by Enrico Villamaino
For the second time in as many years, President Donald J. Trump addressed the annual gathering of the nation’s largest farm group, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). This year, the event took place in New Orleans, LA, from Jan. 11 – 16.
It was fitting, Trump noted, for New Orleans to host this event, as it was in New Orleans that the Louisiana Purchase was negotiated, which doubled the size of the United States and made it “the greatest farm country on God’s earth.”
Wasting no time, Trump urged the crowd filling the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to take their seats. The crowd of over 7,000 ranchers and farmers were largely supportive and receptive to the president, rising to their feet numerous times throughout his nearly hour long speech.
The issue of border security, the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the resultant government shutdown were at the forefront of the minds of those at the convention. It was the issue that Trump addressed first.
“We’re going to have a barrier. We’re going to have something that’s going to be very strong,” said Trump. “In December, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought across our borders.”
Trump went on to state that “most of the drugs” in the United States enter the country across the southern border. Trump pledged to provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents with the tools necessary to do their jobs, including a border wall.
Despite many federal employees going unpaid as a result of the governmental shutdown, Trump insisted many of those same federal employees supported his actions. “Many people that aren’t getting payment, that aren’t being paid, have let us know in the strongest of terms, a big amount, they said, ‘Sir, what you’re doing is of paramount importance. Do the job right. We are with you 100 percent… As president, the defense of our nation is my highest and most important duty, and this is the defense of our nation.”
Trump then called Jim Chilton, a rancher whose property is on the U.S.-Mexico border, up to the stage to speak to the crowd. Chilton’s 50,000-acre Arizona ranch is situated across the route often used by a Mexican drug trafficking cartel. His property has been damaged and his livestock have been injured repeatedly by those crossing the border illegally.
“Mr. President, we need a wall,” said Chilton as the crowd got to its feet. Addressing congressional leaders who have deemed a wall “immoral,” Chilton said, “Walls are not immoral. The biggest wall I’ve ever seen is around the Vatican. They have a wall. Why can’t we?”
The AFBF has taken no official position on the border wall issue.
Moving on to trade concerns and how they affect American farmers, President Trump briefly touched upon a possible trade deal with the European Union, the trade war with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been in force since 1994 and which the president called “one of the worst trade deals ever made by a country.”
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen a continual decline in the U.S. share of agricultural trade all throughout the world. You know it’s all going in the wrong direction when you see that happen.” Trump said achieving the right deal with China will lead American farmers to see “massive improvements.”
“We want a fair deal for American farmers, removing China’s arbitrary bans on agricultural imports … and providing fair market access to all American producers,” he said. Specifically, Trump explained that China will be increasing the amount of soybeans and beef it purchases from American farmers.
Trump also praised initiatives to open markets for exporting pork to Argentina, poultry to India and Morocco, potatoes to Japan and beef to Brazil.
The president then listed the accomplishments his administration has accomplished for farmers and ranchers in the first half of his term, including doubling the Child Tax Credit and eliminating a record number of “job-killing regulations.”
“We’re going to keep federal regulators out of your tanks, your stock tanks, your drainage ditches, your puddles and your ponds,” said Trump. “We’re going to get government off your back so you can continue living and supporting your families doing what you love.”
Another step taken by the Trump Administration to help keep family farms in the family was the passage of the recent tax bill, which “virtually eliminated the estate tax, also known as the death tax … We got rid of it, folks.”
Trump said he was very proud to sign the farm bill into law in December 2018: “We got it done. That wasn’t easy either.” He touted that it delivers vital programs for farmers like crop insurance and increases the loan amounts farmers can borrow as well as secures the $600 million commitment to build and modernize an effective rural broadband system.
He closed out his speech by saying America was “founded, settled and built by farmers … You believe in hard work and self-reliance. You follow the rules and obey our laws and respect our great American plan … Now, you have a government that is loyal to you, finally, in return.”
For more information of the AFBF, visit www.fb.org.