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View from the hill: 'Agriculture focus of US presidential campaigns'

Agriculture policy issues in both the Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigns featured prominently at the October 13, 2020, US Farm Foundation Forum.

Sixth-generation Iowa farmer and former president of the National Corn Growers Association Pam Johnson spoke on behalf of the Biden campaign, while Sam Clovis, who is with the Farmers and Ranchers Coalition for the Trump 2020 campaign, spoke on behalf of the Trump administration.

 

Referring to a range of pledges made to rural voters, Mr Clovis said: “We have a President who made promises and kept them.”

 

The Trump administration rolled back regulations which hindered US farming. Mr Clovis claimed Mr Trump would continue to support US farmers.

 

Ms Johnson said: “The economy is the number one concern for rural Americans. It is not about Wall Street, but Main Street.”

 

She suggested President Trump’s policies had caused hardship and adversely affected rural America.

 

She said: “The trade war with China, gutting of the Renewable Fuel Standards programme, support for fossil fuels over homegrown biofuels and mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis are the issues which keep farmers up at night.”

 

Mr Clovis countered that the Trump administration had made trade gains because of its withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


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He said American ascendancy is the outcome of trade negotiations, asking: “America first? Is that a bad thing?

“I do not think so. It means we are going to be a leader. We finally have a President who is prepared to fight back.”

 

Ms Johnson hit back: “Fighting is not the best approach. We can be tough without slapping on heavy tariffs.”

 

She said US farmers do not see levels of agricultural trade with China commensurate with levels before US steel and aluminium tariffs were erected. She claimed American farmers wanted focus ‘on trade, not aid’.

 

Chinese retaliatory tariffs hit rural America hard. The US Government now pays its farmers up to 40 per cent of their income to mitigate damage.

 

Though a US-UK trade deal was seen as potentially positive, neither Ms Johnson nor Mr Clovis anticipated it would add much value to US farm businesses.

 

Ms Johnson said: “If you do the analysis, it does not bring a lot of benefit to US agriculture, unlike trade agreements in South East Asia or other parts of the world which have the fastest growth.”

 

Mr Clovis agreed: “I also think the gain would not be significant.”

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