WASHINGTON, July 19, 2016 - The Republican Party today will look to turn the page from a tumultuous first day of the GOP convention in Cleveland. The opening day that was dominated by images of rebellious delegates unsuccessfully demanding a roll call vote on the party rules. Supporters of Donald Trump quashed the vote by reportedly persuading several states, to withdraw petitions, but it was hardly the display of unity that the candidate wanted and needed. 

Behind the scenes, an effort has been quietly developing to build support for Trump among farmers and ranchers. Charles Herbster, a leading Angus cattle breeder from Nebraska, has been leading the effort to organize agribusiness leaders behind Trump. In June, Herbster was involved in setting up a meeting between Trump and hundreds of evangelical Christian leaders. Herbster will be in Cleveland for an agribusiness luncheon on the sidelines of the GOP convention.

The Trump campaign has yet to release any details of the organizational effort. But Iowa farmer Annette Sweeney, who co-chaired a pro-ethanol campaign ahead of her state’s presidential caucuses, tells Agri-Pulse that there is an “impressive agriculture movement” in the works for Trump.

Trump pressed on trade. Sweeney, who has praised Trump’s responsiveness to the ethanol industry’s priorities early in his campaign, says she and others in agribusiness have conveyed their concerns to the campaign about Trump’s criticism of U.S. trade policy. Sweeney says that both Republicans and Democrats need to consider the impact on agriculture of failing to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was in Cleveland for the opening of the convention, tells Agri-Pulse that he sees Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on China as a negotiating tool. And Grassley doesn’t think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead under a Trump presidency. Hillary Clinton has said she wants to renegotiate parts of the agreement, and Trump could do that, too, Grassley says. “If he can do that and get something better than what we have, I’d say, ‘Praise the Lord’,” Grassley said.

Grassley says Trump will be better than Hillary Clinton for agriculture because he’ll push the annual ethanol mandates higher than she will. 

GOP platform attacks Obama regs. The new Republican Party platform includes an extensive section on agriculture that attacks the administration on regulatory issues, especially the EPA’s “waters of the U.S.” rule. “This regulatory impulse must be curbed, not on a case-by-case basis, but through a fundamental restructuring of the regulatory process,” the platform says. 

The document also says it took long to pass the 2014 farm bill because of what the platform calls Democratic efforts to expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Ag chairman promotes Trump. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts made a forceful case to GOP delegates on the convention's opening day that Trump would be better than a Democrat for agriculture and rural America. Obama’s regulatory agenda has made it “nearly impossible” for farmers to do their jobs, he said. Farmers “actually feel ruled, not governed.” 

Young delegate: Get government off farmers’ backs. There are a few delegates and alternates in Cleveland who have first-hand knowledge of the challenges agriculture faces. One of them is 19-year-old Westhenry Ioerger (pronounced YOR-ger), an alternate delegate from Iowa. Ioerger told Agri-Pulse’s Spencer Chase that government agencies “are really making it hard for us farmers and people in agriculture to do what’s best and that’s feed the world.” 

To see the whole interview, go to agri-pulse.com. Check back this week for interviews with delegates from California and Texas. 

Battle over higher ethanol blends intensifies. Ethanol is also one of the big issues on the minds of members of the National Corn Growers Association. They’re in Washington this week for their annual Corn Congress and visits to congressional staff. 

Yesterday, a corn growers action committee received updates from Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association and the American Coalition for Ethanol on a wide variety of market development efforts. Another action team, on trade policy and biotechnology, heard from Darci Vetter, the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, on the importance of the TPP and how Brexit will affect the T-TIP negotiations with the EU.

Food security a priority for Mrs. Biden’s Africa trip. Food security is one of the issues that Jill Biden is expected to take up during her three-day visit to the African nation of Malawi. The wife of Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the country’s commercial capital Blantyre yesterday. She’s expected to visit areas affected by drought and to discuss health and education, among other issues. 

USDA part of Vienna climate discussions. USDA representatives are included in the U.S. delegation to an important climate change meeting later this week in Vienna. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is heading the delegation to the “Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.” The protocol is a global agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer through measures to control production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. 

He said it – “One of the main issues to me in agriculture is getting the government to … draw back form their almost oppressive regulations that they’re hamming us with.” - Westhenry Ioerger, an alternate GOP delegate whose family grows corn and soybeans near Alden, Iowa.


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