WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2016 - Donald Trump’s top agriculture policy adviser says the GOP presidential candidate views crop insurance and commodity programs as matters of national security and is open to easing rules on the agricultural guest worker program.

Sam Clovis said Trump has “made it very clear that agriculture is a national security issue and should be treated as such. So that may give you an indication of where we’re going to be looking at the farm economy,” Clovis told Agri-Pulse after speaking to an agribusiness luncheon in Washington on Tuesday along with Charles W. Herbster, the chairman of the campaign’s agricultural advisory committee.

Asked specifically if Trump would be open to renegotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Clovis responded, “If it was in our (national) interest.” Trump has said he wouldn’t do multilateral trade agreements, only bilateral deals. But Clovis said Trump’s comments on trade policy were being taken too literally.

“All of us have preferences. That doesn’t mean that’s going to be the dictate,” Clovis said. “One of the problems is that a lot of people in the media take him very literally as opposed to listening to the sum of what he says and putting all that together and coming to a conclusion to some synthesis of what he said.” Here are other highlights from their interviews with Agri-Pulse.

--On the farm bill: As president, Trump might oppose the GOP platform’s proposal for splitting the next farm bill, according to Clovis. (Congress is expected to begin writing the legislation as soon as next year.) Clovis said that dividing nutrition from the rest of the farm bill would make a farm bill more difficult to pass. “If it were up to me, we wouldnt split it,” he said.

Clovis said a Trump White House would consult with representatives of both parties in developing its approach to the farm bill.  “One of the things we want to do is make sure that there is input from both sides of the aisle on this because it affects everybody,” he said.

Citing slumping commodity prices and equipment sales, Clovis disagreed with critics of farm policy who say farmers are generally well off and don’t need government support. “I would say the farm economy is shaky right now. Its shaky for a lot of reasons. … I really think we have some serious issues.” He said that crop insurance “would be an important part of any farm bill we would approach.”

--On immigration: Clovis didn’t disagree when told that Trump’s recent statements on immigration seemed to parallel President Obama’s as far as enforcement priorities were concerned: Emphasize border security and focus deportations on illegal immigrants with a criminal record.

“It ought to be the policy of the United States government to enforce the law and get rid of those people who are the greatest threat to this country and get rid of those people first,” Clovis said.

Clovis said a Trump administration would consult agribusiness leaders as its immigration policy was developed. “We very much want to make sure that people understand that there will probably be an opportunity for them to have input and that well figure out ways to make sure were not going to close down all of our agriculture in this country,” he said.

Clovis also said a Trump administration would review the H-2A guest worker program to ensure the rules “make sense.” He cited approvingly the Bracero guest worker program, which ended in 1964. Clovis said it “worked extremely well,” while the H-2A program, by contrast, is “not ideal.”

-On TPP: Clovis’ remarks on the TPP suggest that a President Trump might not view the trade agreement that much differently than Hillary Clinton, who has directly called for renegotiating changes in the 12-nation pact. She has compared her approach to the one that President Obama took with the Korean trade agreement, which was originally negotiated during the George W. Bush administration and then tweaked under Obama before it was approved by Congress in 2011.

Clovis said that a Trump administration would first want to examine the TPP text in detail and address issues such as currency manipulation and the impact of the agreement on U.S. regulations.

“We may have committees that may be overriding or at least pushing back on our own laws. We want to make sure that if we have intellectual property protections in this country that all the other countries have the same. If we have labor and environmental issues in this country, we want the other countries to have the same. If they’re not on the same plane, we want to find out when they are going to get to that plane,” he said.

Clovis rejected the idea that Trump’s criticism of the TPP has increased opposition to the treaty. “If one guy… poisoned the political support for it, what does that tell you about the agreement?”


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