This evening President Trump will give his first State of The Union address. Typically, presidents take advantage of this time at the Congressional podium to not only celebrate their successes but to preview what they intend to work on in the year ahead. Earlier today, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) told AgriTalk host Chip Flory that what he’s most interested in hearing is whether the president addresses farmers in the speech. Moran says, in his experience, more times than not, rural America is left out of this annual presentation.
“I hope that President Trump talks about rural America and his plan for it to benefit rural America and particularly farming and ranching,” he says.
Topping the priority list for rural Americans are trade and infrastructure. Fortunately, they are both topics the president is expected to address.
Free trade is top of mind for both the Trump administration and farmers as the U.S., Mexico and Canada work on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Sen. Moran says not much has changed since the last time he was on AgriTalk to discuss NAFTA. (You can read what he said here.)
“I don't see any more assurance that the administration won't withdraw from NAFTA,” he told Flory. “I also don't see any more evidence that they're going to; it seems to me that we're in about the same place we were a few weeks ago.”
According to Moran, farm country is looking for a “greater level of reassurance” that the administration will stick to modernizing NAFTA and won’t walk away from the deal.
”We want to hear from the president that he understands the value of NAFTA in particular, and trade generally, to farmers and ranchers,” Moran says. “We'd like to see some reassurance that we're not headed down the path of what could be very damaging to how we earn a living.”
If rural America is the backbone of the nation, the same can be said for rural infrastructure. Without solid infrastructure throughout rural America, farmers and ranchers have a much more difficult time feeding the world.
“I am pleased that this administration has put infrastructure on the top of their list for a long time,” Moran says. “We're very anxious. I just came from the Public Works and Environment Committee that's where a transportation bill would arise.”
Moran is quick to point out that transportation means lots of things not just roads and bridges but waterways, for example, levees and dikes.
“[It’s] how we transport agriculture and manufactured goods in this country and we're anxious. The committee is ready to write an infrastructure bill,” he said. “While the administration [has] put out a broad outline I wouldn't expect the president to give too many details tonight about his infrastructure [plan].
Moran says the largest hurdles an infrastructure overhaul would face are Congressional approval and the president approving the added cost.