A roundtable discussion at the White House Tuesday involving President Trump, Vice President Pence, newly sworn-in Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and 14 farmer-leaders and farm advocates offered a genuine sense of encouragement that the administration will focus strongly on the challenges facing U.S. agriculture, those attending the session agreed.
The gravity of the event could best be demonstrated by the invitation list, which included Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, a fourth-generation farmer who grows corn and soybeans; Zippy Duval, president of American Farm Bureau Federation and a farmer from Greensboro, GA; Steve Troxler, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture and a farmer; and A.G. Kawamura, a third-generation farmer from Orange County, CA, and former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Crop, livestock, forestry and rural interests were all represented at the table.
Trump used the occasion to issue an executive order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, to be headed by Perdue, that will work with other members of the cabinet to “identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes to promote agriculture and rural America’s economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security and quality of life.”
In signing the order, Trump said, “Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much. And that’s what today’s executive order is all about.” He also said the executive action aims to promote ‘rural prosperity in America.”
Kawamura, who also co-chairs Solutions from the Land, 25x’25’s parent organization, was inspired by the gathering, noting that the president was actively engaged in the discussion, listening with empathy as he fielded questions and comments from the participants, as well as asking questions of his own.
Participants agreed that the wide-ranging discussion addressed a variety of issues – trade, immigration, renewable energy, the Endangered Species Act, forest management and taxes, among others. But Kawamura said none were given more importance than others, noting they all represent the “pillars” of U.S. agriculture that must be supported for agriculture to be successful.
Discussion of one issue, though brief, was greeted with enthusiasm by renewable energy advocates. The president restated his “strong” belief in national energy security, including support for ethanol and biofuels, noting the job creation and economic benefit role it plays in rural America. Trump declared he wants “to do everything we can to help” the sector.
The president’s attention to agricultural concerns expressed during Tuesday’s roundtable serves as a reminder of what most election observers agreed on last November – that Trump won the presidency by listening to voters and offering them a platform that heeds their needs. The president demonstrated during the roundtable an appreciation and understanding of the issues that have a bearing on agriculture and rural America.
Perdue said after the event that the timing of the roundtable – occurring on his first day in office – was fortuitous and that the session was significant in the message it sent to rural America.
“The people who are on the front lines of American agriculture don’t have the luxury of waiting to tend to their crops and livestock, so there was no better time to convene this meeting of the minds than on my first day,” he said. “President Trump has made it clear that addressing the needs of rural America will be a top priority, and the message that we want to send to the agriculture community is that we are here, we are working hard, and we are on their side.”
We urge the president to pursue the action needed to implement that message, including support of policies that promote the development of solutions from the land that can address environmental concerns and food and energy security issues. Those solutions contribute to the well-being of rural America and to the nation as a whole.