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What’s Ahead for Agriculture Under Trump?

For the past eight years, many farmers have chafed under what’s seen as regulatory overreach under the Obama Administration. Farm groups and Trump supporters expect that to be pulled back after the New York real estate mogul and reality TV star was elected the 45th U.S. president on November 8.

“Without a doubt the rural Americans that supported Trump supported him mostly on his comments about the EPA,” American Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher told Wednesday morning. “When you ask farmers their biggest concern, it’s always regulation.”

High on the list of unpopular regulations is the EPA Waters of the U.S. rule, which Farm Bureau especially feared would give the agency power to regulate farming practices on intermittent waterways in their fields.

Early in his campaign, Trump talked of eliminating the EPA.

“He’s not King and he’s not going to eliminate the EPA, but I think he will target some of the important rules,” Thatcher said.

On trade, Trump promises to renegotiate trade deals, including NAFTA, as well as oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). That’s at odds with Farm Bureau and commodity groups that see TPP as an opportunity to grow U.S. farm exports.

Both Trump and the Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton, opposed completing the already negotiated TPP, which President Barack Obama supports. In theory, Obama could ask Congress to approve it during the lame-duck session this fall.

“I think it’s not very likely that the lame-duck Congress takes it up,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher said she’s not certain exactly how Trump could renegotiate NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), in effect since 1994. Mexico and Canada are both large export markets for many U.S. commodities, including corn. (In recent years Mexico has been the second-largest export market for corn, after first-ranked Japan.)

If a Trump administration tries to renegotiate the TPP with the other 11 Pacific Rim nations who’ve signed it, Thatcher is concerned about how long that process would take.

“We certainly don’t want to see our partners move on without us,” she said.

One of the few major farm groups that has been more skeptical of trade agreements and worried about the U.S. economy’s overall trade deficit is National Farmers Union (NFU).

Many NFU members liked Trump’s stand on trade, said Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union.

“I know that we had a sizeable swath of our members that voted for Trump because of trade,” said Johnson, who added that NFU isn’t against trade deals but feels that the U.S. hasn’t benefitted from them as much as it should.

NFU members knew that Clinton also opposed TPP during the campaign but many didn’t believe her opposition. Clinton had supported it as secretary of state.

Trump said during the campaign that he supports ethanol. 

“There are people on his team who are for and against it, so who knows,” Johnson said.

Johnson worries that Trump’s vow to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement could hurt support for renewable fuels.

“He is so unconventional and has broken so many of the rules of politics that who knows what he’s going to do,” Johnson said.

Iowa agribusinessman and state board of regents president Bruce Rastetter is one of nearly 100 agricultural leaders who served on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee. He was bullish on Trump’s potential for agriculture Wednesday morning.

“I think you’ll see a very pro-agriculture administration that will see exports grow and have fair trade agreements,” Rastetter told

“He’s in favor of trade. He just wants trade agreements that don’t take away jobs,” Rastetter said, adding that rural America has been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

“We need to be smart about how he’ll negotiate these agreements, and I think he’ll do that,” Rastetter said.

Rastetter didn’t want to speculate about who the next ag secretary might be under a President Trump or whether he might be tapped for the job. “I’d be happy to help in any way I can,” he said.

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