KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 9, 2016 – With the election results now firmly in hand, ag lobbyists are turning their attention to drafting a playbook for their dealings with a changing D.C. landscape.
The surprise election of Republican Donald Trump means a new party will be taking over the White House and a new administration will be dealing with agriculture, energy and environmental policy issues. For the most part, agriculture interests say they stand ready to work with whoever fills those positions.
Jon Doggett, executive vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, talked about the challenges of dealing with a new administration during a panel discussion today at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City, Missouri. He said agriculture “can and should be a leader in helping heal” post-election divisions.
“We have some opportunities with this administration,” Doggett said. “Let’s not overdo it. Let’s provide solutions that work not only for agriculture, but for the environment … We can do that. We know how to do that … but let’s not let our reach exceed our grasp.”
Besides reclaiming the White House, Republicans also kept their majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. But Doggett pointed out that the majority the House Republicans will enjoy is slimmer than the current membership in the House Freedom Caucus, which often clashes with House leaders, so getting Democratic votes on farm issues will be key.
Bob Young, with the American Farm Bureau Federation, also cautioned against reading too much into GOP’s control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, noting that Democrats still have enough votes in the Senate to block legislative initiatives.
“Do we remember how the Senate works? Do we remember that you have to have 60 votes? Do we remember that the Senate is established to give a minority power?” Young asked rhetorically. “If your legislation is so extreme on one side that you’re not going to pick up some folks from the other side of the aisle, you’re not going to have 60 votes, and that piece of legislation is not going to move.”
Another panelist, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, noted that the rural vote was ultimately key in Trump’s victory, and that his opposition to trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership played a big role in that support.
“We had a lot of our members that I know voted for president-elect Trump, and it was because of what he was saying on trade,” Johnson said. “When I would ask our members about ‘How about Hillary? She’s also opposed to TPP,’ pretty much to a person they’d say, ‘Yeah, I know, but I don’t really believe her.’”
Trump has also said he would either renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement or withdraw from the trade pact, something that concerns Doggett.
“Mexico is our number-two corn market,” he said. “If we renegotiate NAFTA, it isn’t going to become number one.”
Even Johnson, whose organization isn’t one to sing NAFTA’s praises, has a hard time seeing how an agreement that has been in place for just over 20 years can be altered the way Trump has suggested. “I don’t know how you renegotiate NAFTA,” Johnson said. “I mean, NAFTA is NAFTA.”
All three of the panelists spoke out against splitting the farm bill into separate farm and nutrition pieces of legislation, which the Republican Party platform called for. And all agreed with Johnson that the ag community in Washington is “maybe a little less divided” for the upcoming farm bill than it was for the 2014 bill. None would take a shot at a pick for the next ag secretary.
Meanwhile, the Corn Growers, AFBF and other ag-related groups were quick to put out statements expressing eagerness to cooperate with Trump on issues important to U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“The American people have spoken,” NCGA President Wesley Spurlock said in a news release. “Now, it is time for us all to set aside our differences, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.”
The only issue the NCGA mentioned in its release was the TPP. Despite Trump’s opposition to the 12-nation trade deal, Spurlock urged the current Congress to pass the TPP during its lame-duck session in December.
“TPP is the one thing Congress can do right now to increase farm income, generate economic activity, and promote job growth. Campaign rhetoric has set America’s trade agenda back years. Let’s take a big step back in the right direction and pass TPP,” Spurlock said.
AFBF, the nation’s biggest farm group, congratulated not just Trump, but all the candidates elected to serve in the 115th Congress, urging both Republicans and Democrats to “reach across the aisle” to resolve the challenges facing U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“The important issues facing American agriculture are not red or blue, but they are critical to the prosperity of rural America and our ability to protect our nation’s food supply,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. Those issues, he said, include the next farm bill, tax reform and a trade agenda focused on reducing barriers and expanding exports.
The Renewable Fuels Association said it is eager to work with a Trump administration on “myriad trade challenges” facing the ethanol industry, which consumes about a third of the nation’s most valuable crop, corn.
In a statement, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen noted that Trump had repeatedly expressed strong support for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard during the campaign and was committed to removing restrictions that have discouraged the use of higher level ethanol blends like E15.
“He understands the importance of clean, domestic energy resources and the economic power of value-added agriculture,” Dinneen said. “We are confident Mr. Trump will continue to support the expanded production and use of fuel ethanol.”
Tracy Brunner, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said NCBA is looking forward to working with the new administration and a new Congress “to ensure the priorities of cattlemen and women nationwide are met,” although he said it’s still too early to determine what effect the election will have on those priorities.
Still, he said, NCBA “remains committed to expanding access to foreign markets, fighting burdensome federal regulations and ensuring the continued health of our herd and industry.”
“In the coming weeks, we will continue to work with Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, defund EPA’s flawed ‘waters of the United States’ rule’ and pass the National Defense Authorization Act which includes language to mitigate the sage grouse stubble height requirements and other restrictions on grazing based on flawed science.”
The American Soybean Association applauded Trump’s “pro-farmer stance” on issues including the renewable fuel standards, reducing the regulatory burden on farmers, investing in supply-chain infrastructure and protecting farm and food programs in the farm bill.
ASA Vice President Ron Moore said the group is also looking forward to a “constructive discussion” on Trump’s position on trade.
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of trade – and specifically of the Chinese market – to American soybean farmers,” he said. “We are eager to work together to illustrate how critical an aggressive trade agenda is for soybean farmers.”
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