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As China Trade Conflict Persists, President Trump Addresses Farm Bureau Members

As he did last January in Nashville, President Donald Trump addressed the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention in New Orleans on Monday.  Today’s update highlights news reports surrounding the President’s appearance at the convention.

Wall Street Journal writers Bob Davis and Alex Leary reported today that, “President Trump on Monday said that China is feeling the pain from U.S. tariffs, boding well for a trade deal, but talks so far between the two nations haven’t yielded concrete results.

“‘We’re doing very well with China. They’re having a hard time with their economy because of the tariffs,’ Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for a speech in New Orleans, where he was scheduled to address the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“‘We are getting things that before I became president, you would have had no chance of getting,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘I think we’re going to be able to do a deal with China.'”

Nonetheless, the Journal writers explained that,

After three days of talks last week in Beijing, the two sides are still far from making a deal, say people on both sides of the Pacific briefed on the talks.

Monday’s Journal article added that, “On agricultural purchases, for instance, the two sides discussed the tariffs, regulations, licenses and other barriers imposed by China that sharply limit rice and corn purchases. On subsidies, negotiators looked at the role that China’s state-owned companies play.

Beijing didn’t make any firm commitments, said the people briefed on the discussions. Beijing agreed on the need to enforce any deal, for example, but didn’t pledge specific ways to carry out such enforcement.”

Reuters writers PJ Huffstutter and Steve Holland reported today that, “U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday defended his tough trade policies in front of thousands of farmers, a key constituency that has struggled because of his trade war with China, and promised fair trade deals that will put America’s rural heartland back on its feet.

‘We’ve taken the toughest ever actions to address China’s unfair trade practices,’ Trump told farmers in New Orleans at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention, an event he attended for the second year in a row as a partial government shutdown in Washington dragged into its 24th day.

The Reuters article added that, “Trump fell short of addressing the delays caused in aid payments by the shutdown but praised how farmers remained loyal to him. ‘No one understands more than our farmers that the tough choices we make today will reap rewards down the road.'”

President Donald Trump speaking on Monday to the the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans.

And Bloomberg writers Mario Parker, Jeremy Hill, and Shruti Singh reported today that, “Speaking before the American Farm Bureau in New Orleans Monday, Trump drew applause and cheers as he lobbied for a border wall, while telling the audience that he’ll make it ‘easier’ for migrants to work on farms. He also touted his administration’s approval of year-round sales of gasoline with higher ethanol content and said he’s making deals and regulatory changes that will benefit agriculture.”

But the Bloomberg writers pointed out that, “The biggest issue for farmers, though, is the trade war with China, [Aron Carlson, who grows corn and soy on 3,600 acres in northern Illinois] and other growers agreed. The Asian country is a powerhouse player in the agriculture world as it buys huge amounts of soybeans and other crops.”

“Farmers Are Playing the Long Game With Trump, Even as Woes Build Up,” by Mario Parker, Jeremy Hill, and Shruti Singh. Bloomberg News (January 14, 2019).

Also today, New York Times writer Alan Rappeport reported that, “President Trump, seeking to shore up his base of support in rural America, promised farmers on Monday that ‘the greatest harvest is yet to come’ and insisted that the pain they are experiencing from his economic policies would ultimately make them better off.

“In a speech to the American Farm Bureau at its annual convention in New Orleans, Mr. Trump asked farmers to be patient as he tries to rewrite trade agreements with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico and as he does battle with congressional Democrats over immigration.”

The Times article explained that, “In a stemwinder that touched on immigration policy, media criticism and the importance of standing for the national anthem at football games, Mr. Trump told farmers that the benefits of trade deals that have not been finalized were already being realized.

In reality, the president’s trade agenda remains in flux, and he has yet to secure pivotal trade agreements with Europe, Japan, China and other countries that could determine whether he is able to keep his pledge to enrich the United States’ agricultural workers by cutting better deals.”

In addition, Washington Post writers Annie Gowen and David Nakamura reported today that, “…Earl Williams Jr., a Rockford, Ill., corn and soybean farmer who is on the board of directors of the Illinois Farm Bureau, said that the trade war has to end.

“‘We’ve got to do something. This is killing us in the Midwest,’ he said. ‘We’ve managed to alienate so many of our traditional trading partners.'”

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire pointed out today, “Retaliatory tariffs put in place by Beijing have slammed American farmers, many of whom were Trump supporters, and a federal government bailout to the industry has had limited impact. Moreover, despite a pledge to put ‘farmers first,’ his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, which is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, has yet to be approved by Congress and now potentially faces longer odds to win passage in the House.”

In a comprehensive recap of the President’s address today, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton noted in part that, “Over the last 15 years, Trump said, there was a decline in the share of U.S. agricultural trade — though USDA cites that U.S. agricultural exports peaked in 2014 at $152 billion, and the agricultural trade surplus in 2014 also peaked at $43 billion — but that new trade deals will turn the tide for farmers.

“The president listed countries that have agreed to buy certain agricultural products such as beef, rice or pork in the past two years, including Argentina, India, Indonesia, Japan, Brazil and beef to China. All of that happened because the White House asked for it, Trump said, but those open markets will look small once new trade deals are done.

“‘That’s peanuts compared to what we’re talking about,’ he said.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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