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Trump Delivers a Hollow, Self-Congratulatory Speech to Farmers in Nashville

“Oh, are you happy you voted for me,” he assured the assembled.

Donald Trump is big with the farmers. How big? Just ask him. “Oh, are you happy you voted for me,” the president cooed during his speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 99th annual convention in Nashville on Monday. “Oh, you are so lucky I gave you that privilege.”

The Farm Bureau is a powerful lobbying organization with sprawling insurance interests and strong ties to agribusiness. US presidents have an open invitation to address the group’s big meet-up; Trump was the first to take the bait in a quarter century.  

His preening lines (starting around 23:20 in the above video) inspired a curiously muted applause from the audience compared to the rousing cheers he elicited during other parts of the speech. The flat reception underlines Trump’s dilemma in farm country as the 2018 mid-term elections approach. His administration has delivered on the main promises it made to farmers during the 2016 campaign: gutting regulation and easing the burden of the estate tax. But those promises actually amount to very little in the face of a struggling farm economy beset by years of low commodity prices, labor shortages exacerbated by an immigration crackdown, and fears of imperiled export markets as Trump threatens to roll back trade deals like the North American Free Trade Act.  

Take deregulation. At his Nashville speech, the president trumpeted the administration’s move, back in March, to overturn the Waters of the US rule, a clarification of the Clean Water Act mandated by a 2006 Supreme Court decision. According to Trump, crushing WOTUS, as it’s known, was a heroic act that essentially saved the family farm. “Men that were tough and strong, women that were tough and strong, they’d see me, there were tears coming down their eyes, because I gave them back their property, I gave them back their farms,” he claimed.  

The crowd roared at Trump’s WOTUS victory lap, but the idea that the president delivered farms back to people is nonsense. As I showed in this post, the Waters of the US rule—like the Clean Water Act itself—exempted farming activities from its purview.  The Farm Bureau itself did its best to whip farmers into a frenzy against it, even though it had little effect on them. 

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