When media outlets such as CBS News and the New York Times turn their lens on agriculture, it’s a big deal. U.S. president Donald Trump’s speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation garnered attention for several reasons on January 8.
It was the first time in 25 years that an American president had addressed the convention. Secondly, he announced financial support for rural broadband access. Thirdly, his remarks came two weeks prior to the next round of NAFTA renegotiations in Montreal.
For all that, Trump toned down his bellicose stance on NAFTA saying: “I’m working on a better deal for farmers and ranchers as we speak.” He referred to a “fair and reciprocal” deal. Perhaps agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue has convinced him of the importance of NAFTA with the map of American rural states who voted for him.
Canada’s agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay also appeared at the convention the day before the president’s speech. This was the first time that a Canadian minister had addressed the group, numbering 7,400. His message? Canada and the United States are each other’s largest trade partners for agriculture and agri-food, with bilateral trade reaching $62 billion (CAD) in 2016. Canada is the top agriculture and agri-food export market for 29 states.
The next round of NAFTA renegotiations starts in Montreal, January 23-28.
Watch for Trump’s remarks on NAFTA in his first State of the Union address on January 30.