Donald Trump’s triumph will undoubtedly have a big impact on agricultural trade deals. Abi Kay and Alex Black look at what the US election means for global farming.
It is November 8, 11.15pm UK time. Polls in some eastern states of the US have closed and the first results of the presidential election 2016 are starting to trickle in.
For pundits on the BBC, confident of a Hillary Clinton win, it was business as usual when votes from Broward county in Florida began to drop. Florida was one of the key battlegrounds in the fight for the White House, and viewers were assured high turnout in the county – a Democrat stronghold – was ‘good news’ for Mrs Clinton.
But as the night went on, it became clear things were not going the way most people expected. At 3.30am in the UK, Ohio was called for Trump. Ohio is a state which has voted for every president except one since 1944. The tone of the pundits began to change.
Thanks to rural America, it seemed the impossible had become possible. Hillary Clinton lost 3 to 1 in rural areas of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – states which pave the path to the Oval Office.
Standing on a platform of deregulation, Trump railed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) throughout his campaign, threatening at one point during the Republican primary debates to abolish it completely.
This bullish approach played well with farmers who felt the yoke of Government had become too heavy under the Obama administration.
Cody W. Lyon, Director of Advocacy and Political Affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said: “President-elect Trump said that he would appoint a pro-farmer administrator of the EPA. Farmers and ranchers want to work with the EPA and not be an enemy or target, as has been the case with the Waters of the US rule.”
Other US industry leaders pointed to Mr Trump’s protectionist position on trade as the reason he won so many farming votes.
When asked how he would defend agricultural trade, Mr Trump said he would ’fight against unfair trade deals and foreign trade practices that disadvantage the United States and work hard to develop trade agreements that benefit American farmers’.
Roger Johnson, president of the American National Farmers’ Union (ANFU), said: “I know we had a sizeable swath of our members who voted for Mr Trump because of trade”, adding the ANFU was not against trade deals, but felt the US has not benefited from them as much as it should.
On the campaign trail, Mr Trump promised to pull the US out of the North American Free Trade Area and put an end to talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade deal between the EU and America.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has already said TTIP will ‘be in the freezer for quite some time’ following Trump’s win.
Obama has also admitted he will not try to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before Mr Trump takes power, possibly marking the end of the free trade era.
Mike Pence’s strong agricultural roots
But Mike Pence, Mr Trump’s running mate and the vice president-elect, has historically been a strong proponent for free trade – even opposing the US Farm Bill in 2008 because it ‘failed to promote international trade’.
He has strong links to agriculture too, promoting technological innovation in farming as a key plank of his campaign when he first ran as Indiana Governor and referring to the farm as ‘one of the greatest sources of strength’ America has.
His appointment was praised by the industry, with Patrick Pfingsten, an agriculture lobbyist at the Coryden Group, saying: “There is no one who has less credibility on agricultural issues than a billionaire from Manhattan, so having Pence on the ticket is good for agriculture.”
Still, with Mr Trump so ideologically opposed to free trade deals, it may be a long slog for his vice president and US farmers’ groups to make the case for farming – despite the fact he has said Mr Pence will be a ‘trusted source of counsel on agriculture’.
Mr Lyon of the AFBF said: “Trade will always be an important issue facing American agriculture. Trade is critical to the prosperity of rural America and our ability to protect our nation’s food supply. We will work to make sure the Trump administration understands the benefits of trade provisions.”
Other farming leaders claimed Mr Trump’s campaign rhetoric had ‘set America’s trade agenda back years’. Jim Sutter, chief executive of the US Soybean Export Council, said he hoped Mr Trump would steer clear of policies which negatively impact upon trade as he gets up to speed on agriculture.
Whatever the President-elect decides to do over the next four years, it is clear his rural voters will be expecting him to deliver on his promises to protect them from the worst excesses of the market – even if that means closing the door to the rest of the world.
Impact on agriculture mergers
At a rally in Pennsylvania in October, Mr Trump held up big merger deals as ‘an example of the power structure he is fighting’, claiming they ‘concentrate too much power in the hands of too few’.
While he has not mentioned agricultural mergers specifically, he has pledged to block others in the media and communications industries.
Citigroup analysts have already predicted regulatory scrutiny of deals between top seed and pesticide companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont and Dow Chemical could increase.
Farage to be UK-US trade ambassador?
Downing Street has denied rumours former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was set for a role in US-UK trade relations following the election of Mr Trump.
Mr Farage was the first UK politician to meet with the President-elect in a meeting last Saturday night. He was a big supporter of Mr Trump during the campaign.
Mr Farage has previously backed cheap food imports post-Brexit and has described Mr Trump’s victory as a ‘huge opportunity’ for the UK.
He said: “We now have a President who likes our country and understands our post-Brexit values.”
However, the Prime Minister could face a backlash from her own party members who believe she should take advantage of Mr Farage’s relationship with the President-elect.
A Downing Street spokesman told the media there were ‘well-established channels’ between the UK and US.
Mr Trump has suggested to Downing Street he wants a relationship similar to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher following a phone conversation with Mrs May.