Inside Washington: Trump stacked with ag expertise

Influential rural legislators and leaders tasked to help take Trump's message to their constituents.

Behind the scenes, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign is bringing in some of the greatest and most politically astute agricultural minds. On Tuesday, Trump announced the 65 members of his Agricultural Advisory Committee.

The new Agricultural Advisory Committee is being chaired by Charles Herbster, a rancher from Nebraska. Sam Clovis, national chief policy advisor for the Trump campaign and Iowa resident, has surrounded himself with a team to advance Trump’s agenda, which has focused on rolling back excessive regulations and fairer trade.

The agriculture team is Trump’s largest advisory committee and is six times larger than that of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. The list includes six current and four former governors, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), House Agriculture Committee chairman Mike Conaway (R., Texas), former Secretary of Agriculture John Block as well as a long list of current state agriculture officials, farm leaders, members of Congress and representatives from food companies, agribusiness and trade associations. The full list of advisory committee members is available here.

“The members of my Agricultural Advisory Committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities,” Trump said in a statement. “Many of these officials have been elected by their communities to solve the issues that impact our rural areas every day.”

In his statement, Trump said the men and women on the team “will provide pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities.”

Members of the team have emphasized addressing overregulation, including the Clean Water Act (waters of the U.S. rule) and other examples, as a top priority. Some of the agriculture advisors also have expressed support for legal status for migrant farm workers and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opposite Trump’s views on both issues.

The executive board members will convene on a regular basis. Members were already beginning discussions this week to get members on the same page with where things stand in support of different issues.

Other notables to the list include Mike McCloskey, chief executive officer of Fair Oaks Farms; Chuck Conner, CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and longtime undersecretary of agriculture during the George W. Bush Administration, and Bruce Rastetter in Iowa, who has been mentioned as a leading potential secretary of agriculture should Trump get elected.

The latest Farm Futures survey shows that farmers prefer Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Trump led Clinton 73% to 10% in the survey of 1,178 farmers conducted July 18-Aug. 3.

However, one in six growers responding to the survey said they may not vote for either nominee. Survey respondents put "none of the above" in third place, with 7%. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 4% of the vote in the survey. Trump started the cycle with 20% of the farm vote, and by the time of the Farm Futures March poll, he was the leader among Republicans, with 29% support.

As for Clinton’s rural team, nothing has officially been announced. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was considered a top contender for her running mate, has been advocating for Clinton and will continue to do so as much as he can.

This week, Vilsack was at the Iowa State Fair with Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine. Politico quoted him as saying that the campaign will be tight and tough. “I will tell you that I like our ground game. I like that we’re working in every corner of the state,” Politico quoted Vilsack as saying about the Iowa battleground state.

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