President Donald Trump gets a shot at this week's Republican National Convention to demonstrate he's maintained the strong support that he needs in farm country and battleground states to win re-election this fall.
The convention will look a lot different from last week’s Democratic National Convention, which was entirely virtual. Monday’s convention proceedings in Charlotte, N.C., will be attended by six delegates from each state and territory, amounting to 336 delegates total, according to the Republican National Committee.
Some Republican lawmakers have been invited to the White House to watch the president’s acceptance speech, which will take place on the South Lawn of the White House Thursday night.
Missing from the GOP convention will be a traditional industry luncheon for agricultural leaders and delegates. That could be held this fall instead. The Democratic National Convention had a virtual event last week sponsored by leading agribusiness companies and featuring leaders of various companies and organizations as well as Democratic policy makers.
Convention speakers will include Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who faces a tough re-election race this fall, as well as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Reynolds will speak on Tuesday and Ernst and Noem on Wednesday, the night Vice President Mike Pence gives his acceptance speech.
Despite a long trade war between China and tariff battles with countries like Mexico and Canada, Alabama Ag Commissioner and first-time RNC delegate Rick Pate said farmer support for Trump is solid.
“Our farmers and our rural areas are really solidly behind the president,” Pate told Agri-Pulse. “Between the Market Facilitation payments that he tried to do to help fix some of the damage because of the tariffs, we’re pretty supportive here.”
The 2019 version of the Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program delivered $14.5 billion to producers for losses linked to the trade war. Alabama received $122.5 million.
Pate argued Trump has a good message for agriculture and knows his key supporters.
“Obviously, he’s from New York and probably hadn’t ever milked a cow or picked up a bale of hay but he certainly knows that’s where his base is,” Pate said.
Even though Trump reacts harshly to people on Twitter, rural Americans understand that his intent as president is to boost free enterprise, capitalism, maintaining law and order, and protecting religious faith, Pate said.
Trump has given agriculture groups some wins including his replacement of the Obama-era Waters of the U. S. rule that significantly reduces federal jurisdiction over streams and wetlands.
Speaking on a virtual ag roundtable with Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb. Friday, Chief Ag Negotiator Gregg Doud said the Trump administration has completely overhauled trade with key importers of U.S. goods.
“If you look at Canada, Mexico, Japan and China, those are our top four markets for U.S. ag exports and we’ve negotiated those deals with all four of these countries,” Doud said. The countries amount to 47% of U.S. total ag exports, he said.
Doud said it would be bad for agriculture if a new administration walks away from the China phase one trade deal. “We have an agreement on facilitating trade here in terms of actual dollar amounts. Nobody ever possibly dreamed we could do something like this with China. We’re doing it and we need to keep doing it,” he said.
But corn, soybean, and biofuel producers think the Trump administration could do more for their industry than just allowing gasoline blended with 15% ethanol to be sold year-round. Most would like to see his Environmental Protection Agency rein in small refinery exemptions to oil producers.
Rep. Rodney Davis, who faces a tough re-election race in central Illinois, said in an interview with Agri-Pulse that he wanted to “see Republicans and the president focus on rural America" and highlight how the party is trying to address needs like broadband.
But the congressman also thinks the convention should call attention to the protests that have disrupted many cities. “Our cities, led by Democrats, are blocking off their own leadership, their own mayor’s neighborhoods, from these so-called peaceful protesters, but at the same time letting our business in other neighborhoods get ransacked and looted. That’s a major issue for rural America to sit back and watch.”
Republicans are “here for law and order,” he said.
Meanwhile, Missouri GOP chairwoman Kay Hoflander said Trump supporters are glad to see Trump fighting back when others try to knock him down.
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“People who really support Trump, and I’m one of them, appreciate the fact that he is a street fighter and he gets in there and fights for the forgotten men and women that he has supported during his presidency,” Hoflander told Agri-Pulse.
Hoflander said undecided voters need to focus on the successes Trump has made during his presidency rather than his demeanor.
“The state of the economy before the pandemic was just vibrant and robust and breaking all kinds of records,” she said.
She said over the last three weeks, the Missouri GOP has distributed 1,270 four-foot-by-eight-foot Trump signs to counties across the state and they have to keep ordering more.
“We couldn’t get enough. We’d order, they’d want more. We’d order again, we’d order again, and they just can’t get enough of their Trump signs,” Hoflander said.
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