Advice for 'aggies' about the Trump transition

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2016 - Two men who played key roles in past presidential transitions offered their perspectives and some advice on what to expect as President-elect Donald Trump's transition team moves into high gear.

“Much of the Washington establishment is still shocked that Trump won, but within the agriculture community, there is a lot of excitement,” former Secretary of Agriculture John Block, told Agri-Pulse after addressing the CropLife America board of directors in West Virginia today. Block, who currently works at OFW Law was joined by OFW Law Partner Marshall Matz, who led Farmers and Ranchers for then-Senator Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign.

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Block credits Trump's national agricultural advisory team, as well as Ag advisors in several states, with helping to magnify messages and increase voter turnout.

“The Obama administration's support for extreme environmental regulations convinced the agricultural industry that they had had enough” and needed a new direction, Block said. He noted that Hillary Clinton's campaign didn't even have an official agricultural team and it hurt her in rural America.

Block expects the Trump administration to make an early push on tax reform, including elimination of the estate tax, and also address overregulation, including repeal of the controversial “waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS rule.

The only concern within the agricultural community is Trump's opposition to current and pending trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Block said Trump's stance on trade presents a “difficult balancing act, even though there are ways to make it work.” Trump's agricultural advisory team made it very clear during repeated conference calls with Trump advisors that they were concerned about “keeping the ag trade door open,” Block said.

Both men advised that, now that Trump has won, it's important for the agricultural community to identify potential candidates to work in the new administration.

“It's not a question of sitting back and seeing who we get, it's a matter of being proactive and putting forward our best,” Matz added. Over 4,000 political appointments will be open across several agencies and the White House.

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Matz said that agricultural groups should try to recruit top candidates for USDA, as well as the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and others.

The Trump transition team has already launched a web site, www.GreatAgain.gov where individuals interested in serving can apply. And a document that was widely circulated in Washington, but not confirmed as being the most current, named Mike Torrey, CEO of Michael Torrey Associates, as the point person for agriculture within the transition team. Prior to founding his own lobbying firm, Torrey worked on Capitol Hill, worked for the International Dairy Foods Association and served as Deputy Chief of Staff at USDA under President George W. Bush.

 

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