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What will Trump talk about at AFBF?What will Trump talk about at AFBF?

With the backdrop of the tax reform in place, the American Farm Bureau Federation expects the president to focus on economics and his new task force on agriculture.

Holly Spangler

January 2, 2018

2 Min Read
ADDRESS: President Donald Trump is scheduled to address the membership of the American Farm Bureau Federation during the closing session of its annual convention on Jan. 8.Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Every year, the American Farm Bureau Federation invites the sitting president to its annual convention. This year, President Donald Trump said yes.

For the first time since George H.W. Bush in 1992, a sitting president will address the AFBF membership, meeting Jan. 5-10 in Nashville, Tenn. Says Mace Thornton, AFBF communications director, the invitation just seemed to gain traction this year with Trump’s team.

Thornton points to the recently passed tax reform bill, largely favored by AFBF, as a possible backdrop for Trump’s speech, scheduled to occur during the Monday morning general session.

“It really is the president’s recognition that farmers, ranchers and rural communities are really vital to the success and prosperity of the nation,” Thornton says. “The fact that he’d take time out of his schedule to come talk to farmers and ranchers at our meeting is a very positive thing.”

And although Thornton doesn’t yet have many details or specifics from the White House team, he understands that the president’s speech will focus on economics and may shed light on his new Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is heading that task force, and Thornton suspects AFBF membership might hear more details about its inner workings and perhaps an announcement about additional provisions.

There’s no indication the president will address trade in general or the North American Free Trade Agreement in specific, though Thornton says AFBF has taken every opportunity to communicate the importance of trade with members of the Trump administration.

“All along, we’ve been very clear about the fact that we would like to see the gains we’ve seen from the beginning of NAFTA continue and be locked in,” he says. “Sonny Perdue has been communicating that message as well. Agriculture is very dedicated to seeing NAFTA carried forth in a very positive light.”

Thornton hopes AFBF President Zippy Duvall will have a chance to speak with the president, potentially backstage before or after his speech. 

Perdue is scheduled to speak on Monday, though timing is still being worked out in relation to Trump’s speech. Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s ag minister, will also be at the convention.

And if you’re planning to attend? Get there early and be patient, Thornton advises. Security will be ramped up compared to previous AFBF conventions, and seating capacity will be limited. His team is looking to secure additional overflow rooms where members can watch a live video presentation if they aren’t able to get in the main hall.

“This will be one of the bigger conventions in the past 10 to 20 years,” Thornton says. “People want to come to hear the president.”

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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