President Donald Trump told the audience Sunday in a packed conference hall of farmers and ranchers that his administration’s policies keep them in mind.
“If we want America to thrive and grow, then we must ensure America’s farms flourish and prosper, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual conference at the Austin Convention Center.
Protesters and supporters gathered outside before his speech. Some held signs saying “Trump 2020,” while others pointed out his impeachment and called him a liar. His visit comes just two days before his impeachment trial is set to begin in the Senate.
Inside the conference hall, Trump’s remarks were well-received. He touted recent decisions by his administration he said will benefit American farmers and ranchers.
“My administration understands that if we want to stand up for America, we must stand up for American farmers,” Trump said to cheers.
He praised the recent trade deal with China as "groundbreaking," saying the U.S. will triple the amount of exports there.
"We're going to sell the greatest product you've ever seen," he said.
He said he would sign the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the deal to replace NAFTA, this week.
“The USMCA as we call it will massively boost exports for farmers, ranchers, growers and agricultural producers from north to south and from sea to shining sea,” he said.
It's unclear if farmers, many of whom have been stuck in the middle of those trade disputes, will see immediate relief after the administration's actions.
Trump boasted about expanding the border wall and the amount of job growth that has occurred under his administration. He slammed left-wing politicians, saying they “are not for the farmer” and want to “load you up with regulations so you can’t live, you can’t breathe,” though he did not provide evidence of such efforts.
Trump also announced he is directing the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately withdraw a new water supply rule and allow states to manage water resources based on their own needs and what the agricultural community wants.
He said these kinds of regulations prevent farmers from thriving.
“Water is the lifeblood of agriculture and we will always protect your water supply,” Trump said.
Robert Nolan, a vegetable farmer on Long Island, told KUT the Obama-era rules were overly restrictive.
"You know if you have a puddle on your farm that would be considered, that could be regulated," he said. "We’re just looking for some common-sense legislation and it looks like it’s coming.”
But environmentalists warned of the danger of gutting the rule, saying the types of streams set to lose protections feed drinking water sources across the country.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
This post has been updated.