American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall kicked off his organization’s annual meeting by showing his adulation for the new political climate in Washington.
Taking the stage at the Farm Bureau convention in Nashville, Duvall rattled off a list of accomplishments in President Donald Trump’s first year on the job, but still called on Congress and the administration to improve the status quo on trade, immigration, and farm policy.
“There’s no question – no question – that the changes with this administration has transformed the opportunity that we have to implement the policies of this great organization,” Duvall said. “President Trump has put a team in place that is getting good things done for farmers and ranchers.”
Duvall rattled off some of the key events in farm policy in the last 12 months: passage of tax reform, reexamination of the Waters of the U.S. rule, a reduction in the size of some monument designations, and a comprehensive regulatory reform effort. The Farm Bureau leader made no bones about where the organization stands, calling the new atmosphere in Washington a “breath of fresh air.”
Speaking to reporters after his remarks, Duvall called the present situation the “right timing for the right people that have been put in place” to help Farm Bureau members “make sure that we shape agricultural policy.” He also noted that Trump administration appointees “have allowed us to have a seat at the table.”
Trump is scheduled to speak at the convention on Monday, where he will deliver remarks to a room full of members that love some of his policies and are concerned about the prospects of some others. If Trump talks about the administration’s efforts on regulatory reform or the Republican-led tax reform push, he’ll likely receive a warm welcome. But his trade and immigration policies are in many ways counter to the goals of AFBF, which has long pushed for expanded markets for ag products internationally and a reliable workforce domestically.
Asked what he plans to tell Trump in the event that the two have a conversation, Duvall said trade and immigration – which he called the top issue facing American agriculture – would be at the top of the list. On trade, Duvall said he hopes to see Trump offer reassurance that keeping the North American Free Trade Agreement continues to be a priority despite Trump’s threats to withdraw from the deal.
“I’m going to make sure that I tell him that everybody in the room is a little nervous about trade, and if he can share a word or two to give them something to hang on and have some confidence in what we’re doing,” Duvall told reporters. “None of us really know what’s going on behind closed doors where we’re negotiating.”
Duvall noted that Trump had told him the new NAFTA would be an improvement on the current deal, and “I intend to take this president at his word, but we as an organization … intend to work with him and his team to make good on that promise.”
Duvall said he also planned to thank Trump for his roster of appointees, express his gratitude for the tax reform efforts, and “if I have enough time to get to the farm bill, I will discuss the importance of the farm bill.”