Ag officials size up election
American voters have spoken, and the voices of farmers and other rural residents appear to have been particularly influential. Now, Upper Midwest agriculturalists say they hope for the best under the future Trump administration and Republican-con...
American voters have spoken, and the voices of farmers and other rural residents appear to have been particularly influential. Now, Upper Midwest agriculturalists say they hope for the best under the future Trump administration and Republican-controlled Senate and House.
“I’d like to think we can all come together and do what’s best for agriculture and the country,” says Krist Wollum, a Porter, Minn., cattle producer and president of his state Cattlemen’s Association.
But there are many questions, and few firm answers, about a wide range of important agricultural issues. How Trump and Congress deal with trade policy, health care, immigration, regulations, crop insurance, renewable energy and the next farm bill will all be watched closely by farmers, farm groups and others involved in agriculture.
By all accounts, rural residents and farmers, on balance, supported Trump, who challenged the status quo.
Many ag producers and rural residents are “really angry at this bureaucratic license to disregard how people live and work in this country, specifically farming,” says Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. “There’s such a disconnect between the process of farming and how to improve water quality and wildlife habitat and those types of things.”
Trump has often talked about the “overreach” of government regulation, which bodes well for agriculturalists opposed to the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, says John Youngberg, executive vice president of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. Many in Upper Midwest ag worry the proposal would hurt production agriculture.
Even so, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton talked in detail about agriculture during the campaign, ag leaders note.
“This election had so little to do with agriculture,” says Nancy Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association.
Trade and more But Trump often complained about U.S. trade policies, causing some agriculturalists to worry that U.S. ag exports might suffer in his administration.
"All of the talk about trade, putting tariffs on things from China, that could potentially have a bad effect in North Dakota," Johnson says.
In Montana, “International trade is the name of the game,” says George Haynes, a professor and agricultural policy specialist at Montana State University.
Other views on Trump and his future ag trade policies are mixed, however.
“Trump understands the value of international trade for agriculture," says Scott VanderWal, a Volga, S.D., farmer and president of his state Farm Bureau.
Doug Sombke, a Groton, S.D., farmer, and president of his state Farmers Union, says he hopes trade negotiators in a Trump administration will have “better parameters" in making deals.
Randy Martinson, market analyst for Martinson Ag Risk Management Inc. in Fargo, N.D., says Trump’s “first 100 days (in office) is going to tell us quite a bit, and a lot of it will be centered on trade.”
Trump needs to get the right people with diplomatic skills in his administration, Martinson says.
Trump’s repeated criticism of immigration policies also concerns many in ag.
U.S. agriculture needs a reliable labor force, and immigrants help to provide it, Youngberg says. He notes some of Trump’s statements on immigration “proved to be more theater than anything else.”
On the state government level, he doesn’t expect much change after Montana voters re-elected Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and kept Republicans in control of the House and Senate.
But Republicans, for the first time in many years will be in control of the State Land Board, which manages state trust land in Montana, Youngberg says. That makes him optimistic the board will be more conservative and allow greater utilization of state lands.
‘Wow’ is one reaction U.S. ag is watching how the Trump administration and Congress will deal with crop insurance, says Kent Thiesse, farm management Analyst and Vice president of MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal, Minn.
Though valued highly by most farmers, critics want to make changes that would make crop insurance less attractive and valuable to producers.
Thiesse and others also say U.S. agriculture is anxious to see how Trump and Congress respond to fast-rising health care costs, a huge and growing concern for farm families.
The direction that Trump and Congress take on the mandated use of renewable fuels is of great interest to corn growers, says Dale Ihry, executive director of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association and the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council.
His overall reaction to the election process: “Wow.”
Now, corn advocates need to work to influence cabinet and subcabinet appointees who deal with agriculture, Ihry says.
The current U.S. farm bill, the centerpiece of U.S. agricultural and food policy, expires in 2018, and advance work on crafting the next one has begun already.Trump says almost nothing about the farm bill during the campaign.
But most of the Congressional leaders who worked on the current farm bill remain in office, which should help with the next one, ag officals say.
Taxes are another key issue for many in agriculture, including VanderWal.
Trump has promised to end the estate tax, and for a capital gains tax on assets valued over $10 million, exempting small businesses and family farms.
"I think we saw something really remarkable yesterday," VanderWal says. "I think it'll go down as one of the most impactful elections in history. I'm happy it turned out the way it did."