Passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership in this lame-duck session of Congress could leave some scars for the Trump presidency.
“Donald Trump may have kicked over the apple cart, but he didn’t break the axle,” contends Dave Ladd of RDL and Associates in Woodbury, Minn. Ladd is a veteran lobbyist and Washington, D.C., observer, who was interviewed at the AgriGrowth Annual Meeting and Conference on Nov. 10.
“We think through the lens of agriculture. Generally speaking, the majority of agricultural groups support trade,” Ladd said. “But the devil is always in the details of trade agreements. Trump doesn’t believe TPP will benefit America as a whole. Most in our agricultural sector view it differently.”
Ladd said he thinks trade agreements have become a form of political, policy and regional engagement.
“So trade agreements are ongoing issues woven into our world economy,” he said. “China works agreements on a regional basis with undesignated boundaries depending upon current political climates and monetary issues. Various players will be on that battlefield; but if we’re not one of the players, we potentially stand to lose.
“The Japanese legislature held off on joining TPP until they see what happens here. Once you are seen as an unreliable player, the playing field doesn’t disappear. The game is still going on. So the question becomes, do we want to be in the bleachers? Or do we want to be on the field to assure that we still have opportunities to export our goods?”
Ladd maintains it was a majority in the House and Senate who broke that apple cart long ago.
“What this election showed us is that a large part of the electorate voted their disgust,” he said. “You campaigned telling us what you were going to do. We gave you these majorities in both the House and the Senate, but you didn’t follow through. So our Congress, in my opinion, broke that axle; and in the process, broke faith with the electorate.”
Ladd is offended by the labels of “educated” voters and the disregard of the “uneducated” rural voters.
“My grandfather graduated from a class of seven in South Dakota. He was one of the smartest guys I’ve known,” he said. “I think our Washington, D.C., crowd seems to forget that we have an intelligent, educated and well-connected population in rural America that is also deep in common sense. These people are looking at their livelihood, their children, the next generation and what this may be costing them both financially and constitutionally.”
Concerns about the U.S. economy are huge. Net farm income is forecast to be down 11.5 percent from 2015. This 2016 figure could be the lowest since 2009. But there is unanimous agreement that federal regulatory policies relating to agriculture are moving in the wrong direction.
Ladd sees agriculture, food production and farm policy as a huge national security issue.
“You feed your people or they get cranky. We’re so fortunate in America with a combination of good people running our farms, great technology and a continual ambition to do better,” Ladd said. “Some say American agriculture is over-producing and the supply/demand equation is not working. But we also realize that much of our excess food production is not getting into those countries where it is most needed.
“Plus, consumer trends keep changing,” Ladd went on to say. “China and India are key examples. Thanks to better jobs, they have a new middle class that wants more diversity in their foods. That has become a huge market for U.S. agriculture. There is a continual evolution, not only in consumer demand, but also in science and technology. We’re constantly learning how to better feed the world.”
What change does he anticipate after President-elect Trump takes office on January 20?
“I usually give these presidential elections a four-to-six-month shakeout period,” commented Ladd. “There’s about 4,000 jobs just in the Washington environment that will be replaced, plus nationwide about 2 million government jobs potentially getting new faces. The Trump team will have their 100-day agenda which they’ll quickly get to the Hill. Suffice to say that under President-elect Donald Trump, our Congress and nation will be experiencing change, perhaps even severe in some agencies.
“Perhaps equally intriguing is what comes out of the White House the next two months? Will there be a flurry of new executive orders?
“For our new president, he and his staff will be doing heavy-duty prioritizing to determine what to take on and what time frame for new actions. For a Congress with lots of new faces, staff is key as to what gets accomplished.”
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