By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
It has been 25 years since a President of the United States addressed the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The last President to speak was President George H. W. Bush. President Donald Trump spoke this week in Nashville, Tennessee, to a cheering, packed house of farmers and ranchers. They came from all across the nation to their National Convention.
The AFBF Convention is a big deal. President Trump knows that rural America elected him, and his attendance and presentation were to assure his base that he is on their team. As he spoke to the issues and concerns of farmers and ranchers, the excitement and applause rocked the room.
Farmers and small businessmen have been crying for relief from the estate tax. The recently passed tax reform legislation answers that. The President said, “From now on, most family farms and most business owners will be spared the punishment of the deeply unfair estate tax known as the death tax, so you can keep your farms in the family.”
Exports are so important to the ag industry, and the President’s criticism of trade agreements has raised a lot of concern. The President has threatened withdrawal from NAFTA. That trade agreement with Canada and Mexico has been very good for our industry. The President said that U.S. negotiators are still “working very hard to get a better deal.” He did not mention withdrawal.
Overreach with government regulations has been one of our concerns for years. President Trump said that the “…years of crushing taxes and crippling regulations – NO MORE.” That got a standing ovation. We will “ditch the WOTUS rule” was another barn burner. He would end the “regulatory assault” and put more money back in farmers’ pockets.
The President’s words helped to satisfy some of the concern that the farm and ranch industry worry about.
He said we will get a new farm bill this year, and crop insurance is a priority. Broadband connection for rural America must be expanded. Roads, bridges, and waterways must be fixed. The President expressed his love for farmers and ranchers and rural America and their organizations – the Farm Bureau, 4-H, and FFA.
I think it was a great speech. The forgotten heartland is now on center stage.
John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit johnblockreports.com.