1:02 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, Michigan!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It is wonderful to be with all of you. Thank you for such a warm and generous welcome. But before you get too comfortable, I’ll tell you what — and maybe it’s because we’ve both served as governors — but I have to tell you: As we look around that Cabinet table, this President and I are proud of every member of this Cabinet, but no one more so than the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. Would you give him another round of applause? (Applause.)
Stand up, Sonny. Take another bow, will you? This is an incredible champion for American agriculture, and I’m honored to be with him today. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And thank you for your kind words.
My great friend Congressman John Moolenaar is with us today. (Applause.) You can give him a round — there he is. John, thank you. (Applause.) Great friend of this administration. A great champion for agriculture.
And I was just chatting with Carl Bednarski in the back. I want to thank him and all of you for this warm welcome.
To state elected leaders who are here and to all of you who are Michigan’s voice of agriculture: It is great to be back in the Great Lakes State with the men and women of Michigan Farm Bureau. Thank you so much for being here. (Applause.)
It’s good to be among so many friends and to have an opportunity to share about the progress that we’ve made. But before I get started, allow me to bring greetings from another friend of mine, someone who has been a champion for American farmers and ranchers every day of this administration. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
The President said not long ago, in his words, “Our nation was founded by farmers. Our independence was won by farmers. Our continent was tamed by farmers. Our armies have been fed by farmers and made of farmers.” And throughout our history, farmers have always and will always lead the way. This President believes it and his Vice President believes it. (Applause.) You can count on it, Michigan Farm Bureau. We really do.
So for everything you’ve done, not only for Michigan but for America, I’m — I’m grateful for the opportunity just to come by and say thank you. Thank you for standing strong. Thank you for standing strong oftentimes through very difficult and challenging times, bringing out those extraordinary values that are synonymous with the farm.
This President and this entire administration have supported agriculture from the very beginning. And just as you’ve stood with us, I promise you, Michigan Farm Bureau, we will always stand with you. (Applause.)
And that’s true of the President, as he described himself once as the kid from Queens, and it’s also true of the Vice President. Born in a small town in southern Indiana, I was raised right here in the heart of the Heartland. Small town, southern Indiana, I grew up with a cornfield in my backyard. I grew up among farmers. I really did. Some of my very best friends were some of the greatest family farms in Bartholomew County, Indiana. I detasseled some corn. About the time I got to high school, my dad and his business partners decided to buy 100 head of cattle. And I will let you guess what my three brothers and I were doing with shovels for most of the year. (Laughter.) We were shoveling out — shoveling out anywhere we needed to. We added a couple of horses, and there was even more mucking of the stalls to be done.
But all of that was great preparation — great preparation for the lives that me and my three brothers would lead, because we had an opportunity. While we didn’t live on a farm, we didn’t consider ourselves farmers. We — we learned the values that you learn through a lot of hard work, through a lot of early mornings and late nights.
You know, the truth is, you look all across the Heartland of this country, whether it be here in Michigan or in my home state of Indiana, and we do two things especially well out this way: We make things and we grow things. And here in Michigan, you’ve always led the way in both of those categories.
It’s remarkable to think for more than 100 years, the Michigan Farm Bureau has stood up for the rights of farmers. And today, thanks to your leadership, I’m told you represent more than 50,000 farms in this state alone, which produce more than 300 products. You contribute more than $101 billion to the state’s economy. And as of today, Farm Bureau Michigan members actually employ nearly a million Michiganders. That’s — one fifth of this state’s workforce is agriculture. (Applause.) Incredible contribution.
And beyond the economic impact, you — you contribute to this state in another great way. You know, the President and I firmly believe that — that while our country is many things, and has always been many things, that at our core, America is agriculture. What you sow, the nation reaps. What you plant bears fruit not only all over the country, but all over the world.
You know and you personify the dignity of a hard day’s work. The values that echo through your communities across this state or down across the nation — they always have, and they always will. You literally model every day the grit that drives our nation forward. And you, in every sense, embody the virtues and the values that are at the root of American greatness.
Like a couple of people who are with us today, two seventh-generation farmers from Montgomery. They’re actually brothers who are continuing a long family tradition of leadership in the agriculture community. One, I’m told, is the vice chairman of Michigan Farm Bureau State Young Farmer Committee. And the other is chairman of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Today, their farm is thriving like never before. They’ve got about 4,000 acres in corn and 7,000 — and over 70,000 hogs they handle every single year. Would you join me in recognizing two extraordinary agricultural leaders in this state — past, present, and future — Brian and Paul Pridgeon? Where are you guys? Take a stand. (Applause.) Stand up and take a bow. Thank you, guys. Great job.
And there’s another couple of brothers, I’m told, from Grand Junction who are here with us today, who have actually made a real difference in the life of this nation. They’ve been standing up for farmers’ rights for years. Anybody that knows them a little bit knows they’re not shy about talking about private property rights and what it takes to make it in agriculture.
Their farm is certified to use good stewardship practice to manage water, nutrients, and wildlife habitats. So as you can imagine, when the last administration had tried to take control over bodies of water as small as ditches and wet spots on their land, these two brothers took action.
They spoke out at public meetings. They engaged the EPA. They let people all across Michigan know what that rule would mean to farmers like them. And I’m proud to say that, thanks to their energetic efforts, the Michigan Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau members all across America, their work paid off when President Donald Trump ditched the rule. (Applause.) The Waters of the U.S. rule, as you know it, is gone. (Applause.) They did it. They did it. That’s just — that’s just great citizenship. That’s great advocacy.
And these two are great leaders of Michigan’s agriculture community, not to mention I’m told — I’m told they sell the best fresh blueberries in the state. (Laughter.) I don’t know who said that, but I just bought a couple of blueberry pancakes from that diner and they may well have come from that farm.
Join me in thanking Tom and Larry Bodtke. Where are you guys? (Applause.) Take a bow, will you, guys? Great job. Thanks.
You know, Brian and Paul, and Tom and Larry, I called them out today, but, really, they’re emblematic of all of you and the farmers that you represent all across this great state. And I’m here to tell you, from early in this administration, the President has been working every day to keep the promise that he made to support America’s proud family farming tradition, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
Earlier in our administration, you may remember back when we were campaigning through Michigan in 2016, the President actually promised to repeal two federal regulations for every new federal rule put on the books. But we actually haven’t done that. I’ve got to be honest with you: We’ve actually repealed eight federal regulations for every new federal rule — (applause) — put in the Code of Federal Register. True.
A couple of examples: Thanks to the President’s leadership, we are modernizing the NEPA regulations for the first time in 40 years. And we’re already on track, under the President’s One Federal Decision plan, to cut environmental review periods by more than half.
And thanks to strong support of people like Congressman John Moolenaar and his colleagues in the Congress, we were able to roll back the taxes on working families, small businesses, and family farms. In our very first year in office, we cut taxes across the board. We lowered the corporate tax rate. We lowered the tax rate for pass-throughs, which so many family farms are. And, I’m proud to say, we eliminated the death tax for nearly every family farmer in America. (Applause.) That’s big.
We also changed the expensing rule so that now farmers can deduct 100 percent of the cost of every piece of new equipment you buy. And I know just enough about farming to know what input costs are. And as people look at — as people look at gross income in agriculture, a lot of times you have — you have reporters that will write up about how much farmers make, and they never talk about how much it costs to be in farming.
And the changes in the expensing rules, we know, made a real difference — made a real difference for American farmers, and we’re proud of it.
And while we’ve been unleashing the full potential of the American economy through less taxes and less regulation, a greater respect for private property, this President has been fighting for free and fair trade from the first day we arrived in office. (Applause.) It’s true. We’ve been working — we’ve been working to open up markets to American exports, most especially agriculture. And we’ve had considerable success.
You know, for years, one administration after another — frankly, in both political parties — stood by while we amassed extraordinary trade deficits with China. I mean, China took advantage of access to our economy while giving very limited access of what we grow and what we make to their economy.
It’s amazing to think when we went through our inauguration on January 20th, 2017, literally half — $500 billion — half of our international trade deficit was with China. But this President made it clear: Those days are over. The era of economic surrender to China is over. (Applause.)
We stood strong. We stood strong. And let me just say — and I was just talking to Carl backstage about that — Michigan Farm Bureau and farmers across this country stood strong with us as the President imposed strong tariffs on China to bring them forward. And I have to tell you that the way farmers really stood in the pocket was inspiring, wasn’t it, Sonny?
Because the reality is that it created some uncertainty. But I heard farmers, everywhere I went across the country, stop me on the street and say, “You know, we know it’s got to be done, so we’re going to stand with you while you get it done.” Because you all understand what it is to do hard things, to get hard things done.
And because of the strong stand that you took, because of the strong stand President Trump took just a few short weeks ago, we signed the phase one deal with China dealing with intellectual property rights and securing $40 to $50 billion in agricultural exports to China in the next two years. It’s a start. (Applause.) It’s a start back.
Now, we got a ways to go. The President has made it very clear we — as a part of the phase one deal, we rolled back tariffs that the President had placed since September on imports from China. But the balance are all still there. And we’re currently — our teams are currently talking and negotiating. And I promise you, we’re going to continue to stand firm with China until we level the playing field for American agriculture, for American manufacturing, and for American workers.
This President, on trade, is always going to put America first. (Applause.)
And evidence of that, after years since NAFTA was signed into law, and I don’t have to tell you all here in Michigan what the impact that NAFTA had on many communities, particularly manufacturing communities in this state.
Down in Indiana, we literally saw entire communities have factories shuttered. There was one — one community in my old congressional district — Anderson, Indiana — that went from about 20,000 employees one day to three employees the next. And those jobs all moved south of the border to Mexico. And it had impacts on agriculture as well.
Well, when we were campaigning through the state in 2016, our President said, “We could do better.” He said we could — we could renegotiate our trading relationship with Mexico and China. And there was a lot of people that were skeptical. But this President rolled his sleeves up. And I got to tell you, I was there every step of the way. I met many times with those same leaders, and I got to tell you, the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal” got a great deal for the American people. The USMCA is here. (Applause.)
And it’s a huge win for American farmers. Make no mistake about it. We all know the USMCA corrected much of the imbalance in manufacturing now. We think we’ve removed many of the incentives, intentional or otherwise, that were in NAFTA to move jobs out of this country. We think we’ve leveled the playing field. But this is a win — this is a win for agriculture as well.
Canada has actually agreed to expand market access for American dairy, for egg, for poultry. American wheat growers will have access to a more level playing field. And we’re going to sell $2.2 billion more in agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico alone. That includes $300 million in dairy exports in just the first few years. The USMCA is a win for agriculture. (Applause.)
When it’s all said and done, we think it’s actually going to add in the early going about 600,000 jobs in the city and on the farm, and maybe as much as $235 billion to our economy, just right out of the gate.
It’s just incredible what happens when you got a President who’s willing to engage our neighbors, engage countries around the world in a way that I think would resonate with every — with every farmer in the country and every farmer gathered here today.
You know, this is President who — I’ve watched him. I’ve watched him. He’s — he first starts with the relationship. He starts with establishing a rapport. And then, before you know it, at no particular point in the conversation, he just drops the hammer. (Laughter.) Right? He does. You all know how that works, don’t you? (Laughs.) Right? I mean, just — it’s — we can be friends. But it doesn’t mean that business isn’t business. And this is the exact approach that President Trump has taken on trade.
I mean, I’ll never forget — I’ll never forget — I won’t say what country it was, Sonny, but I think you were in the room. And we were sitting at a table and we were all on this one side of the table. Our whole delegation and their whole delegation was on the other side of the table. And the President sits down and he says, “Hey, Mr. Prime Minister. Great to see you.” He said, “Melania loves your wife. I hope you’re having a great time. How was your dinner last night?” “Great, great, great. Great to see you, and we love having you here.” And everybody is smiling and this and that. And he goes, “Okay, but you’re killing us on cars.” (Laughter.) “And that’s going to stop.”
And I saw him do the same thing on dairy, I saw him do the same thing on agriculture. I am telling you what: You have a man who is going to keep fighting every single day for jobs and opportunities in the city and on the farm in all of our trade negotiations with countries around the world. And he’s going to do it like a winner. (Applause.)
And we’re going to keep winning. That’s what leadership looks like. That’s what leadership looks like, and that’s the leadership of President Donald Trump.
So we’ve cut taxes. We’ve rolled back more red tape already than any administration in American history. We’ve unleashed American energy. We fought for free and fair trade. And I don’t have to tell you here in the state of Michigan, this economy is booming.
Since Election Day, businesses large and small across this country have created more than 7 million new jobs, new good-paying jobs, including — including 102,000 good-paying jobs right here in the state of Michigan. (Applause.)
Unemployment is at a 50-year-low. The unemployment rate for African Americans and Hispanic Americans has hit the lowest level ever recorded. And more Americans are working today than ever before in the history of this country.
So we’ve made great progress, and I’m here to let you know that this administration — this administration just considers that a good start. I mean, you have a President with a boundless confidence in the American people and a boundless belief in the capacity of Americans to achieve and to create opportunities, if given the opportunity with the applications of commonsense free-market principles to do that.
We’re ready to go to work to make sure America’s farmers and ranchers prosper like never before. We’re going to stand strong with you no matter what political philosophy or political winds are blowing.
President Donald Trump, this Vice President, and this administration will always stand with the American farmer. I promise you. (Applause.)
And we’ll always honor what you do — because I have to tell you, this small-town kid and this big-city President, we both get it. We understand the challenges and the complexities and the extraordinary ability and courage that it takes to succeed in farming today.
I mean, it’s remarkable to think that we actually live in a time when some major national candidates are denigrating America’s farmers. I mean, one candidate — I’m sure you all saw it — one of their other side’s candidates for President said, “I can teach anybody…to be a farmer.” (Laughter.) He said, “It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, you add water, up comes corn.” I have never heard a more uninformed, ignorant statement about agriculture in my life. (Applause.) I mean, really and truly.
And this isn’t just coming from a guy, you know, that was governor of the state where Purdue University is located, right? Not from far Michigan state. Good heavens. (Laughter.) Somebody tell him to Google “agriscience.” Take a ride on a combine and see how many screens you’re looking at. Right? I mean, GPS satellites, water moisture in the ground — I mean, you all are — you’re the bread basket of the world because you’re — this is a high-tech operation. And the range of knowledge that you have to have in finance and technology and soil management, it just — it’s extraordinary.
I mean, I’m — I’m always in awe. I’m always in awe whenever I visit farmers and see the extraordinary range of information that you take. You’re small-business owners and yet you’re out there — you’re out there with your sleeves rolled up, getting the work done early and getting the work done late.
You know, for all of that kind of commentary, the other day I couldn’t help but put out on social media a different attitude about agriculture. And it came from one of my favorite radio broadcasters, many years ago. It was about 40 years ago, Paul Harvey, I think was at a Farm Bureau gathering, when he spoke these words. And let me quote them generously, because I think it’s the right view of the American farmer.
Paul Harvey said:
“On the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and [He] said, ‘I need a caretaker…’
Somebody willing to get up before dawn…work all day in the fields…then go to town…stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board…
Somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, [and] weed, [and] feed, [and] breed and rake and disc and plow and plant…
Somebody who [would] bale a family together with the strong, soft bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says that he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’ So God made a farmer.”
I believe this nation has been blessed in countless and innumerable ways. But God made a farmer, and God made an American farmer. (Applause.) And you have been a blessing to America every day of our nation’s history. (Applause.)
And it’s not just been what you produce, it’s not just been those extraordinary economic numbers, the complexity of farming, but it’s also — I think the greatest contribution that farmers have made through the long and storied history of this nation has been to the character of our nation.
It’s remarkable to me how many times in that book that I try and stop and read every morning, that the Nazarene actually points to the farmer, to consider the farmer, the one who tills the soil when trying to teach us patience and teach us the hard virtues of faith and generosity and neighborliness. I really believe this with all my heart.
It’s maybe more important in these divided times than ever before that the — that the family farm prospers and thrives because it’s, in so many ways, a wellspring of our nation’s character.
And I just want you to know that as you contribute to the vitality of this state and our nation, that your character and your faith contribute even more.
So as I close, let me just say thank you. Thank you for the warm welcome today. Thank you for the privilege of serving as your Vice President. It’s the greatest honor of my life. It truly is.
And to all of you who work in agriculture, whose labor and life’s work can be found in the food that we eat and the character of this nation: Thank you for who you are, and thank you for what you do.
And to all of you who are even now considering a career in agriculture, these bright young people who might have noticed I was wearing my FFA tie today — (laughter and applause) — just know there’s a great future in American farming, and we’re counting on you to lead it.
I truly do believe that agriculture is a quintessential American field. So thanks for believing in it. Thanks for living it out. Thanks for making the hard choices.
And just know that, on behalf of the President of the United States and this Vice President, our Secretary of Agriculture and all the men and women of this administration, and a grateful nation: Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep growing it, keep raising it, and keep being it, for as the American farm is strong, America is strong. And as the American farm is greater than ever before, we’ll keep America great.
Thanks, everybody. (Applause.) God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)