President Donald Trump said repeatedly today that America must stick to its fight against unfair trade practices other countries are committing. During a VFW National Convention among 4,000 members today at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Trump said the biggest beneficiaries in the trade battle will be farmers.

President Trump addresses a private audience in Springfield

“My administration also understands that we cannot be a safe country if we are not a prosperous country,” Trump said. “We have to think of ourselves. You have to see these trade deals I’m working on. They’re a disaster.”

Trump’s tariffs on imports have prompted other nations to put tariffs on U.S. products, including agriculture goods. The retaliatory tariffs have created additional uncertainty for farmers.

In 2017, China bought roughly 60% of its soybeans from U.S. farmers. About 70% of Missouri agriculture exports go to Canada or Mexico.

Trump said the U.S. lost more than $800 billion on trade last year. He said the U.S. has been getting ripped off by other countries for decades.

“I don’t like it when they close a factory in your state or a plant in your great state and they move it to another country. They make the product and they fire all of you,” Trump said. “They make the product and they send it back into our country to be sold tax-free. Our workers have been cheated. Our companies have been cheated. They’ve stolen our wealth. They’ve brought it to other countries.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today a $12 billion plan to counter an estimated $11 billion worth of damages farmers will suffer because of tariffs and lost markets. He said there will be a Market Facilitation program for direct payments to producers, a Food Distribution program purchasing food for nutrition programs and food banks, and efforts to find new markets through a Trade Promotion program.

The programs are expected to be ready in September. Perdue says the programs are a short-term solution to give Trump time to work on a long-term deal.

During Trump’s appearance, he also condemned Democrats for criticizing his stance on immigration and taxes and gave a warm endorsement to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is considered the Republican frontrunner to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

Trump also touted the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act, which he signed into law in June. The law makes it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees for wrongdoing and adds protections for VA whistleblowers.

“Somebody bad mistreats or neglects or abuses our great veterans in their time of need, we can turn to them, look at them in the eye and say, you’re fired.” (:14)

More than 100 people protested several blocks away from the event. Protesters held signs criticizing the Trump administration’s separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border and Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin.

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