President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was a strongly nationalist speech focusing on ‘America first’ in immigration reform, new infrastructure, the military and trade. How details of those policies will impact agriculture remain to be seen.
One of the centerpieces of the president’s speech was a call on Congress to pass an immigration reform package put forward by the administration.
“For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities,” Trump said. “They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.”
The president made no mention of reworking the H-2 immigrant worker program, but the first “pillar” offered on the immigration plan would provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors, so-called “dreamers.” The immigration plan would limit chain migration to spouses and minor children, would implement a merit-based visa program while eliminating the visa lottery and would add funding for personnel and a physical wall along the Mexican border.
President Trump called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure program saying, “I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.” While he did not offer details of how much, if any, of that money would be used on inland waterways improvement or other ag-focused priorities, the president did say he wanted to see the federal dollars used to leverage private funding for infrastructure projects. That would fall in line with a long-offered proposal from tow operators to increase fees in order to fund lock and dam improvements.
The president also sounded familiar themes on trade as he continues to press for improvements to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade deals saying, “The era of economic surrender is over.”
“From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal,” he said. “We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones. And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules.”