WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2016 - Donald Trump’s stunning victory on Tuesday, combined with a Congress that will stay in Republican hands, ensures that farms and energy producers will win relief from federal regulations, but the election outcome also throws the future of U.S. trade policy into doubt.
Trump’s campaign was based on rolling up big margins in rural regions of Ohio, Iowa and other battleground states, and he did that in part by pounding the Obama administration over regulations and trade.
Republicans also won the House and retained control of the Senate, although the Louisiana Senate race will be subject to a runoff and the New Hampshire race was still too close.
Trump has pledged to kill the Obama administration’s “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and the greenhouse gas regulations on electric utilities. Both rules have been put on hold by the courts, but Trump’s victory virtually ensures that they will be killed. The Obama administration’s pesticide and labor regulations also are likely to be targeted.
A Trump administration also is likely to slow down endangered species protections that have frustrated farmers, ranchers and energy producers.
A bigger question is what happens to trade and immigration policy. The future of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership looks grim. Trump made opposition to the TPP a major focus of his campaign and he pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been a major benefit to U.S. agricultural exports. Trump also has threatened to impose tariffs on China, a major market for U.S. soybeans and other farm products.
Trump has backed off his threat to deport all illegal immigrants, saying that he would focus enforcement actions on criminal aliens. His advisers say he will streamline the H-2A visa program to make it easier for farms to import the labor that they need.
The importance of the rural vote to Trump was evident early in the night in Ohio, where he outperformed Mitt Romney’s results in 2012. Trump won Darke County, which is Ohio’s top corn producer, with nearly 79 percent of the vote, compared to Romney’s 71.5 percent. President Obama won another major corn-producing county, Wood, with 51 percent of the vote in 2012. Trump won Wood County this year with a similar share of the vote as Obama’s.
There were similar results in Iowa, where Governor Terry Branstad’s son Eric was in charge of the campaign. Trump won that state’s top corn producing county, Kossuth, with 66 percent of the vote. Romney won the county with less than 56 percent. Romney won Pottawatamie County with 52 percent of the vote, while Trump won with 58 percent.
Farmers nationwide overwhelmingly favored Trump over Clinton, 55 percent to 18 percent, according to the Agri-Pulse Farm and Ranch Poll taken last month. More than 70 percent said that regulatory policies were on the wrong track, and 86 percent said they were “somewhat” or “very dissatisfied” with the way things are going in the country.
Reflecting that sentiment, John Block, a former U.S. agriculture secretary, said in a blog post on Monday that he supported Trump because “he would kill the ‘death tax,’ and cut regulations and nominate conservative Supreme Court justices.”
Block played down Trump’s potential impact on trade policy. “It is O.K. if he can improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. However, I think trade agreements have been a big plus for agriculture.”
In an interview with Agri-Pulse early Tuesday night, Vilsack expressed hope that Clinton would win both Iowa and Ohio, two states in which he had spent the past week campaigning for Clinton.
But Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, acknowledged that Democrats had trouble connecting with voters in the Rust Belt who struggled to deal with what he called an “economy in transition.
“We are now in a different time and different world, and we have to move from an extraction economy to a sustainable one,” he said.