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Is ex-ag secretary too relaxed on presidential candidates?

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture says rural America and the farm sector will still be in fine shape, despite the fact that neither major presidential candidate has a solid understanding of agriculture. | USDA

Ed Schafer says neither Trump nor Clinton have a solid understanding of agriculture but says government’s checks and balances will assure all is OK

October 17, 2016

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer recently said neither of the major party candidates for president have a firm understanding of agriculture or of rural America, but still asserts that “we are not going to wreck our country,” if either is elected.

We can only hope he is right.

Schafer recently told the West Central Tribune, headquartered in Willmar, Minnesota, the epicenter of U.S. turkey production, that he didn’t think agriculture is a big priority for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

“They don’t have an understanding of the real rural America and the concerns that people have,” said Schafer, adding that Trump’s “view of rural America is a place you can put a golf course.”

Schafer, a two-term governor of North Dakota, serving from 1992 to 2000, became the U.S. agriculture secretary in the George W. Bush administration in 2008, replacing Mike Johanns, who resigned to represent Nebraska in the U.S. Senate. Shafer’s term as agriculture secretary lasted just shy of one year.

Clinton and Trump agriculture platforms

So far, little of substance has been said by either candidate when it comes to agriculture and rural life.

Clinton, on her campaign webpage, has included her Plan for a Vibrant Rural America, which touches on agricultural issues such as strengthening USDA grant programs, raising agricultural production and profitability for family farms and strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard, but not much detail on her stances is given.

Trump’s primary plan for agriculture to date appears to be his appointment of an agricultural advisory committee. That committee includes numerous political figures representing a variety of farm states, and a handful of agribusiness leaders. Also notable in that list is Protect the Harvest founder Forrest Lucas, who has been identified as his possible choice for Secretary of the Interior, should Trump be elected. However, with more than 60 people, all with busy schedules, on that committee, it is hard to tell what, if any, feedback Trump gets.

‘Not going to wreck our country’

While Schafer has expressed his displeasure over the candidate’s lack of knowledge and interest concerning agriculture, he remained optimistic.

“We do have a system of those checks and balances that even with the president on the figure of the football, the nuclear launch codes, it does not happen alone,” he told the Tribune. “The reality is, we are going to survive both of them. We have a great system. The brilliance of our forefathers that no one person or one branch of government has total control or total power.

“We are not going to wreck our country.”

I want to agree with Schafer, but those other legislative bodies also need to be filled with senators and representatives that not only understand agriculture, but will also advocate for agriculture, even if it is not popular with the general mood of their party.

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