Congratulations to Donald Trump on his victory. I am sure there are equal parts of you who are happy, sad, or bewildered about the outcome of the hard-fought race.
While we might disagree about the result, I think we can all agree there has not been a crazier Presidential election in our lifetimes. I would count myself in the bewildered category, as I had very deep reservations about both candidates.
But, the people have spoken. And no, the election was not “rigged.” We are left with a country that is very divided. In some ways, that divide splits between urban and rural communities. Just look at the election results map. The split between the country and city is pretty clear. For those of us involved in agriculture, that is an important divide and one we can’t ignore moving forward.
Supporters of Trump would do well by avoiding victory laps. And those who opposed him should take heart that the sky is not falling. I recall vividly many people saying the election of President Obama was the end of America as we know it. Eight years later, we are still here, and four or eight years from now, we will still be here.
That’s because we have a strong Constitution and representative republic that is protected by checks and balances. So, we now turn to Trump to see if he can deliver on his slogan of “Make America Great Again.” He has a tremendous responsibility to humble himself and seek to heal the divide that cuts deep into our political psyche. He must leave his often crass rhetoric behind and lead.
What will President-elect Trump mean for agriculture? On the face of it, his “build a wall” position does not bode well for one of our biggest challenges — farm labor. But, maybe, his business background will lend his ear to grower concerns over having access to a legal, reliable agricultural workforce. Perhaps he can take the lead on developing a larger, more user-friendly replacement to H-2A. And, while we are wishing, why not ask for meaningful immigration reform that takes agriculture’s needs into account?
Mr. Trump has the White House and Republicans have the Congress. They are in a position to lead, and they must. For too long gridlock and politics as usual have paralyzed our government. The result of that has been the big problems waiting at our doorstep have been kicked down the road. Problems like our debt, which was about $10 trillion in 2008. Today, it is $20 trillion.
During the FFVA’s recent annual convention, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam made a good observation during his speech about what happens when elected officials choose not to lead and settle for gridlock. When that happens, as it has for many years now, the job of making laws and policy gets passed off to federal agencies like EPA, DOL, and others. You know full well the impact of federal agencies meddling in your businesses.
Trump’s election also taught us an important lesson as we seek to bridge the divide between farming and urban communities. The simplicity of messaging is critical. Think “Make America Great Again,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” etc.
In the fast paced, social-media driven world we live in, there is not much room for nuanced arguments based in facts or science. It is sad, but true. The good news is agriculture’s message is simple and powerful and will remain true no matter who is President.
“We feed and clothe the world.”