If the unpredictable, distasteful and unbelievable election of 2016 provided anything worth savoring, it was the reaffirmation of the power in the rural American vote.
Just a few facts that back that up: Donald Trump’s presidential victory was built upon winning a majority – between 75 and 90 percent – of suburbs, small towns and rural counties.
That means just by a conservative estimate, Trump won rural America by a 3-1 margin. The size of that turnout from rural voters for Trump, when measured against some levels of low turnout in some key urban districts going to Clinton, was enough to tilt the election.
This rural movement was especially critical in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa – four states that flipped the electoral map and broke through the so-called “blue wall.”
Why mention this after the election? Because it’s critical that rural American voters cash in on the capital it has invested. Having supported a change candidate, they can now demand critical change in policies that affect ag-producing regions of the country.
For decades now, the powers of Washington and Wall Street have progressed, broken down, been bailed out and started again – at the expense of producers and laborers creating the best of American goods. It’s time our leaders recognized they have to make work easier for those in the trenches.
Even though there was a glaring absence of any real discussion about food policy or agriculture during the primaries or general election, farmers and ranchers placed faith in a flawed candidate that would do better for their interests than his opponent. That faith needs to be rewarded.
What we’ve seen from Trump in the opening weeks of his White House transition has been promising. His selections for Chinese ambassador, Environmental Protection Agency chief and his deep bench of candidates for agriculture secretary each reflect a greater sense that he will use experienced and knowledgeable figures in ag production and land resources to reinforce the ag industries.
Some sticky challenges remain in dealing with trade issues under the new administration. The lack of support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership does not bode well for U.S. beef, corn, soybean and dairy. And then there are the list of contentious issues within the beef industry itself, where sides are being drawn.
Where do we need to go on GIPSA rules that focus on price discovery? How important is transparency in the wake of reversing COOL legislation? Should the FDA push for stronger controls on antibiotics? And how will ag industries survive a crackdown on illegal immigration?
While the national media remain perplexed as to the election and will subscribe to any explanation that demeans or insults the electorate that made it happen, rural voters know better. If candidates will recognize the power and potential of gaining voter support in fly-over country and small counties, they will be rewarded.
Here’s hoping the same rewards are in store for those rural voters who made it happen.
- Managing Editor
- Progressive Cattleman
- Email David Cooper
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