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Trump Backs Crop Insurance, Says NAFTA ‘Not the Easiest Negotiation’

Speaking to a friendly farm crowd, President Trump, who proposed a 36% cut in crop insurance funding last May, said he will work with Congress for a 2018 farm bill “that delivers for all of you, and I support a bill that includes crop insurance.

“On NAFTA, I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers,” said the president during a 35-minute speech to farmers and ranchers who attended Farm Bureau’s annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee. “It’s not the easiest negotiation, but we’re going to make it fair for you people again.”

Farm groups and their allies in Congress are giving top priority to a strong crop insurance program in a farm bill that is expected to make few major changes in federal policy. The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee aims for House passage of a bill by spring. The 2014 farm law made the federally subsidized program the major U.S. farm support at around $8 billion a year, ahead of crop subsidies and land stewardship. 

Trump’s endorsement of crop insurance generated the longest sustained applause during his speech. After mentioning that Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts, who is a stalwart proponent of crop insurance, was on hand, the president said, “I’m looking forward to working with Congress to pass a farm bill on time so that it delivers for all of you, and I support a bill that includes crop insurance – unless you don’t want me to.” As the crowd cheered, Trump added, “I guess you like it, right? Good.”

Ag exports account for 20% of farm income, so Trump’s campaign threats to tear up trade agreements caused anxiety in farm country, although producers voted overwhelmingly for him because of his platform of tax reform, regulatory relief, and support for corn ethanol. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is credited with dissuading Trump from abandoning NAFTA last April by showing the president a heavily rural map of states that would be hurt by U.S. withdrawal. Canada and Mexico are responsible for one third of U.S. agricultural trade.

The U.S. has proposed at the NAFTA talks that Canada eliminate its tariffs on imports of U.S. dairy, poultry, and egg products – meaning a dismantling of the nation’s supply management system. “It’s a very good system,” says Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay. “We have indicated quite publicly… We are fully supporting the supply management system.” The sixth round of NAFTA talks are set for January 23 to 28 in Montreal.

Congress has ignored the administration proposals last spring to eliminate premium subsidies for policies that include the harvest price option, to deny premium subsidies to people with more than $500,000 a year in adjusted gross income, and to limit crop insurance subsidies to $40,000 a year. 

Watch Trump's full speech here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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