President Trump, warmly embracing American agriculture in an appearance before the American Farm Bureau Federation, called for passing a new farm bill on time this year, expressed his support for crop insurance and warned that his achievements on tax and regulatory policy were at risk if Democrats get control of Congress.
In a well-received speech that drew five standing ovations, Trump also sought to reassure farmers nervous about his renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, telling the Nashville audience of 4,500 people that he was “working very hard to get a better deal for our country, our farmers and our manufacturers.” He stopped short of pledging not to pull the United States out of NAFTA.
With an eye toward the mid-term congressional elections in November, Trump warned that Democrats would seek to reverse the newly enacted tax cuts and the reduction in regulations that his administration was carrying out.
“If the Democrats got their way, they would reinstate every single regulation that we're cutting, and add many more burdensome rules that don't do anything but hamstring our economy and burden our people and our farmers," Trump said.
And every Democrat in Congress, Trump noted, “voted against tax cuts for the American farmer and the American worker.”
It was the first time a president had spoken at the annual convention of the nation’s largest farm organization since George H.W. Bush appeared in 1992, and Trump peppered his speech with praise for farmers. “We know that our nation was founded by farmers,” he said. “Our independence was won by farmers. Our continent was tamed by farmers. So true. Our armies have been fed by farmers and made of farmers. And throughout our history, farmers have always, always, always led the way.”
Trump's main focus was on promoting his success on tax cuts and regulatory reform as well as rolling out the recommendations from his administration’s task force on rural prosperity. The task force report, released Monday, makes recommendations for promoting broadband deployment, improving the workforce and addressing other rural needs.
After the speech, flanked by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, several Tennessee lawmakers and Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, Trump signed two executive orders intended to help expand rural broadband.
One order tells federal agencies to “seek to reduce barriers to capital investment, remove obstacles to broadband services.” The second order requires the Interior Department to make towers and other infrastructure on federal lands available for broadband deployment.
The president’s best-received messages came on longstanding issues for farmers and AFBF.
Trump drew the first of his standing ovations when he pointed out that the tax bill doubled the estate tax exemption “so you can keep your farm in your family.” Enjoying the applause Trump went on, “Obviously, you love your families; otherwise, you wouldn't be standing for that one. Not going to help you much; going to help them a lot."
He also got standing ovations when he talked about his administration’s ongoing effort to replace the Obama-era “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and when he called for passing a new farm bill "on time so it delivers for all of you.
"I support a bill that includes crop insurance. Unless you don’t want me too,” he added, playfully.
The farm bill reference reflected in part the influence of Roberts, who flew to Nashville on Air Force One and also pressed him on the issue during a meeting with five GOP senators last week.
“President Trump has listened to my concerns on numerous occasions, as evidenced by today’s speech, and those concerns have certainly not fallen on deaf ears,” said Roberts, R-Kan.
Trump didn’t mention that his 2017 budget had proposed $29 billion in cuts to crop insurance over 10 years.
Trump drew chants of “USA, USA, USA” as well as a standing ovation when he departed from his policy points to make reference to the controversy over professional football players and the national anthem. Trump has repeatedly attacked players who knelt during the anthem to draw attention to racial issues.