President Donald Trump played through the greatest hits of his first year in office before a receptive audience at the 99th Annual American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in Nashville: tax reform including the estate tax, regulatory reform including the Waters of the U.S. rule. Then he brought two new pieces for his farm and ranch audience, a pair of executive orders to expand rural broadband access.
Earlier in the afternoon, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue provided the preamble to President Trump’s speech with the release of the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force Report, a joint effort of 22 federal agencies charged with improving the rural economy. The executive orders signed by the President deliver two of the more than 100 recommendations by the task force. Both measures ease the way for cell tower access on federal lands.
President Trump noted he was the first sitting president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to speak before the Farm Bureau, and he riffed on the 99th anniversary of the event noting, “You understand that 100 is so much cooler. So I’ll be back, I think, next year. I’ll come back.”
Over the past year, the President has made repeated threats to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) raising concern from the Farm Bureau membership. President Trump only briefly mentioned the ongoing trade negotiations in his remarks.
“To level the playing field for our great American exporters, our farmers and ranchers as well as our manufacturers, we're reviewing all of our trade agreements to make sure that they are fair and reciprocal,” the President said. “Reciprocal… so important 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,” he explained. “But think of it when Mexico's make it 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. Now we want to see even more victories for the American farmer and for the American rancher.”
Farmers like Nicholas Kenny of Mesa, Arizona welcomed even a short mention of the ongoing NAFTA talks. “He made a step in the right direction to acknowledge that trade is a big issue in agriculture,” he said.
President Trump appealed to the base that supported his White House aspirations. “I used to call them the forgotten men and women,” Trump explained. “And then when everyone saw them coming into the polls the other side said how do we get some of them. They were unbelievable. They are forgotten no more! Remember that you're forgotten no more. We're fighting for our farmers. Thank you. And we're fighting for our country and for our great American flag.”