“We did it! We did it!” With those words, President Donald Trump launched into an hour-long recap of legislative wins for agriculture in a speech Sunday to delegates at the American Farm Bureau Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
There is much to celebrate. Trump made the trip to Texas on the heels of two big trade wins: the signing of a Phase 1 trade deal with China and congressional approval of the U.S. Canada Mexico Agreement (USMCA).
It is rare to have a president speak at the Farm Bureau Convention. Trump has made a point to appear before this key constituency each of his three years in office. On Sunday, the president vowed to return a fourth time in 2021 drawing a roar from the audience. That Farm Bureau audience appears ready to place Trump in position to return after November’s election, a sentiment that drew the president into a relaxed and familiar conversation with the nearly 6 thousand delegates in attendance.
“Look at this. Farmer approval of Trump hits record, a poll shows 83% of the farmers and ranchers approve of the President's job performance,” Trump said noting the latest Farm Journal Pulse Poll released Sunday. “That’s pretty good, right?”
“We are winning for our farmers, and we are winning like never before,” Trump noted.
“The deal with China will tear down market barriers and pry open vast new markets for American beef, pork, poultry, seafood, soybeans, rice, dairy, infant formula, animal feed, biotechnology, and much, much more,” he said “This is an incredible success for our entire country. And it was your fortitude, your perseverance and your devotion. That made it all possible.”
In the speech the president confirmed that round three of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments will go out shortly. The payments are designed to offset some of the market losses from the trade war with China.
The MFP announcement was praised by Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap.
“We haven’t seen any jump in the markets, we still have got some low prices, many below the cost of production,” Paap said noting how needed the third round payments are for farmers in his state.
Those trade wins are bringing new optimism for farmers like David Fisher of Madrid, New York.
“I think 2020-2021 has some opportunities,” Fisher said after the speech. “It depends on a lot of other factors, but anything that clears product from the market at competitive prices is good for farmers.”
It was expected that President Trump would unveil a new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule in his Farm Bureau speech. The topic came up late in the speech with the president saying of the Obama-era WOTUS rule, “This rule gave bureaucrats virtually unlimited authority to regulate stuck tanks, drainage ditches and isolated ponds, as navigable waterways and navigable water.”
The president did not unveil the anticipated new definition of waters regulated by the Clean Water Act, but indicated that a new rule is coming soon.
“As long as I'm President, government will never micromanage America's farmers,” he said.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was scheduled to speak to the Farm Bureau audience, but his appearance was cancelled over the weekend leading to speculation that the draft WOTUS rule has run into a temporary snag.
While nearly all of the policy boasts by the president were met with thunderous applause, there was notable silence after Trump detailed his action on ethanol, including clearing the regulator path for year-round sales of E15. He did not address the lingering fight over small refinery exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).
“It’s really about the small refinery exemptions, the waivers,” Paap said. “Fifteen billion gallons (required ethanol blending under the RFS) is what farmers invested in. That’s what we built plants on. I would’ve really liked to have heard the president say ’15 billion gallons means 15 billion gallons.’”
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is slated to speak at the Convention on Monday.
Watch President Donald Trump’s full speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in the player below.