President Trump’s State of the Union address this evening will be closely scrutinized by farmers who feel responsible trade policy has been overwhelmed by bravado.
Farmers also want details of an infrastructure bill to improve transportation in rural America. If they do not get want they want, their votes may go elsewhere in 2020.
Farmers for Free Trade want NAFTA completed and signed while other farmers are taking the high road on the promise of a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, decreasing the cost of rail, river and road transportation.
Farmers for Free Trade took a contingent of American farmers and agricultural officials to Montreal last week, where the sixth round of negotiations take place. The goal was to speak on the importance of NAFTA and the need for some certainty as farmers make choices for the upcoming growing season.
Floyd Gaibler, director of trade policy for the United States Grains Council (USGC), travelled with the Farmers for Free Trade group. Gaibler says withdrawing from NAFTA would have an impact of $1.2 billion dollars on grain farmers, alone.
Farmers for Free Trade was first formed after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement which included 11 other nations. TPP 11 which include Japan will be finalized in March. The pact will put U.S. wheat at a $65 per ton disadvantage to Canadian and Australian grain.
Trade was a big topic Wednesday at the Agri-Talk Farmers Forum. Farmers at the show were of the opinion that if President Trump pulls the U.S. out of NAFTA, he may not see another term in office. Frank Howey, a North Carolina farmers, said: “Republicans are supposed to be free traders and Trump got elected by U.S. farmers. If he does us wrong on trade, he will not get re-elected.”
The Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), based in Iowa, wants improvement to ports, locks and roads across rural farming areas. The Coalition proposes ten projects ranging from dredging the lower Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico to 50-feet to upgrading five locks on the Mississippi River to 1,200-feet to permitting six axle, 91,000-pound semis to operate on the interstate highway system. STC also favors a fuel tax to pay for construction and upkeep.
Leaving agriculture out of the State of the Union tonight could lower the president’s popularity.