Duvall: Farm Bureau has no position on wall, shutdown hurts
NEW ORLEANS — President Donald Trump made a pitch for a border wall with Mexico to a friendly American Farm Bureau Federation convention audience in New Orleans on Jan. 13, but Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall told reporters the nation’s largest farm organization has no position on the border wall controversy and that farmers are being hurt by the government shutdown over it.
“We support border security,” Duvall told reporters at his opening news conference. “What does a secure border look like — in policy we do not say what.”
Duvall said he hopes the debate over border security “will allow us to speak to the needs we have for labor.” He has previously described the need for farm labor as the greatest problem facing American agriculture and said Farm Bureau is looking for a “champion to help us carry a piece of legislation.”
Of the shutdown, Duvall said Trump “is not directly trying to hurt our farmers (but) it is going to hurt our farmers.”
Farmers, Duvall said, need the trade mitigation payments being made in response to the tariffs other countries are placing on American farm products in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. Farmers also need the Agriculture Department to implement the farm bill and make farm loans, he said.
In his speech to the membership, Duvall said that he would tell Trump “we are with you Mr. President” on the trade war with China, but that farmers’ patience “will be determined by the financial situation on our farms.”
Farmers appreciate the mitigation package but it “no way makes us whole for what this costs us,” Duvall added.
Duvall also said he would tell Trump not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“If he withdraws from NAFTA it would be crushing to U.S. agriculture. This is a very very important treaty that we need to continue before (the new U.S.-Mexican-Canada trade agreement) is passed.”
On the climate change debate, Duvall said farmers get “fatigued” because “everyone always blames agriculture,” but he said he hopes the expected congressional hearings “will give us an opportunity to bring sound science forward and really talk about the facts.”
In his remarks, Duvall recounted the 100-year-old history of Farm Bureau, which opened its first Washington office in 1919. In one of several religious references, Duvall said that when the world needed a savior, God sent his son and that when farmers needed an organization, God “provided us” with the early leadership of Farm Bureau. ❖