Outside Influences

Farmers Fret Over Trump’s Early Moves

The new administration’s opposition to trade deals and its immigration stances make agriculture groups nervous.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Jerry Hagstrom
Add to Briefcase
Jerry Hagstrom
Jan. 31, 2017, 8 p.m.

OR­LANDO—Farm­ers, ranch­ers, and ag­ribusi­ness ex­ec­ut­ives un­doubtedly loved Pres­id­ent Trump’s state­ment on his first day in of­fice that he wants to elim­in­ate the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Cli­mate Ac­tion Plan and the Wa­ters of the United States rule they so bit­terly op­posed.

But it’s been rough since then. At winter meet­ings such as the ones held here this week by the Amer­ic­an Seed Trade As­so­ci­ation and the In­ter­na­tion­al Dairy Foods As­so­ci­ation, the con­cern, if not out­right fear, about Trump’s trade, im­mig­ra­tion, and reg­u­lat­ory policies has been ap­par­ent.

Ag­ri­cul­ture was the biggest sup­port­er of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship and has be­nefited migh­tily from the North Amer­ic­an Free Trade Agree­ment with Canada and Mex­ico. When Trump an­nounced he would ac­tu­ally with­draw from the TPP and rene­go­ti­ate NAF­TA, ag groups is­sued a series of tor­tured state­ments in which they stood up for the TPP prin­ciples and tried to avoid cri­ti­ciz­ing a pres­id­ent who won two-thirds of the vote in rur­al Amer­ica.

But when a Trump spokes­man said the pres­id­ent may go along with a con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­an pro­pos­al for a 20 per­cent tax on im­ports from Mex­ico, alarm bells went off. Tom Sten­zel, pres­id­ent and CEO of the United Fresh Pro­duce As­so­ci­ation, whose mem­bers grow fruits and ve­get­ables in the United States and Mex­ico, said, “It is very troub­ling for world food and ag­ri­cul­tur­al mar­kets for ad­min­is­tra­tion spokes­per­sons to bandy about terms like a 20 per­cent tax on all im­ports from Mex­ico or oth­er coun­tries.” Ap­ply­ing the tax would amount to a “food tax” on Amer­ic­ans and could pro­voke a trade war, Sten­zel ad­ded.

In an in­ter­view here, Andy LaV­igne, the pres­id­ent and CEO of the Amer­ic­an Seed Trade As­so­ci­ation, said his group is con­cerned about the tax be­cause U.S. com­pan­ies send seeds to Mex­ico to be “mul­ti­plied” in­to volumes that are sold to U.S. farm­ers. And Mi­chael Dykes, the pres­id­ent and CEO of the In­ter­na­tion­al Dairy Foods As­so­ci­ation, poin­ted out that U.S. food com­pan­ies have had great suc­cess in ex­port­ing to Mex­ico un­der NAF­TA and fear that their products could be­come a tar­get for re­tali­ation in any con­flict or rene­go­ti­ation between the United States and Mex­ico.

On Tues­day, former Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Tom Vil­sack, who has just be­come pres­id­ent and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Ex­port Coun­cil, told in­dustry lead­ers that they should call their Mex­ic­an im­port­ers and re­as­sure them that they still want to do busi­ness with them. Those calls could “over­come” Trump’s com­ments on Mex­ico, Vil­sack said, without men­tion­ing Trump’s name.

“It’s im­port­ant for every­one to un­der­stand the im­pact that lan­guage can have on sens­it­ive is­sues such as trade,” Vil­sack said. He said he has urged Sonny Per­due, Trump’s nom­in­ee for Ag­ri­cul­ture sec­ret­ary, to speak up loudly for ag­ri­cul­tur­al trade with­in the ad­min­is­tra­tion so it doesn’t get hurt in the at­tempt to help U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Vil­sack also noted that Trump’s strong an­ti­reg­u­lat­ory rhet­or­ic could in­ter­fere with im­ple­ment­a­tion of the fed­er­al law on la­beling ge­net­ic­ally mod­i­fied foods that the food in­dustry and farm­ers worked hard to get through Con­gress to avoid a hodge­podge of state la­beling laws.

On Trump’s ex­ec­ut­ive or­der to can­cel two reg­u­la­tions for every new one, Vil­sack said, “Rhet­or­ic is go­ing to meet the real­ity.”

It’s doubt­ful that Trump or his in­ner circle could have ima­gined the neg­at­ive re­ac­tion from ag­ri­cul­ture to his ex­ec­ut­ive or­der tem­por­ar­ily ban­ning cit­izens of sev­en ma­jor­ity-Muslim coun­tries from en­ter­ing the United States.

“The hard­ship is now clear and, as a mat­ter of fair­ness and in ac­cord with the val­ues of this na­tion, the de­cision that bans these cur­rent visa and green-card hold­ers from re­turn­ing for 90 days should be promptly re­con­sidered,” said Peter McPh­er­son, the pres­id­ent of the As­so­ci­ation of Pub­lic and Land-grant Uni­versit­ies, whose mem­ber schools have worked hard to re­cruit for­eign stu­dents to learn about Amer­ic­an ag­ri­cul­ture.

McPh­er­son can’t be dis­missed as a left­ist aca­dem­ic, since he was ad­min­is­trat­or of the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment in the Re­agan ad­min­is­tra­tion and Treas­ury deputy sec­ret­ary in the Re­agan and George H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tions.

On top of that, Mitch Daniels, a former Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor of In­di­ana who is the pres­id­ent of Purdue Uni­versity—the land-grant school in Vice Pres­id­ent Mike Pence’s home state of In­di­ana—said, “The pres­id­ent’s or­der re­lated to im­mig­ra­tion is a bad idea, poorly im­ple­men­ted, and I hope that he will promptly re­voke and re­think it. If the idea is to strengthen the pro­tec­tion of Amer­ic­ans against ter­ror­ism, there are many far bet­ter ways to achieve it.”

Around 100 of Purdue’s 40,000 stu­dents are from the coun­tries named in this week’s ex­ec­ut­ive or­der from the White House and hold non­im­mig­rant visas, and 10 fac­ulty mem­bers are cit­izens of those coun­tries, Daniels said.

Those com­ments will pale in com­par­is­on with the re­ac­tion that will come if Trump tries to de­port farm­work­ers. At the ID­FA meet­ing, the im­mig­ra­tion ses­sion was about the aging of the farm work­force and the dif­fi­culties of re­pla­cing it with ma­chines.

What We're Following See More »
WOULD WAIT SIX MONTHS
Military Seeks Delay in Transgender Policy
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS
WANTS ANSWERS ON CLINTON EMAIL PROBE
Senate Judiciary Sends Questions to Loretta Lynch
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
WASN’T INFORMED HE COULD BE DEPORTED
SCOTUS Throws Out Immigrant’s Conviction, Citing Poor Representation
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday threw out a legal immigrant's drug conviction on the grounds that his lawyer had failed to advise him that he could be deported to his native South Korea if found guilty. The court ruled 6-2 in favor of Jae Lee, who ran two restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee and has lived in the United States since 1982 when he was 12. Despite the ruling, Lee could still be deported if he is tried and convicted again for the drug offense."

Source:
JOBS TRUMP CLAIMED TO SAVE
Carrier Moving 600 Jobs to Mexico
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS
LONG RUMORED
Jets Owner Woody Johnson Nominated as Ambassador to UK
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login