TrumpStateofUnion Chip Somodevilla/GettyImages
President Donald J. Trump delivers the State of the Union address as Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) look on in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018, in Washington, DC.

Farm group leaders respond to Trump's first State of the Union

Farm groups united in urging Trump to negotiate new trade deals.

President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address on Jan. 30. Trump focused on the economy, infrastructure, immigration, trade and national security.

“Small business confidence is at an all-time high,” Trump said. “The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.” 

“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve,” Trump said. “Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.” 

Trump presented four pillars of an immigration plan: A path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were children, securing the border, implementing a merit-based immigration system and ending “chain migration.” 

“America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our nation’s wealth,” Trump said. “The era of economic surrender is over. From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal. We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones and we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules.”

Many in the agricultural policy community weighed in with their responses:

From Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

“President Trump’s unifying address to the nation recounted this administration’s impressive achievements in its first year, which have strengthened the economy for all Americans, including those who do the important work in the agriculture sector. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is already helping workers and will allow agricultural producers to invest more in their operations and their own families. President Trump’s optimistic vision for the nation includes massive investment in infrastructure, which will be a boon to a rural America that sorely needs such improvements. The President's emphasis on fair trade gives me confidence that he will strike deals that benefit all parts of the American economy. Additionally, his focus on eliminating burdensome regulations is freeing up agricultural producers and removing obstacles to productivity. This is a President who has rural America and agriculture close to his heart, as his words and deeds clearly demonstrate.”

Tax cuts

“The president mentioned tax cuts, and many farm and ranch families will benefit from lower tax rates,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “Farming is a capital-intensive business and during this prolonged period of economic challenge across farm and ranch country, we applaud the president’s leadership and all the hard work by Congress that went into our new tax law.” 

Regulatory reform

“It was refreshing to hear his continued pledge to make Washington accountable,” Duvall said. “The cost of complying with regulations takes a bite directly out of the already slim profit margins our farmers and ranchers are facing today. While much has already been done, there is still more work to do.” 

Trade

“Our farmers and ranchers must have new market opportunities and as a businessman President Trump understands that,” Duvall said. “As he works to reframe our trade agreements as fair and reciprocal, he goes in with the understanding that we need a trade agenda that secures greater access to ag export markets. That’s important as our farmers prepare to plant their crops for 2018. American agriculture is a bright light in our overall balance of trade and with solid trade policies in place, we will continue down that path.”

"As we consider our place in the world stage, let's make sure that we preserve smart trade deals that keep American wheat producers in a strong position,” said National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Chandler Goule. “This includes remaining in NAFTA and moving ahead with bi-lateral trade agreements. We appreciate the president continuing to talk about the need to enforce our trade deals and commend the administration’s work to ensure countries like China are living up to its commitments on wheat trade.”

“We urge the president to follow through on his promise to negotiate new trade deals,” said Richard Guebert Jr., president, Illinois Farm Bureau. “Farmers have endured five years of declining net income. Their livelihood depends on expanded access to foreign markets. Forty percent of corn grown in Illinois is exported to NAFTA trading partners. American agriculture enjoys a trade balance of more than $6 billion under NAFTA. It is imperative that we maintain and grow the agreement.”

“The President, rightly so, spoke to how our past trade agreements disadvantage the working class, family farmers and their communities,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “These agreements operate under a failed framework that the president can begin to fix by replacing NAFTA with an agreement that addresses our massive trade deficit and lost sovereignty. Unfortunately, President Trump has gone about this in a fashion that isn’t conducive to positive relations with our trading partners. The administration must produce a better NAFTA and avoid massive market disruption through a NAFTA withdrawal.” 

Infrastructure

“With the more-than-$1 trillion infrastructure development package he announced tonight, it is our expectation that rural communities will be partners in what he described as a New American Moment. Infrastructure upgrades tied to our rural communities will help pave the way for economic renewal that is so badly needed,” Duvall said. 

“Illinois Farm Bureau applauds the president’s call for rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure,” Guebert said. “Farmers depend on well-maintained roads, railways and waterways to move their products throughout the U.S. and to markets outside the country.”

“While AED commends President Trump for continuing to focus on infrastructure investment, the time is long overdue for words to become action,” said Brian P McGuire, president and CEO of Associated Equipment Distributors. “Our infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy. It impacts our quality of life, the competitiveness of our businesses and the safety and security of our country. Our leaders in Washington can no longer forsake their responsibility to invest in the nation’s infrastructure in a long-term, sustainable manner.”

 “There is clearly a growing need for significant federal investment in our nation’s roads, rails, broadband, locks and dams,” Johnson said. “We urge the administration and Congress to move swiftly in developing the promised comprehensive infrastructure package.” 

ASA President John Heisdorffer, a soybean farmer from Keota, Iowa, stated that “the President’s commitment to work with Congress to fashion an initiative that will generate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments to upgrade roads, bridges, highways, railways, waterways and broadband addresses a priority that is long overdue.”

Immigration

“The bold package of immigration reform measures he put on the table tonight should prime the pump for overdue action, and we encourage Congress to take action in a timely manner,” Duvall said. “While we must do more to secure our borders, the fact remains that our farmers and ranchers need access to agriculture labor they can depend on. Agriculture must be part of President Trump’s proposal for merit-based immigration. We will work with the administration and Congress to ensure we get the job done.” 

Source: White House, AFBF, NAWG, Illinois Farm Bureau, NFU, AED, USDA

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