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Great American Farm Luncheon touts GOP, quiet on Trump

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A series of high-ranking Republicans July 20 urged farm leaders to be unified in supporting the Republican ticket this fall, but they barely mentioned the name of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, leaving the pitch for h...

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House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, speaks as Jay Vroom of CropLife America waits to the side of the stage at the Great American Farm Luncheon in the Silver Grille, a newly restored restaurant in the historic Higbee building, Cleveland. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

CLEVELAND, Ohio - A series of high-ranking Republicans July 20 urged farm leaders to be unified in supporting the Republican ticket this fall, but they barely mentioned the name of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, leaving the pitch for him to a Nebraska farmer and agribusiness executive who will chair Trump’s farm and rural committee.

Representatives of most of the nation’s major farm groups and agribusiness firms attended the Great American Farm Luncheon, a Republican National Convention tradition.

The event took place in the Silver Grille, a 10th-floor restaurant in the old Higbee’s department store building on Public Square. Thirty-seven tables for ten were set, but many tables had some empty seats - a reflection, perhaps, of farm and business leaders wanting to support the luncheon but not become personally involved in the controversies that surround this year’s convention and candidate.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam; House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas; Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, all urged attendees to vote Republican, but they either did not mention Trump’s name or only in passing. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and other current and past members of Congress were also present, but they did not speak. Ted McKinney, the Indiana agriculture director appointed by Mike Pence, the Indiana governor who is Trump’s running mate, also spoke.

The Trump pitch was left to Charles Herbster, president and CEO of the Conklin Company and Herbster Angus Farms in Falls City, Neb.

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CropLife America President and CEO Jay Vroom was the master of ceremonies but noted that National Council of Farmer Co-operatives President and CEO Charles Conner, a former Agriculture deputy secretary and Senate Agriculture Committee staff director seated in the audience, was his co-chair.

Before the officeholders and Herbster spoke, Vroom established the second theme of the event by telling the attendees that they must “stop talking to ourselves” and “dedicate ourselves to communicating” with the broader society.

Throughout the event, there were references to the difficulty of convincing urban consumers and college students of the value of commercial-scale agriculture. David Daniels, director of the Ohio Agriculture Department, an appointee of Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, noted that he has to communicate with “people who live in a loft” and “have never been on a farm” and have a nostalgia for old-style farming.

Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Adam Sharp said Ohio has 14 million acres of farm land and 11 million people, which means farmers need to raise crops and animals in close proximity to urbanites. That proximity makes it particularly difficult to raise pigs on a commercial scale, Sharp noted.

 

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