Farm-state senators and former senators praised President Donald Trump for his speech Monday to the American Farm Bureau Federation, but they also called on farmers and others to keep pressuring the Trump administration on trade policies, especially in regards to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In his 30-minute speech to farmers on Monday, the president spoke just briefly about trade talks. Trump told farmers on trade he was going to make sure it is fair for them again.
"To level the playing field for our great American exporters -- our farmers and ranchers, as well as our manufacturers -- we are reviewing all of our trade agreements to make sure they are fair and reciprocal -- reciprocal, so important," Trump said.
The president added, "On NAFTA, I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers. It's under negotiation as we speak. But think of it: When Mexico is making all of that money, when Canada is making all of that money, it's not the easiest negotiation. But we're going to make it fair for you people again."
In a statement after the speech, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, praised Trump for his work on regulatory relief, taxes and keeping his word on the Renewable Fuel Standard in his first year in office. But Grassley also called on Trump to defend trade for rural America.
“President Trump has done a great deal of good for the American farmer in his first year in office," Grassley said. "As the Administration continues to renegotiate NAFTA, I expect President Trump to keep the pledge he made today to make trade deals that don’t harm agriculture, including value-added agriculture and manufacturing. That will be a major test of his presidency’s impact on rural America going forward. Every third row of soybeans grown in Iowa is exported. More than a quarter of tractors made by John Deere are sold in foreign markets. The livelihood of farmers across the nation depends on access to markets abroad, and I’m working to make sure the value of exports to farmers in Iowa and throughout the nation is well understood as NAFTA is renegotiated.”
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., spoke at the AFBF annual meeting over the weekend about the farm bill. Moran pointed to the focus at the conference on NAFTA and trade. He urged farmers to keep stressing to the Trump administration the importance of NAFTA for agriculture.
“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers earn their living through ag exports and trade, and I will continue to insist that the administration remain mindful of the role agricultural trade plays in our economy," Moran said. "I urge conference attendees and farm bureau leaders to convey this message to President Trump and Secretary Perdue. I am encouraged by the president’s attendance at the conference and his desire to hear from our farmers and ranchers across the country.”
Former Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., co-chairs of the group Farmers for Free Trade, issued a statement stressing that rural economics rely heavily on trade. The former senators also called on the Trump administration not to withdraw from NAFA and proceed with caution before imposing any new tariffs.
“The quickest way to reverse any regulatory or tax benefits targeted toward rural America would be to withdraw from NAFTA," Farmers for Free Trade stated. "NAFTA withdrawal would not only threaten commodity and stock markets, it would create a massive new tax on American agriculture. In Mexico alone, our chicken exports would see a 75% tax, pork would be taxed at 10%, and beef taxes would rise to 25%. Taking withdrawal off the table is the only way to provide American farmers and ranchers with the certainty they deserve."
Farmers for Free Trade also stressed the importance of opening up new markets in Asia, given that the Trump administration walked away from the Trans Pacific Partnership a year ago.
“With TPP left by the wayside, we now have no clear strategy for opening markets in Asia. This puts our farmers and agricultural industries at a disadvantage compared to their global competitors."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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