Rural America Rises Up

Groups Ponder What Trump Policies Will Mean for Ag

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Agriculture interest groups discuss post-election agriculture policy Wednesday at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Pictured from left to right: Jon Doggett, National Corn Growers Association; Bob Young, American Farm Bureau Federation; and Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union. (DTN photo by Todd Neeley)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- Exactly how President-elect Donald Trump's policies will affect agriculture remains virtually unknown, a group of panelists said at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual convention here the morning after Election Day.

There are a number of questions to be answered that are critical to agriculture. That includes who will be the next secretary of agriculture, what happens with the next farm bill, the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade policy in general, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and the fate of the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule.

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said when it's all said and done, he believes trade issues will be what carried the day for Trump in rural America.

"I think this is a big deal in this election," he said. "Farmers Union is in a different position than other agriculture groups in that we have been skeptical of what we hear about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Fundamentally, Trump has antipathy for trade agreements. We think we've done not a very good job with these trade agreements. I would say a lot of agriculture and farmers are in support of TPP, but that's not necessarily so for others in rural areas."

In addition, Johnson said a "regulatory malaise" coming from Washington, D.C. -- including the WOTUS rule -- motivated rural America to vote for Trump. In general, he said, farmers are tired of what they perceive is an elite ruling class in D.C. handing down a bevy of regulations.

Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said Trump's victory comes with much relief in the countryside.

It is conceivable that Trump could undertake regulatory reform in the first 100 days, although he faces other major issues including nominating a Supreme Court judge to replace the late Antonin Scalia and perhaps passing another continuing budget resolution, he said.

"I think there's a great deal of optimism at this stage in agriculture with one-party control in Washington," Young said. "A fair amount of stuff can be done administratively. We hope some administrative action can get some common sense reinstated on how regulations are drafted."

Young said Trump took the time to reach out to AFBF prior to the election. "It didn't happen with the other candidate," he said.

Working on a new farm bill will be among the first pieces of legislation in the first year of the Trump administration. There is some hope among farm-state lawmakers it could be completed in 2017 because of low commodity prices.

"Trump has indicated a willingness to work with us on that," Young said. "We're very optimistic to be able to work with him."

With all of the talk from Trump about his opposition to the TPP and a desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Young said the president-elect is "very much in favor of trade."

Jon Doggett, executive vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, said rural America's support of Trump should be a wakeup call to so-called elitists in Washington.

"I realize there are a lot of people in this country who are in peril, feel we ignore the concerns people have toward government and institutions," he said.

"Agriculture needs to be a part of that. The voters have spoken. We need to start reaching out to one another. Nothing's going to happen if we can't resolve issues."

Johnson said because the prevailing view among farm groups in Washington was Hillary Clinton would win, there hasn't been a lot of discussion about who might be a good secretary of agriculture in a Trump administration.

"The conventional wisdom was this guy wasn't going to get elected," he said. "This puts us all in an uncertain position."

The panelists agreed that while Trump may be tempted to get as much done as possible in the first 100 days, there is a lot of work to be done just in assembling an administration and understanding how Washington works, let alone launching legislation and other initiatives.

In addition, they agreed it is unlikely the TPP is approved by the Trump administration. The farm bill, however, may be another story.

"I would be hopeful here that, because he has all the controls of government in one party, there will be a strong desire here to prove you can run government. With the farm bill, my hope is they start working on it right away," said Johnson. "It would be nice if we got it done on time. If you don't get it done in 2018, you start over. My sense is the agriculture community is a little less divided this time for the farm bill."

Doggett said Trump's ascension is reminiscent of the Tea Party's resounding victory in Congress in 2010. "It is not the first sea change we've had," he said. "In 2010 we had the Tea Party. What happened? Nothing. There was change. The voters spoke. But there wasn't a plan to figure out how to get it done. The party system is all but over. There's no allegiance to party."

"I'm an inside-the-beltway guy," said Young. "We seem to be willing to take any Joe and say go run the government. If he can't get 60 votes in the Senate, legislation won't move. In the last 20 years, we refuse to want to know how government works."

OTHER AG REACTION

A number of agriculture and ethanol interest groups expressed a willingness to work with the Trump administration, according to a number of press statements issued by several groups Wednesday.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Tracy Brunner said his group is holding off judgement about what the national election will mean.

"Although it is still too early to determine what exactly this election will mean for our priorities, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association remains committed to expanding access to foreign markets, fighting burdensome federal regulations and ensuring the continued health of our herd and industry," he said.

"In the coming weeks, we will continue to work with Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, defund EPA's flawed waters of the United States rule, and pass the National Defense Authorization Act which includes language to mitigate the sage grouse stubble height requirements and other restrictions on grazing based on flawed science," Brunner stated.

American Soybean Association Vice President Ron Moore, who is a soybean farmer from Roseville, Illinois, said he believes Trump's victory is good for the industry.

"We applaud his pro-farmer stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard, on reducing the burden of regulations like the EPA's waters of the United States rule, on investing in our nation's supply chain infrastructure, and on protecting farm and food programs in the farm bill," Moore said in a statement. "We look forward as well to a constructive discussion on President-elect Trump's stance on trade. It is impossible to overstate the importance of trade and specifically of the Chinese market to American soybean farmers. Similarly, our export markets in North America and Southeast Asia are extraordinarily important trading partners."

On the ethanol front, interest groups Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association say the election results do nothing to change bipartisan support for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

"President-elect Trump has publicly supported the Renewable Fuel Standard throughout his campaign, and consistently opposed any efforts to roll back this policy," the Growth Energy group said in a statement. "In fact, the RFS was one issue where both candidates found common ground, and we applaud their recognition of the importance that biofuels, like ethanol, play in fueling our country."

RFA President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen said his group will continue to work with the Trump administration on expanding ethanol markets.

"The president-elect repeatedly expressed strong support for ethanol, generally, and the Renewable Fuel Standard, specifically, on the campaign trail," Dinneen said.

"He understands the importance of clean, domestic energy resources and the economic power of value-added agriculture. We are confident Mr. Trump will continue to support the expanded production and use of fuel ethanol," said Dinneen. "Moreover, the president-elect is committed to removing regulatory barriers that impede growth. We look forward to working with a Trump administration to remove unnecessary volatility restrictions that have discouraged market acceptance of higher level ethanol blends like E15 and created unreasonable administrative burdens on gasoline marketers willing to offer these fuels to consumers."

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said he was pleased with rural America's turnout in the election.

"Farmers and ranchers understand that their businesses and their families have too much at stake to take a back seat on Election Day, and rural America clearly made a difference in this election," he said.

"Now it's time for our newly elected leaders to turn up for rural America and keep their campaign promises by addressing the issues that matter to the people who sent them to Washington."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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(AG/ES)

Todd Neeley