WASHINGTON, June 29, 2016 - Production agriculture hasn’t been front and center in either party’s presidential campaigns this year, but a recent meeting may start to elevate the industry’s importance in the future.
The chief executive officers of major farm and agribusiness associations met with Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff in Brooklyn last Friday. They’ve made a similar request to the Donald Trump campaign, but nothing has been scheduled as of yet.
Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America and organizer of the CEOs who attended, declined to “name names” of Clinton staffers, but said it was a “sufficiently senior” audience. He described it as a “substantial meeting” because of who was there, the amount of time spent, and issues discussed.
“They told us where their highest priorities were in key states and, guess what, there is agriculture in every one of them,” Vroom added.
In the past, many of these organizations have engaged more at the grassroots level. But for the 2016 campaign, “collectively, the organizations thought it was smart to try to reach out to both organizations at the top,” Vroom said.
Besides CropLife America, attendees included representatives of the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, and The Fertilizer Institute.
The group discussed trade, food safety, the current and future farm bill, consumer outreach on biotechnology and agricultural labor needs. “We even had some pretty decent conversations about the science-based ag regulatory policy landscape,” Vroom added.
“We want to hear the candidates talk about something beyond just a rural America agenda and make sure they understand the importance of farming, the competitiveness of production agriculture in the United States, the innovation and science base that not only benefits American farmers but literally serves as the creative cauldron for farmers all over the world,” Vroom said.
In terms of outcomes, Vroom said the groups who have state affiliates want to make sure they are better organized in key states so that “those who want to be engaged politically can show that agriculture is there . . . not just talk the talk, but walking the talk.”
Vroom said he told the campaign staff that he hoped “this is not a one and done meeting. If it’s successful for us and for you it will be a series of meetings and interactions with us as a group and individually as you work through issues that will invariably reach the surface.”
And as a result, “I’m confident that you are going to hear more of that in this campaign from the candidates as well as surrogates.”
For Barb Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the meeting was a chance to “advance the dialogue. Our group is nonpartisan and we aspire to have future leaders who understand that agriculture starts in the states.”
OFW Law’s Marshall and Peter Matz were the liaisons to the Clinton campaign; Marshall Matz served as the co-chair of Farmers and Ranchers for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
“It was a very important meeting for agriculture and for the Clinton campaign too,” noted Marshall Matz. “Agriculture needs to vote for the person who is best on the issues without regard to the R and D labels.”
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