West Fargo farm rally will try to capture part of Trump's spotlight
WEST FARGO — Farmers will rally at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds on Wednesday, June 27, hours before President Donald Trump will stump for Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who is trying to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in the North Dakota Senate race.
The rally, organized by the North Dakota Farmers Union and others, is not billed as a protest, but seeks to draw attention to issues confronting farmers, including trade disputes and a potential decrease in an ethanol production benchmark, which would decrease demand for corn.
"It's not a protest against President Trump," said Pam Musland, marketing and communication supervisor for the North Dakota Farmers Union. "Our hope is to grab some media attention with all the media in town" to cover Trump's appearance.
The rally will begin at 11 a.m., hours before Trump is scheduled to take the stage at 7 p.m. at Scheels Arena to campaign for Cramer. It will be Trump's third visit to North Dakota as president.
Those at what's billed the "2018 Rally for Agriculture" will demonstrate "support for agriculture amid ongoing issues with trade, ethanol, nutrition programs and the farm bill," according to an announcement for the event. "Farmers are encouraged to drive a tractor or bring a piece of equipment to the rally."
Farmers worry that what appears to be an escalating trade war will hurt farm exports and also are concerned about the Trump administration's possible reduction of the renewable fuels standard for ethanol, which would decrease demand for corn.
"Those two issues alone have a huge impact on farm income," Musland said. "All of that will affect producers in North Dakota."
National farm income has plummeted from $123 billion in 2013 to $54 billion by 2016 and is forecast to decrease by 30 percent this year, she said.
"It's been a downward spiral since 2013 and it hasn't hit bottom yet," Musland added.
A "farmer's share" lunch will be served at the rally to underscore that farmers currently earn less than 15 cents of every retail dollar spent on food, the lowest share since tracking began 25 years ago.
Other organizations taking part in the rally are the North Dakota Dairy Coalition, Great Plains Food Bank and the Minnesota Farmers Union.