Donald Trump’s policies might be causing hiccups in the agriculture world, but the man himself is still enjoying the affections of his farming base. 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. The speech comes at a time when farmers are feeling the weight of almost a year of escalating trade tensions with China, which have reduced demand for American crop exports and weighed on commodity prices. Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown, the longest ever in U.S. history, has disrupted some aid payments that were meant to help ease the trade war’s blow. Shuttered federal agencies are also choking off key crop reports that farmers rely on to make planting decisions.
President Trump today appealed to America’s family farmers and ranchers, promising great things to come for the men and women who provide food, fuel and fiber for our nation. “The greatest harvest is yet to come,” he said. Yet, the sentiment could not have come off more tone deaf from a man who’s trade tactics have depressed an already troubled farm economy, pushing many family farmers into significant financial stress and even more out of business. “Before I got here, it was heading south,” Trump said, referring to America’s ability to export agricultural products. He said those exports had seen a continuous decline over the past 15 years, despite USDA data showing agricultural exports nearly tripling.The truth is, for the past two years, American family farmers have taken the brunt of the administration’s trade wars. Retaliatory tariffs, lost trade relationships and unstable markets have pushed the American farm economy to its brink. In fact, the majority of farms have earned negative farm income in recent years, and many are being forced to sell the farm. The president must right the ship immediately, as farmers can no longer afford to hold out hope for “the greatest harvest.”Trump’s trade tactics have alienated the United States. They have taken us from being a world leader to being a world agitator. From being a premier supplier to being a residual supplier. You see this embodied in the president’s go-it-alone approach with respect to encouraging fair trade with China. Rather than work with our top trading partners like Canada, Mexico, Japan and the European Union to address common grievances with China, we’ve offended all of our allies. Not only has this ruined positive trading relationships with trade allies, it has weakened our leverage to deal with the world’s shared trade aggressor, China.
Today President Trump will address the American Farm Bureau’s 100th annual convention in New Orleans. But any promises of help will be too late for many farmers. Had he set out to ruin America’s small farmers, he could hardly have come up with a more effective, potentially ruinous one-two combination punch than tariffs and the shutdown.The trade wars collapsed farmers’ markets. Now, with farmers down, he’s kicking them with a partial shutdown that has effectively slammed the door on farm payments, loans and more. It’s hurting rural Americans — those who formed a big part of the base of Mr. Trump’s support in 2016.
Even as calls for “Medicare for All” grow louder among Democrats in Washington, D.C., at least 10 states are exploring whether to allow residents to pay premiums to “buy in” to Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. Currently, Medicaid recipients pay for their coverage in only a handful of states, and the buy-in plans that states are considering might not offer the full range of benefits available to traditional beneficiaries. But advocates say the policies might be an appealing option for people hard-pressed to pay for plans on the health care exchanges, and spur competition that could lower prices for everybody.The concept of enrolling all Americans in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, is probably a nonstarter in politically polarized Washington — at least for now. So, states have started looking at other ways to provide health care to more people at more affordable prices.Nevada’s legislature passed a Medicaid buy-in program in 2017, only to have its then-Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, veto it, saying the state needed more time to study the plan. Legislative supporters say they are planning to file a new bill shortly and are optimistic about passage. The state now has a Democratic governor. Studies of a buy-in option also are ongoing in California, Delaware, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. And newly elected governors in Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin have pledged support for Medicaid buy-in.
U.S. taxpayers will buy about $5 million in pork products from a Brazilian-owned meatpacking firm under President Trump’s bailout program, which was designed to help American farmers hurt by the administration’s trade war. JBS. one of the biggest meatpacking companies in the world, will sell 1.8 million pounds of pork products through a Trump bailout program that buys surplus commodities from farmers and ranchers, say records published by the Agricultural Marketing Service. The administration has pitched its $12 billion bailout program as necessary to help farmers weather the long-running trade war with China, but critics have questioned whether funding will also enrich large and foreign-owned firms.
The Environmental Protection Agency has abandoned plans to roll back a set of protections for farmworkers, including a proposal to ease Obama-era regulations requiring anyone working with dangerous pesticides to be at least 18 years old.Passed in 2015, the rules became a target of the EPA a year after President Trump’s election. The agency announced in late 2017 that it was reconsidering the minimum age requirements, opening the door to the possibility that it might lower the age limit or do away with it entirely.The agency cited as justification an executive order signed by the president calling for “reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs.”But the EPA said recently that the effort to scale back those environmental and health regulations would not go forward, disappointing industry groups and pleasantly surprising environmental and farmworker advocacy groups.
President Donald Trump has formally nominated Andrew Wheeler to be EPA administrator, cementing the no-nonsense former attorney as his pick to carry out his deregulatory agenda, the White House announced.
The federal government shutdown — caused in part by disagreements over immigration policy — is delaying immigration court hearings across the country. Court appointments scheduled during the shutdown will be "reset" to new dates in the future, per a notice from the Department of Justice dated Dec. 26. The only exception are courts operating in immigration detention centers, where federal immigration authorities hold immigrants pending deportation. However, court staff may not be paid while continuing to hear those cases.In addition, some emergency motions in nondetained cases can still be filed to the judges that are working during the shutdown.Shutting down the country's massive system of immigration courts will gum up an already congested judicial process, immigration judges and attorneys say.
The executive director of Farmers for Free Trade says he is hopeful farmers will see trade progress in the new year. Brian Kuehl says the recent trade truce with China is a start…“We’d like to see the trade war with China wrapped up,” he says. “We need to get back into the business of trading- China’s our biggest trading partner.”But, he tells Brownfield the tariffs on Canada and Mexico still need to be addressed.“We still have these steel tariffs in place which means they’re still retaliating against our agricultural products- cheese, pork, and processed foods,” he says. “All matter of products are being taxed because of this trade war and we need to get that over and lifted.”Kuehl says Farmers for Free Trade would also like to see the administration focus on new trade deals.
President Donald Trump said he has ordered FEMA to withhold funds from California’s state government until officials there “get their act together” fighting forest fires. But he tweeted he thinks that is “unlikely.”