January 2017
Riding the Coaster: A Look at the Election and Year Ahead By John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO

As the inauguration of Donald Trump as president draws closer, it presents the promise of a fresh start. The actions in the first 90 days are often considered a harbinger of what is to come. Whether President-elect Trump can appeal to the splintered Republican Party and have any successful outreach to the other side of the aisle will be a key component to the success of his policy work.

On those issues affecting the everyday grower, there are some hints of what could be coming. The push for a regulatory reset at EPA and other agencies is a real bright spot for agriculture. President-elect Trump has stated he will bring farms relief from federal regulations, including WOTUS. Many predict that the impact of endangered species protections – which can frustrate and derail growers – may be reduced.

Since the U.S. potato industry exports more than 20 percent of potatoes grown domestically, the outlook for trade policy is a little murkier. The incoming president has stated that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal, but many speculate he will take the opportunity to renegotiate and put his personal stamp on it. He has also pledged to withdraw from NAFTA. Perhaps that pledge results in some modifications and rebranding that keep that agreement in force. The logistics of actually terminating a long-standing trade agreement are daunting. It could mean that the NAFTA partners might reestablish tariffs on thousands of products.

Perhaps the most talked about issue to affect agriculture in the near term is foreign labor and immigration. Whether it is a fence, a wall or deportation of individuals in the country without documentation who have criminal records, the new president will act to control the borders. After that, perhaps President Trump will work with agriculture to get a guest-worker program that is effective and obtain some form of legal status for those currently working in agriculture. Many of the nation’s bridges, seaports and highways need attention. The Trump administration is expected to seek funding for infrastructure projects, and there is likely to be a tax and budget deal to fund it.

As the Farm Bill timeline advances towards reauthorization, Vice President Pence could be asked to take the lead for the administration, relying on his experience in ag-focused Indiana and as a former House ag committee member. In an election where the result has been largely attributed to the rural vote, it will be incumbent upon the newly elected leaders to keep their campaign promises to agriculture.

For potato growers, we must continue to communicate the issues we are facing and how to best improve them. The contentious nature of this election demonstrated the importance of staying active advocating for the issues that matter to each of us. NPC continually seeks opportunities for growers to get more involved in advocacy efforts.

This year will undoubtedly present our industry with unexpected hurdles and new opportunities. By proactively working together, we can tackle these issues with strength and solidarity for the benefit of the entire potato industry.

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