it's important to get the deal passed to keep the progress going here and for other businesses across the U.S.

"We don't want to lose those opportunities," Purdue said. "You lose your market and you lose your business."

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