by Tyler Hale
President Donald Trump is scheduled to address American Farm Bureau members during the organization’s annual meeting on Sunday. This will be the third consecutive year that Trump has spoken at the meeting, which will be held in Austin.
The AFBF speech is shaping up to be a victory lap for the Trump administration. By the time Trump addresses the AFBF crowd, he is expected to have signed a limited Phase I trade agreement with China and potentially secured final congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Under the Phase I trade agreement, China is committing to purchasing an increased number of “U.S. manufactured goods, food, agricultural and seafood products, energy products and services” amounting to “no less than $200 billion” over the course of two years,” according to documents from the U.S. Trade Representative. China is also agreeing to end its practice of “forcing or pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies…”
The Phase I deal will likely be well-received at the AFBF meeting because of its strong focus on agriculture. According to a U.S. Trade Representative fact sheet, the trade deal will address a range of trade barriers that will “support a dramatic expansion of U.S. food, agriculture and seafood product exports” and address other “non-tariff barriers” to U.S. agricultural products.
U.S. farmers have been heavily impacted by the ongoing trade war with China, which represents the largest export market for U.S. agricultural products. According to the Department of Agriculture, 17 percent of U.S. agricultural exports, amounting to $23.8 billion, went to China in 2017. Of those exports, soybeans were China’s top purchase from U.S. farmers.
Trump rolled out a $16 billion aid package to help farmers affected by the trade war in May 2019. In 2018, Trump issued an aid package of $12 billion. According to figures from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Arkansas farmers received more than $318 million in the first two rounds of Market Facilitation Program Payments in 2019.
Signing the trade agreement and receiving approval on the USMCA pact would vindicate Trump, who discussed both issues in last year’s AFBF meeting. During the 2019 meeting, Trump said that he aimed to replace “one-sided, unfair trade deals” with China and other nations.
“We are replacing one-sided, unfair trade deals. We have so many nations — it’s a one-sided deal. With China, every year, for many years, we’re losing $375 billion — not million, billion dollars. We’re working on that very strongly. You see what’s going on. We’re doing very well,” he said. “We have the European Union — they don’t treat us right. They treat our farmers terribly. You can hardly sell into the — they have barriers and they have tariffs that are massive. But with the farmers, they don’t want your product. We’re working with them; they have to treat us fairly. We’re losing $151 billion a year with the European Union.”
“We want a fair deal for American farmers — removing China’s arbitrary bans on agricultural imports, safeguarding our intellectual property, and providing fair market access to all American producers. We have also made history by finalizing an agreement to replace the horrible NAFTA with a brand new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, called the “USMCA.” A whole different world. A whole different world. NAFTA was one of the worst trade deals ever made by a country. It killed our country.”
AFBF President Zippy Duvall issued a statement, thanking Trump for his focus on agricultural issues.
“The American Farm Bureau is honored President Trump will return for a third consecutive year to speak with farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to produce the quality food and fiber our country needs,” Duvall said. “We are grateful that he has made agricultural issues a priority and look forward to welcoming him to Austin at a time when there is much to talk about, from trade progress to important regulatory reforms.”
Several key administration officials are expected to join Trump at the convention. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler are slated to speak during the convention.
The 101st AFBF convention will be held Sunday, Jan. 19, in Austin, Texas.