During a July 23 press conference, U.S. President Donald Trump said the Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement  between the U.S. and China was a great deal when it was coming to fruition, but that the agreement “means much less” to him now.

He reiterated that point twice.

Because trade with China is so important to the U.S. agriculture industry, that statement was concerning to me. It was also concerning to Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois.

In a tweet, Bustos criticized the president for his comments, calling them “a slap in the face to the American farmer.”

Sadly, that criticism only came from someone from Trump’s opposing party, so many will just think it was just another example of the out-of-control partisan divide in Washington. And maybe it is, but Bustos was not wrong.

According to a February press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative, the Phase One agreement includes the following actions:

  • Lifting the ban on imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products, including pet food containing poultry products 
  • Lifting restrictions on imports of U.S. pet food containing ruminant material
  • Updating lists of facilities approved for exporting animal protein, pet food, dairy, infant formula, and tallow for industry use to China;
  • Updating the lists of products that can be exported to China as feed additives; and
  • Updating an approved list of U.S. seafood species that can be exported to China; and
  • Signing a protocol that allows the importation of U.S. fresh chipping potatoes 

That could greatly benefit many people who are involved with agriculture.

I understand Trump is mad at China and blames the country for introducing COVID-19 into the United States. But to be so consumed with anger over that to trivialize the Phase One agreement’s impact on farmers, even after mentioning sales of corn and soybeans in the same press conference, is inexcusable.

A large percentage of U.S. farmers and ranchers have supported Trump steadfastly, and others have given him the benefit of the doubt on questionable actions. The nation’s largest farmer organization, American Farm Bureau Federation, invited him to speak at the past three conventions when it could have invited other speakers to fill that time slot.

Farmers should be able to depend on their president to implement good policy and strong trade deals. We also want him to care, and stating that the China agreement means less to him now are not words a caring president should say.