Trump touts need for border wall in speech to farmers

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLanny Davis: Trump views Cohen as ‘greatest threat to his presidency’ House Oversight chairman accuses Trump of making ‘a lot of money’ off presidency Trump references ‘Wounded Knee’ in tweet mocking Warren MORE on Monday used his speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation in New Orleans to tout his proposed wall along the southern border, amid a standoff with Democrats that has been at the center of a prolonged government shutdown.

The president, addressing the farm bureau’s 100th annual convention, touched on trade negotiations, deregulation and how the shutdown is affecting farmers. He received a standing ovation at the mention of an $867 billion farm bill passed last year.

Much of the hourlong speech, however, was devoted to the need for border security.

“When it comes to keeping the American people safe, I will never ever back down,” Trump said. “I didn’t need this fight.”

Trump, who has seized nearly every public appearance in recent days to hit Democrats and push the need for a border wall, appealed to farmers directly in the shutdown stalemate.

He argued that improved immigration laws and border security would make it easier for laborers to properly enter the country, and highlighted the story of Jim Chilton, a rancher in Arizona who said his property has been used by drug smugglers. A Border Patrol agent was shot near the property last year.

Trump invited Chilton on stage, where he declared “we need a wall,” and called on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiTrump’s disapproval rating higher since shutdown began: poll Dem senator: Border wall itself is not ‘immoral’ Trump, Pelosi needn’t be friends to find common ground MORE (D-Calif.) to support the president’s signature promise.

Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion to fund a border wall has been repeatedly rebuffed by congressional Democrats, precipitating a partial government shutdown that has lasted 24 days and counting. Earlier Monday, Trump rejected calls to reopen parts of the government during negotiations.

Democratic lawmakers have insisted that a wall would be ineffective at deterring illegal immigration, and that the money would be better spent on other border security measures. Some lawmakers have also said the structure does not represent American values.

Trump on Monday repeated his assertion that Democratic opposition during the shutdown is a matter of political posturing ahead of the 2020 election. 

“They view the wall as being a big item that if I don’t do it, you know, it’s a negative,” he said. “And I’m not doing it for that reason. I’m doing it because we have to do it. It’s common sense.”

The shutdown has further dampened the outlook for some farmers already reeling from an ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China. The Agriculture Department (USDA), which is closed during the shutdown, said last week it would extend the deadline for farmers to apply for aid to offset losses incurred because of the trade dispute.

Trump made a brief mention of the plight of farmers during the shutdown, thanking them for their “support and patriotism.”

“The USDA is doing everything in its power it can to help farmers deal with the ongoing shutdown,” he said. “We thank you for your support and patriotism. And we fight to defend our nation.”

Trump spent the final 15 minutes of his speech assuring attendees that they would reap the benefits of trade negotiations with China, as well as a renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico that has yet to be ratified by Congress.

“No one understands better than our great farmers that the tough choices we make today reap rewards for centuries to come,” he said.

The president received a warm reception from the crowd, and opened his remarks by congratulating the city’s NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, on its playoff victory a day earlier.

“You have to say, Drew Brees, he’s one hell of a quarterback and it was a tremendous game,” he said.

Early Monday, Trump tweeted that he was looking forward to visiting Nashville, and shared his affection for Tennessee. The tweet was quickly deleted, and reposted with the correct location.

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