President Donald Trump and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue spoke at the 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation convention Prairie Farmer/Holly Spangler

Trump highlights ag issues at AFBF convention

Legislative Watch: Trump talks ag at Farm Bureau convention; ag and rural prosperity report released; Senate Ag Committee gets two new members; work needed to avoid government shutdown.

President Donald Trump spoke to a receptive audience this week at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 99th convention in Nashville, Tenn. He was the first president in 25 years to address AFBF’s convention.

Trump reminded the convention that his agenda was beneficial to agriculture focusing on the recently passed tax bill and regulatory reform. He highlighted the tax bill saying the benefits would be going to “working families, small businesses, and who — the family farmer.” Trump emphasized the benefits of doubling the deduction for the inheritance tax. On regulatory reform he announced that his administration had cut 22 regulations for every new regulation and it was his administration that was rolling back the Waters of the U.S. According to the president, there is more to be done on regulatory reform.

Trump says he will work with Congress to pass the farm bill on time and will support a bill that includes crop insurance, but he did not give any details. His 2017 budget proposed $29 billion in cuts to the crop insurance program over 10 years which were ignored by Congress. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told the convention that the USDA would soon be sending Congress the administration’s farm bill principals for what it would like to see in the next farm bill.

Concerning trade, Trump tried to reassure the concerns of agriculture regarding the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying, “On NAFTA I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers. When Mexico is making all of that money, when Canada is making all of that money, it’s not the easiest negotiation.” He stopped short of pledging the United States would not pull out of NAFTA.

Trump also highlighted the administration’s task force on rural prosperity with an emphasis on the need for broadband deployment in rural America. He signed two executive orders at the convention to help expand rural broadband. One order will have the Department of the Interior make towers and other infrastructure on federal lands available for broadband deployment. The other order tells federal agencies to reduce barriers to capital investment and remove obstacles to broadband services. Thirty-nine percent of farmers do not have access to high-speed internet service.

Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Report released
At the AFBF convention, the administration released the recommendations from President Trump’s Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The report included over 100 recommendations focusing on e-connectivity, economic development, innovation and technology, workforce and quality of life. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue chaired the task force which included 22 federal agencies.

The task force’s call to action includes:

• Achieving e-Connectivity for rural America

○ Reduce regulator barriers to infrastructure deployment
○ Incentivize private capital investment

• Improving quality of life

○ Advance educational opportunities
○ Modernize healthcare access
○ Improve transportation options
○ Modernize rural utilities

• Supporting a rural workforce

○ Connect rural skillsets to jobs of the future
○ Promote and expand apprenticeship programs
○ Connect veterans to underutilized training programs
○ Improve rural access to education and training
○ Ensure access to lawful agricultural workforce

• Harnessing technological innovation

○ Improve rural management of big data
○ Increase public acceptance of biotech products
○ Streamline science-based regulatory policy for biotechnology

• Developing the rural economy

○ Access to capital
○ Leverage existing market opportunities
○ Rebuild and modernize rural America’s infrastructure
○ Increase access to global market
○ Cutting red tape
○ Increase agricultural, forestry and food production

The full report and recommendations can be found by clicking here.            

Fischer and Smith join Senate Ag Committee
The Senate Agriculture Committee has two new members with the appointment of Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tina Smith (D-MN). Fischer replaces Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) who lost the Alabama Republican primary last year. Smith takes the place of Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who is leaving the committee for other committee assignments. Smith was appointed to the Senate to replace Sen. Al Franken who resigned over allegations of sexual harassment.

Congress to avoid government shutdown
The main issue Congress will be dealing with is to try and reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown. The deadline is midnight Jan. 19.

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