OMAHA (DTN) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday afternoon at the White House to help create regulatory reform for farmers as he also continued his criticisms of Canadian dairy and trade practices at a roundtable with farmers and newly sworn-in Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Transcripts from the White House and the press pool quoted the president saying he wants to "make life better" for farmers, ranchers and other workers by getting rid of regulations. As he walked into the room, Trump said, "Great farmers! We love our farmers." The president also noted, "America's noble farming tradition."
Trump also spoke about dairy farmers in Wisconsin and elsewhere and talked about Canada's influence on the dairy industry. He said dairy farmers in Wisconsin, New York and other states are not able to sell their milk into Canada. "This has been going on for a while, and we're not going to put up with it," Trump said.
Trump has kept his attention on Canada since returning from a trip to Wisconsin last week. Still, overall, U.S. dairy exports were at a 21-month high in February, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Dairy exports also are up 14% since last June. Sales are up 13% to Mexico and 14% to Southeast Asia, but showed zero growth to Canada.
Fluid and cream exports were up just 2% in February because Canada imported just under 687,000 gallons, compared to an average of 1.8 million gallons a month over the last quarter of 2016, the Dairy Export Council stated.
The Department of Commerce imposed punitive tariffs Monday on Canada over soft-wood lumber. Trump said in the meeting with farmers, "People don't realize Canada has been very rough on the United States. Everyone thinks of Canada as being wonderful, and so do I. I love Canada. But they've outsmarted our politicians for many years, and you people understand that."
He added, "We don't want to be taken advantage of by other countries and that's stopping and that's stopping fast."
Trump was asked whether he fears a trade war with Canada. The president said, "No. They have a tremendous surplus with the United States. Whenever they have a surplus, I have no fear. By the way, virtually every country has a surplus with the United States. We have massive trade deficits. So when we're the country with the deficits, we have no fear."
According to U.S. trade data, Canada had a $12.1 billion trade surplus with the U.S. last year. The U.S. exported nearly $266 billion to Canada while importing just over $278 billion in goods.
The trade deficit with Canada has drawn the president's ire in recent weeks even though 15 other countries have higher trade surpluses with the U.S. than Canada, led by China, which has a $347 billion trade surplus with the U.S.
Regarding the executive order, the president said, "Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much. And that's what today's executive order is all about."
The executive order creates the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. Trump said the executive order directs Agriculture Secretary Perdue to work with other members of the cabinet to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that hurt farmers and rural communities.
The roundtable was just one of several events for Perdue after he was sworn in on Tuesday.
"The people who are on the front lines of American agriculture don't have the luxury of waiting to tend to their crops and livestock, so there was no better time to convene this meeting of the minds than on my first day," Perdue said. "President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side."
The full executive order can be seen at https://www.whitehouse.gov/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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