Ag Policy Blog

Just Another Day Following President Trump

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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I was waist deep in tax policy and the proposed White House tax cuts Wednesday afternoon when the rest of the day and evening became all about NAFTA.

Or I could have spent my day studying what the White House was doing with the Antiquities Act.

Day 97 of The Trump administration, also known as Wednesday.

It's a non-stop barrage of trial balloons floated up to see how the wind is blowing.

Some balloons come down quickly. That was the case Wednesday with NAFTA. Politico first reported at 10:30 Central AM that the White House was preparing an executive order to withdraw from the trade pact that will be unveiled late this week or early next week. CNN followed up with a similar report.

But I'm just going to tweet that NAFTA stuff because we've heard it all before. I figure as long as he's not railing about Wisconsin dairy cattle, I'm safe.

And I'm trying to watch Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House advisor Gary Cohn explain these how these tax cuts of $3 trillion to $7 trillion would not increase the annual budget deficit. The White House also released its multi-trillion tax cut explainer in a single sheet of paper that I was able to track down.

The executive order on the Antiquities Act. Yeah, I don't have time for that one.

Then at 3:01 p.m., the email inbox starts filling up. The U.S. Grains Council, National Pork Producers Council, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association. I'm missing somebody here. They are using terms like "alarmed," "shocked" and "disaster."

The farm lobbies had gotten together sometime between the lunch hour and mid-afternoon to talk about the NAFTA thing. To quote The Big Lebowski, the farm groups concluded, "This aggression will not stand, man!"

I gotta take a time out to run home. There are kid things to deal with. One was coming home from a Battle of the Books halfway across Iowa and another is becoming a cheerleader. They need to be picked up and all that normal stuff.

Jerry Hagstrom, our political correspondent in D.C., backs me up on this grounder. He has a couple of NAFTA pieces. Staff reporter Todd Neeley reached out to a White House spokesperson and got a vague response. I start blending them into a story, and by 7:45 p.m., I've filed an updated item in this space and prepared it for a Top Story spot.

"The White House is looking to pull out of NAFTA and ag groups are incensed over it."

The day now settles down, even though I haven't gotten to my tax piece. I'm a little dismayed because the only NBA game on is Celtics-Bulls and I'm not that interested in either one of those teams. On Netflix, I start watching "Hell on Wheels." Not a bad show if you are into westerns like I am.

Then I made the mistake of looking at my phone. 9:33 p.m., comes an email from the White House. I get so many emails from the White House that I kind of tune them out after awhile, but I open this one. "Read out of President Donald Trump's call with President Pena Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. One hundred and ten nuanced words in which the White House says President Trump had "pleasant and productive" conversations with his North American counterparts. The president agreed not to terminate NAFTA, but move ahead to renegotiate it.

Take Two: Reopen the article, and rework the top of it. One more trial balloon floated, deflated and re-aired.

DTN Assistant Managing Editor Elaine Shein posts an updated top story around 11:20 p.m. -- twelve hours after the White House made its original threat.

I roll into my office this morning at 5:30 a.m., (my daughter's old bedroom-- yes, the walls are still pink). National Public Radio is leading with the threat of the NAFTA pull out eased with talks of renegotiation by the three national leaders.

President Trump tweeted out at around 6:10 a.m., "I received calls from the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada asking to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate. I agreed.."

Ten minutes later, he tweeted "...subject to the fact that if we do not reach a fair deal for all, we will then terminate NAFTA. Relationships are good-deal very possible!"

I need some coffee. Day 98 is just starting.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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