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Online extra: Trump outlines administration’s work on agriculture

Issue Date: January 22, 2020
By Dave Kranz
President Trump speaks during the 101st American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.

Saying he had kept his promise to do everything at his disposal "to protect the American farmer and restore the full strength of American agriculture," President Donald Trump described actions his administration has taken on trade, regulatory reform and other fronts on behalf of farmers and ranchers.

Trump spoke Sunday to the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Austin, Texas—the third year in a row the president has spoken to the nation's largest farm organization. He also pledged to return to next year's AFBF convention, which will be held in San Diego.

The president opened by focusing on two trade agreements finalized in the days before his AFBF speech: a Phase 1 agreement with China and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (see story).

Describing the China agreement as a "landmark," Trump said China will now purchase $40-50 billion in American agricultural products annually, tripling U.S. farm exports to the nation. He said the agreement resulted from "two years of hard-fought negotiations," and thanked farmers for their patience as China imposed retaliatory tariffs on most agricultural goods it imported from the U.S.

The day after the U.S. and China announced their Phase 1 agreement, the U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which will replace the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

"The USMCA, as we call it, will massively boost exports for farmers, ranchers, growers and agricultural producers from north to south, and from sea to shining sea," Trump said, adding that he plans to sign the agreement soon. 

California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson, who was in the audience for Trump's speech, said the president's remarks provided indications that "we can now move forward on trade."

"All we need for successful trade of our agricultural products is a stable, predictable market. The last two years have been anything but, and we're now looking forward to that stability being brought back," Johansson said.

During his speech, Trump referred to administration actions to improve agricultural exports to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil and other nations, but warned his audience of ongoing trade disagreements with the European Union.

"I was saying to (Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue) and some of the people before, 'Dealing with Europe, in many ways, has been worse and tougher than dealing with China,'" Trump said.

Johansson, noting that the EU represents the No. 1 export customer for California agricultural goods, said the president's statement shows "we still have another hill to climb when it comes to the European Union." But he said he thought farmers who listened to the president's speech left feeling positive.

"He was very optimistic for us," Johansson said of President Trump, "but certainly people in the room were optimistic of better times ahead for agriculture."

For one thing, Johansson said, the Trump administration has focused on regulatory reform throughout the government, including recent work to update regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

Johansson said the regulatory reform would, for example, "directly benefit" ranchers who hold federal grazing permits, and that removing barriers to efficient livestock grazing would also assist in wildfire prevention in California and the West.

Trump reminded farmers of his administration's work to rewrite the Obama-era "waters of the United States" rule that would have expanded federal regulation of agricultural land.

"As long as I'm president, government will never micromanage America's farmers," Trump said to applause from his audience. 

The president said he had also directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite a water supply rule proposed under the previous administration, which he said would give the federal government "vast and unlimited power to restrict farmers' access to water." Withdrawing the rule, Trump said, would allow states to manage water resources "based on their own needs and based on what their farmers and ranchers want."

"Water is the lifeblood of agriculture, and we will always protect your water supply," he said. 

Trump spoke briefly about immigration policy, including his administration's work on a southern border wall, but added the administration welcomes people to come into the country, "through merit."

"We want them to come in legally, and we want them to come so they can help the farmer," he said.

In a talk to the AFBF convention the day after Trump's speech, Agriculture Secretary Perdue said the administration "has been working on a renewed, refreshed agricultural immigration program," but offered no details.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, legislation supported by CFBF that would improve agricultural visa programs and accommodate immigrant agricultural employees already in the United States, while enhancing border security.

Johansson said the Trump administration hasn't yet weighed in on the specific provisions in the bill, but said he appreciated the president's remarks.

"We're always encouraged when he recognizes that labor is a priority for agriculture, and that it needs to be plentiful and available and easy to use," Johansson said, adding that past proposals to reform agricultural immigration laws "haven't been easy to use and advantageous to our farmers."

(Dave Kranz is editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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