President Donald Trump was mocked Monday by hundreds of protesters outside a farmers convention in New Orleans with a twist on a chant he has heard many times: “Lock him up!”
It’s not clear which particular Trump activity the protesters were targeting in the chant that has been directed at Hillary Clinton by Trump supporters, in the presidential campaign and afterward.
Inside, at the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Trump talked up his current trade battles, even though they’re hurting famers.
Trump’s withdrawal from an Asia-Pacific trade agreement means that U.S. farmers are struggling against advantages granted by the new Trans-Pacific Partnership to Canadian and Australian competitors in such markets as Japan. Other countries have also imposed retaliatory tariffs on many American farm products. China, traditionally a major buyer of U.S. soybeans, has turned to other markets.
Trump promised his audience that the trade battles will eventually pay off.
The rural vote helped put Trump over the top in the 2016 election, but farmers aren’t doing so well with him in the White House. Net farm income fell an estimated 12 percent last year, down about 40 percent from its peak in 2013.
“We weather the weather,” farmer Kristin Duncanson, who raises hogs, corn and soybeans in Minnesota, told NPR. “It’s weathering the politics that makes managing our businesses a little tougher than they have been in the past.”
The president spent much of his speech touting his southern border wall, even though many farmers are short of labor because of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants. In a surprise twist in his message Trump received resounding applause when he vowed to “make it easier” for some immigrants to come into the country to do farm labor. “You need these people,” he added.
Oddly, Trump disparaged immigrants who actually show up for their court hearings in their bids to stay in the country as “not smart.”
The government shutdown, which Trump has warned will continue until he gets $5.7 billion for a border wall, is also hurting farmers, who can’t get access to valuable crop forecasts and other statistics while the number crunchers aren’t working. They’re also grappling with a freeze on some government-backed loans, subsidy payments and other federal services during the shutdown. Trump’s $12 billion taxpayer bailout for farmers to weather the trade war is also on hold during the shutdown because the Department of Agriculture isn’t being funded.
“The USDA is doing everything in its power to help farmers deal with the ongoing shutdown,” Trump promised, though he didn’t offer details.
In a gaffe during his speech, Trump, who intended to refer to a supportive Arizona farmer, Jim Chilton, mistakenly referred to surveillance of the “Clintons’ ranch.” He simply moved on.
You can watch the entire speech here:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of money President Donald Trump wants to pay for his border wall. He’s seeking $5.7 billion, not $5.7 million.