Thursday, February 01, 2018
President mentions trade only generally during the State of the Union.
By Deana Stroisch
Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. applauded President Donald Trump’s call to rebuild the country’s “crumbling infrastructure.”
“Farmers depend on well-maintained roads, railways and waterways to move their products throughout the U.S. and to markets outside of the country,” Guebert said.
During his first State of the Union speech, Trump called on Congress to support at least $1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements. He offered few specifics, but suggested a mix of federal, state and local government financing, as well as private sector investment “where appropriate.” He said any legislation must also streamline the permitting and approval process to a maximum of two years.
“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure our economy needs, and our people deserve,” Trump said. “Together, we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands and American grit.”
Related: Rauner calls for bipartisan cooperation in State of the State. Read more here.
Trump’s 80-minute speech included no mention of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The sixth round of talks concluded this week. He mentioned trade in general, saying the “era of economic surrender is over.”
“From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal,” he said. “We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones. And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property through strong enforcement of our trade rules.”
Guebert urged Trump to follow through on his promise to negotiate new trade deals.
“Farmers have endured five years of declining net income,” he said. “Their livelihood depends on expanded access to foreign markets. Forty percent of corn grown is exported to NAFTA trading partners. … It is imperative that we maintain and grow the agreement.”
Trump also called on Congress to pass immigration reform and described lowering prescription drug prices as one of his top priorities for 2018. He also highlighted the successes of his first year in office – from adding 2.4 million new jobs to passage of a tax reform package.
“This is our new American moment,” Trump said. “There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream. So, to every citizen watching at home tonight – no matter where you have been or where you come from, this is your time.”
Trump’s speech also drew positive reaction from American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.
“The bold package of immigration reform measures he put on the table should prime the pump for overdue action, and we encourage Congress to take action in a timely manner,” Duvall said. “While we must do more to secure our borders, the fact remains that our farmers and ranchers need access to agriculture labor they can depend on. Agriculture must be part of President Trump’s proposal for merit-based immigration. We will work with the administration and Congress to ensure we get the job done.”
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