Ag Policy Blog

Debating Farm Policy and the Presidential Race

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Samuel Clovis Jr., representing the Trump campaign, and Pam Johnson, representing the Biden campaign, debated farm policy planks during a forum Tuesday held by the Farm Foundation. (Photo from video livestream images)

WASHINGTON, D.C., (DTN) -- Samuel Clovis Jr., a member of Farmers and Ranchers for Trump, represented President Donald Trump's re-election campaign while Pam Johnson, an Iowa farmer and former president of the National Corn Growers Association, represented Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign on Tuesday in a Farm Foundation discussion of the two candidates' agricultural platforms.

In a civil discussion, Clovis and Johnson agreed on many issues, particularly the importance of conservation and agricultural research, but disagreed on Trump's records on trade and support for ethanol.

Clovis, who worked on Trump's 2016 campaign, handled agriculture in the transition to office and worked at the Agriculture Department until 2018, defended Trump's record on trade, saying it was important for the president to take a tough stand with China and that Trump had brought home money and manufacturing jobs. Clovis also noted that, after falling, farm exports are increasing and prices are rising.

“We have always been on the forefront of keeping our promises as we went forward,” Clovis said, describing Trump “as a politician like no other we have had in the history of the American people.”

When the Trump team arrived at USDA, Clovis said, “we were met by people in the department who were so anxious to see us. There had been a disconnect between people in the executive suites and the department.”

Trump's team, he said, “had been looking at the opportunity to undo regulations that had been hindering farming for a long time.”

Johnson said that Trump had mismanaged relations with China, the Renewable Fuel Standard and the coronavirus pandemic.

Farmers, Johnson said, want to make their money from the market rather than getting aid. Relationships built with foreign customers “have been trashed.”

“We simply cannot stand four more years of this,” Johnson said, with competitors, particularly Brazil and Argentina, winning markets.

Biden's farm plan, she added, “gives me hope” that he would “restore the RFS, restore U.S. global leadership and competitiveness. He would stand up to China, but he would do it differently.”

On the coronavirus, she added, Biden “would respect the doctors and the scientists.”

Clovis said that Biden would raise taxes on “everybody from day one” while Johnson said he would not raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 per year.

On the next farm bill, both agreed that crop insurance should be a high priority, followed by conservation and research.

Clovis noted there is conflict over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but both said that it is vital to keep it within the farm bill to get the bill passed.

Clovis and Johnson had their deepest conflicts over ethanol.

Clovis defended Trump's commitment to the RFS and maintained that many of the problems with ethanol stem from decreased demand for fuel due to decreased driving amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson said Trump had “sold out ethanol to Big Oil.”

The Farm Foundation has released a recording of the event.

Farm Foundation Forum – Focus on Farm Policy: Food/ag platforms of the 2020 presidential candidates (YouTube video)…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport


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