December 12, 2016

What a Trump Presidency Means for Agriculture

Heated presidential elections are nothing new in the annals of American politics.

Consider one of our earliest contests in 1800 between incumbent John Adams and challenger (and then-vice president) Thomas Jefferson, two of the most highly-esteemed Founding Fathers of our country.  During the campaign, Adams asked voters if they were prepared to see their “dwellings in flames,” the chastity of their women “violated,” and their “children writhing on the pike.”  For his part, Jefferson also chose to bypass the high road, characterizing Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

By these standards, the insults traded by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 contest don’t seem all that extraordinary.  Nonetheless, the tenor of the campaign was the harshest and most personal I’ve seen in my lifetime.  In my many conversations about the two candidates, it often seemed that people were reduced to choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

However, as I suggested in my October column on the importance of judicial nominations, I believe the outcome of this election could shape the future of our country for generations to come.  As a nation, I believe we have reached a tipping point and need a new direction to curtail the boundless intrusion of government into every aspect of our economy and our lives.  At the time of this writing, the Democrat candidate had edged ahead of the Republican by a small margin.

I chose to personally endorse President-elect Trump and accepted his offer to serve on his agricultural advisory team.  I understood it was a risky move.  When Politico announced Trump’s list of agricultural advisors on August 16, pollsters and pundits had concluded the path to victory for the Republican nominee would be very narrow.  I also knew my decision would be met with apprehension by many and scorn by some.  Indeed, I fielded numerous calls in the days after the Politico article came out, with friends and associates around the country challenging the wisdom of my decision.  But I remain convinced that it was the right thing to do.  As Speaker Paul Ryan said, the election presented all of us with a binary choice; one of the two would be elected President.  I wasn’t content to be a non-participant with the stakes so high.

During the campaign, I had the opportunity to advise President-elect Trump on subjects critical to the fresh produce industry, as did many farmers and ranchers across the country.  Through my interactions with President-elect Trump and his advisors, I am confident he will be attentive to the unique needs of agriculture, starting with our labor crisis.

The President-elect understands we are unlike any other American industry, and I believe the new administration will work to enact policies that ensure the viability of American food production without undermining the President-elect’s determination to secure the border and remove undocumented aliens with criminal records.

I have the same optimism on the issue of international trade. American farmers benefit greatly from international trade, and we believe President-elect Trump will seek to better our trade agreements, not scuttle them entirely.

The truth is, President-elect Trump is aligned with agriculture on many issues, including the need to rebalance the regulatory climate for American farmers, especially those in the West who have been subjected to the most aggressive federal dictates.

We seek practical implementation of, and hopefully modifications to, the Endangered Species Act, which has been used as a weapon of economic destruction to choke off the water supply to thousands of farms and millions of Californians.  Additionally, we seek regulatory balance and a renewed reliance on unbiased scientific research in federal review and approval of crop protection tools critical to the production of healthy food for all Americans.

It has been noted that rural Americans overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Trump in this election because they are desperate for fundamental change.  We share that sense of urgency and we look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to achieve it.