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Trump Is Listening to Farmers, Says Ag Advisory Committee Member

Ron Heck is a central Iowa corn and soybean farmer, a close friend of former deputy secretary of agriculture Krysta Harden, a longtime presence on the Iowa Soybean Association’s board of directors, and the man who taught President George W. Bush what the word biodiesel meant. He’s also a member of president-elect Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee.

“Our thoughts and opinions show up in what Trump says and does,” says Heck. “I’m absolutely certain that he’s listening from what I hear in public and from people I have talked to that have talked to him personally.”

According to Heck, the committee was originally supposed to be made up of a few people who would give ag policy advice via a conference call. Soon enough, others heard about the committee and wanted in.

“We wound up with around 70 people who wanted to be named members of the committee, so we continued with email and consensus rather than trying to do a conference call,” he says. 

With one of Trump’s policy advisers, Iowa native Sam Clovis, leading discussions, the committee was able to put together a two-page, single-space document of policy positions for Trump. The committee still gets requests for feedback on different issues via email and all are invited to reply, then a summary is made of the responses.

Heck is thankful that Clovis is in the White House, but he’s also excited to see Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in the seat of ambassador to China. Another advantage for agriculture? Vice president-elect Mike Pence, who Heck says has personal friends in farming and is very connected to agriculture.

“I’m extremely pleased with our agriculture presence in the Trump administration,” says Heck.

Awaiting a New Secretary of Ag

Because it’s a known fact that Trump has been relentlessly interviewing candidates from across the U.S. for the position of secretary of agriculture, Heck couldn’t be less worried about the open spot in Washington, D.C.

“If he would’ve appointed the agriculture secretary the first day, that would have been far worse,” says Heck. “He’s learning that agriculture isn’t just one thing.”

The idea that Trump is getting a chance to interview candidates from different facets of agriculture is comforting to Heck. He likes that Trump is making an effort to get a true education in all that U.S. agriculture encompasses. 

The Future Under a Trump Administration

Like many, Heck originally didn’t take Trump seriously as a legitimate presidential candidate, but when he stopped listening to the soundbites being shown on the news and started listening to Trump’s full speeches on YouTube, he hopped on the Trump Train.

“Rather early on, I became impressed with his business-like approach to running government in the U.S. and decided he was a family businessman just like I was,” Heck says. “I became a supporter at that point.”

When it comes to support for ethanol and biodiesel, Trump has spent time with renewable fuels advocate Eric Branstad and his father, Governor Branstad, asking questions and learning about what ethanol and biodiesel mean to the U.S. Heck trusts that Trump meant it when he said his cabinet members will support the causes that he stands behind.

“You see that he’s not hiring yes men or people with limited success in their backgrounds,” Heck says. “I see in the personalities of the people Trump is hiring that these people will get things done.”

As for trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Heck believes Trump will approach agreements the same way that President Barack Obama and President W. Bush did – by trying to create smaller agreements involving fewer countries and causes rather than an all-encompassing agreement.

“This isn’t something where Trump has total control. He can just negotiate our side, but I think that he will be able to get significant agreements in the areas that matter to us,” Heck says of TPP and trade.

It should also be noted that Heck, as a director of the Iowa Soybean Association, focuses a lot on trade and has represented U.S. agriculture in international meetings in the past. He knows that the largest U.S. commodity export is soybeans, yet he is not worried about trade.

“I’m certain agriculture is being heard,” he says. “But being heard doesn’t mean that you always win your arguments.”

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