Agriculture leaders expect Trump to address trade, immigration in New Orleans

As President Donald Trump heads to New Orleans today to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention, Louisiana agriculture leaders expect the president to address policy issues affecting their industry, including trade and immigration.

Louisiana’s farming industry, which relies heavily on global trade, has taken a hit from Trump’s efforts to reform trade policies. Having the president in New Orleans, though, will be an opportunity for Trump to understand the importance of trade to the state.

“He’ll be standing next to the mighty Mississippi River, next to the outlets of the world,” says Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.

Trump’s trade disputes with China in particular have impacted soybean farmers, although a truce has since been struck with the country, which began buying beans again in December after a five-month hiatus.

Louisiana officials expect Trump to talk about how he’s continuing to resolve trade imbalances, as well as aid program payments to farmers, which have been delayed by the partial federal government shutdown.

“Those payments are significant,” Strain says. “If farmers were not able to make production loans, without the additional aid payments, that could be more money farmers will have to borrow to get the next crop in the ground.”

The ongoing dispute over Trump’s border wall, which led to the shutdown, is also expected to be a topic of discussion. While local officials say they support Trump’s border security efforts, they also hope he addresses farming labor issues and the need for migrant visa workers.

“With the border wall, everyone will also want to hear about immigration reform,” says Brian Breaux, associate commodity director of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. “We support a strong border, and at same time we bring our workers in legally through the H-2A and H-2B (visa worker) programs.”

Both Breaux and Strain say they would like to hear the president talk about expanding or streamlining the visa programs, making it easier for farmers to bring in migrant labor for seasonal jobs that they cannot fill with local workers.

Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson says it’s always good to have the president in Louisiana, tightening bonds with local leaders.

“Our congressional delegation and Commissioner Strain already have a great working relationship with the administration and that’s going to continue.” Anderson says in a statement. “Having President Trump here helps bring attention to issues like trade and labor, both of which directly affect Louisiana’s agricultural economy.”

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