The Local Food Movement’s Chances During A Trump Presidency

November 10, 2016 at 8:43 am

The weight put on local and sustainable food issues in the upcoming Trump Administration is not clear yet, as Trump has not really had much to say during his campaign about agriculture or food related issues such as health and obesity, food waste, and issues surrounding small family farms or large industrial and commodity farms. Being a New Yorker living in high rise Manhattan, Donald Trump is probably as detached from farming as he accused his opponent as being from the working class. This may explain why issues such as a farm bill aren’t front and center in his mind.

An indication of his attitude toward food in general, may come from his diet. Although there are somewhat dubious claims that Trump eats organic when he can, he is a known lover of fast food. An article in the Washington Post stated that “the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination eats like a teenage boy, inhaling Filets-o-Fish and Big Macs.” He has had many pictures taken while enjoying meals of KFC or Big Macs and has stated to the New York Times in the past that he would like “to be the first fast food president.” This sort of suggests that he is not somebody who has a grasp of things like Farm to Table dining and farmers markets.

Photo: Paul Sancya-Associated Press

Photo: Paul Sancya-Associated Press

Although it is unlikely that Melania will continue working Michelle Obama’s White House garden, it may be possible to change The Donald’s mindset on local and sustainable agriculture. This will be an uphill battle as he is a hardnosed, profit drive businessman, and farming, and local ag in particular, are not known for generating tons of profits. Not really his kind of industry. Optimistically thinking though, the right advisors may paint it in such a way to steer President Trump in a direction favorable to local and sustainable food and toward an interest in food related issues such as obesity and food waste.

Michelle Obama in the White House Garden     Photo: Huffington Post

Michelle Obama in the White House Garden
Photo: Huffington Post

Don’t hold your breath on that! As the main advisor to the president on food and agriculture is the Secretary of Agriculture, the pick for this position would be the one steering Trump toward the more progressive course stated above. This would have to obviously be somebody very in tune with local and sustainable food, and the list of candidates are not exactly the types of agricultural experts who will give a ringing endorsement of the food movement.

According to an article at “There are several names being considered by Trump aides for Agriculture secretary, according to multiple sources familiar with the transition. The president elect has a deep bench to pull from with nearly 70 leaders on agricultural advisory committee.”

The short list includes Sid Miller, who according to his website is “Tea Party approved” and while in the Texas Legislature was considered one of the top three conservative lawmakers. As the newly elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, in his first official act, granted full amnesty to cupcakes, cakes, pies, and brownies as a reminder that a ban on the sugary treats in Texas schools had been repealed.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller  Photo: The Texas Tribune

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller Photo: The Texas Tribune asked Arabella Advisors, a firm that advises top foundations and is closely tracking both transition efforts, about other potential Ag Secretary picks. Other names that came up include Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback; Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as well as Charles Herbster, Republican donor and agribusiness leader; and Mike McCloskey, a major dairy executive in Indiana, Bruce Rastetter, a major Republican donor in Iowa, as well as Kip Tom, a farmer who ran for Congress in Indiana this year but was defeated in the primary.

Other top Republican insiders expect that Chuck Connor, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Don Villwock, president of the Indiana Farm Bureau and Ted McKinney, the current director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture in the Pence Administration, are also likely to be in the running for the post.

These candidates all have close ties with and are well known in the world of agriculture and agribusiness, but it is not likely that they will be much focus placed on local food as they are also all known for being as hardnosed on big commodity agriculture as Donald Trump is on the world of business in general. Donald Trump generally gets along with such people and, as a know-nothing on food issues, will heed any advice they give.

Photo: Donald Trump

Photo: Donald Trump

So don’t expect a Trump Administration putting any effort into promoting local and sustainable agriculture in the way that, for example, former United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan did in the Obama Administration. Merrigan is the person most responsible for the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program launched by the USDA in 2009. As it seems that the only farmers Donald Trump knows are Big Ag guys and the only food he seems to know (surprisingly for a billionaire!) is what comes from the fried food shacks run by huuge corporations, the Local and Sustainable Food Movement may not be getting any help from Washington in the next few years.


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