Farmers Expect to be Front and Center as Trump Presidency Unfolds

Source: By DTN Staff  • Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2017

OMAHA (DTN) — From taxes to trade to immigration, energy and the environment, farmers nationally expect a front-row seat to the battles sure to commence once Donald Trump moves into the White House next month.

The DTN/The Progressive Farmer election poll featured in the November issue of the magazine predicted farmers and rural residents would be highly motivated participants in the election — and they have strong opinions about renewable energy, taxes, transportation and the farm bill.

Our poll is the third “The Pulse of Rural America” presidential-year survey going back to 2008. It was conducted by Zogby Analytics, Utica, New York, in August. Of the 1,647 rural residents who completed the survey, 42% either farm or have immediate family members who farm.

Of that 1,647 people, 65% of the respondents were in the age range of 35 to 69 years old. Fifty-seven percent don’t have a college education, while 43% indicated they had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nationally, 38% of Americans have a college degree. Respondents fell evenly across all income levels, from less than $25,000 per year to more than $100,000. Eighty percent of the respondents are white, while 49% are female and 51% male.


When it comes to tax dollars, only 6% of respondents strongly agree the taxes they pay match the service provided by local, state and federal agencies of government, while 27% somewhat disagree. Meanwhile, 57% of those polled either somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed that their tax dollars are being well-spent. In a follow-up question, 70% somewhat or strongly agreed their roads and bridges are not repaired in a timely fashion. “I pay taxes that are too high for what I get,” said Joel Lange of Jefferson, Iowa.

If Trump’s proposed tax plan is enacted, seven tax brackets would become three, with the highest rate at 33%. The estate tax would be eliminated, and corporate tax rates would be lowered to 15%.


Farmers also don’t feel they have the same kind of government support that they had in the past. When asked if the current federal farm program provides an adequate safety net for their businesses, 52% say they strongly or somewhat disagree. Only 6% strongly agreed that the farm program is adequate. Another 26% somewhat agreed the farm bill helps protect their farming business interests.

“The last farm bill was written at a time when there wasn’t much assistance needed,” said Darren Grogan of Arlington, Kentucky. “Personally, I’m in the camp that I would like to see the government get out of it completely. I don’t think the subsidies help the farmer. I think it mostly goes to help raise land prices and land rents.”


With a GOP-led House and Senate, look for Trump to act quickly on issues important to agriculture. These would include EPA’s water regulations, Bureau of Land Management policies, the Endangered Species Act and climate change. The clear expectation is that immigration enforcement will be much tighter under Trump, potentially putting a greater regulatory and workforce strain on farmers who employ migrant workers.

Trump has called for removing obstacles to energy exploration and has been supportive of the Renewable Fuel Standard. His support of biofuels meets with approval from grain farmers. When asked if corn-based ethanol or soy-based biodiesel have a positive effect on corn and soybean prices, 60% of those responding to the poll somewhat or strongly agree.


The Trump administration may clash with farmers on trade. Trump opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and has made it clear the U.S. will withdraw from the 12-country trade agreement. Trump has called for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. He also has said his administration would pursue more trade cases against China, though congressional leaders are balking at Trump’s idea of a 35% import tariff. If he follows through, the Trump administration will push to reset the trade dynamics with agriculture’s three largest destinations.


Regarding genetically engineered organisms (GMOs), 52% of respondents either strongly or somewhat agreed that mandatory labeling requirements for food containing GMOs will have an adverse effect on their farming operation. Another 38% either strongly or somewhat disagreed. “There’s no loud voice on our side of things talking about the positives of GMOs,” Grogan said.

In a similar vein, 62% of all respondents somewhat or strongly agreed that critics of commercial agricultural practices are misinformed. “It’s not just about science, it’s a lack of knowledge about agriculture in general,” Grogan added.

At the same time, farmers still largely think biotech traits remain effective with 55% of respondents either strongly or somewhat agreeing with that statement. Another 33% of respondents strongly or somewhat disagreed that transgenic crops remain as effective as they were five years ago.


To the statement in our poll, “Climate change has a positive impact on my farming and ranching operation,” 52% strongly or somewhat disagreed while 31% strongly or somewhat strongly agreed. The statement reflects many farmers recognize their farms are being negatively affected by long-term changes in the climate.

“We don’t talk about [climate change] in terms of global warming but rather how we conserve the water and get more yield for what we put into it,” said Josh Krohn of Lamesa, Texas. Krohn irrigates about 800 acres, more than half of that with subsurface irrigation. “We concern ourselves with things like [irrigation technology] rather than global warming.”

(Progressive Farmer Senior Editor Dan Miller, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton, Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor Virginia H. Harris, Progressive Farmer Senior Editor Jim Patrico and DTN/Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor Pamela Smith contributed to this article.)