Rural, “red state” America went for Donald Trump in a big, big way. His brand of fiery, and often crude, populism was cat nip for blue collar workers. Including those who work in the agriculture industry.
That’s why Trump won states like North Dakota in a landslide.
But I wonder if the realities of his policies might erode that support somewhat.
Case in point Senator Heidi Heitkamp – who has largely eschewed the vitriol aimed at Trump by state and national Democrats in favor of working with the President – was critical of his trade policies and their potential impacts on agribusiness.
“As the administration talks about throwing out or rewriting trade deals that guarantee our farmers access to Mexico, Canada, and other key trading partners, we can’t forget how vital export markets are for North Dakota’s workers,” she wrote recently in an op/ed. “Trade policies that grow American manufacturing jobs have my full support, but they can’t come at the expense of agriculture jobs—and I’ll fight to make sure producers don’t end up on the wrong side of new or renegotiated deals.”
If the result of Trump shaking up American trade policy is a closing off of markets vital for the nation’s farmers and ranchers that’s going to spell political trouble for him.
As another example, Senator John Hoeven has just dropped a press release (see below) criticizing President Trump’s priorities when it comes to agriculture.
From the release:
“The president’s proposed budget reduction for agriculture does not work. Given the challenging times in the farm patch – from low commodity prices to natural disasters – we need to prioritize and maintain our agriculture budget. While we support more funding for our military and defense, we must maintain support for our farmers and ranchers.
“Additionally, it is unfair to the nation’s farmers and ranchers to require additional savings after the current farm bill reduced spending. When passed in 2014, the farm bill was calculated to save more than $23 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the farm bill will actually save $104 billion over 10 years. Our producers are doing their part to reduce the debt and deficit.”
“As chairman of Ag Appropriations, I’ll work to ensure that we maintain our agriculture budget because good agriculture policy benefits every American, every day. Our farmers and ranchers provide the American people with a reliable, affordable and high-quality food supply. Not only that, but 17 million Americans are employed in the agriculture industry, which also provides our nation with a positive balance of trade.”
There aren’t a lot of specifics here to put meat on Hoeven’s objection, and from a conservative point of view you could argue that Hoeven is just looking to protect some sacred political cows from needed spending reform, but the overall dynamic is interesting.
Because whatever we might think of the spending policy Hoeven is promoting here, he is nothing if not an astute political practitioner. He is one of the most successful politicians in North Dakota history. That he perceives something in Trump’s fiscal agenda which prompts him to speak out this forcefully is very interesting.
Trump got elected with the “Make America Great Again” slogan. In North Dakota, making America great looks a lot like the Farm Bill.
Could this be a crack in the coalition which elected Trump?
Maybe, maybe not. And even if it is, Democrats have moved so far to the left that it’s not at all clear they could offer someone on a national ticket who could exploit it.
But this is evidence that the reality of Trump’s policies might draw a reaction from farm state voters that’s much different than the one most of them gave his campaign rhetoric.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Congressman Kevin Cramer, who has been something of a Trump booster dating back to his early support for the candidate last year, sides with Hoeven on this with the White House.