Checking the Base

As we head to the November election, an often asked question is whether President Trump has done enough to keep his base support in rural America. This election cycle is off to a rocky start with a failed impeachment process in Washington and a failed caucus process in Iowa. Meanwhile the President has taken some big steps towards shoring up his ag base. Four years ago many farmers said WOTUS was their biggest issue of concern. Four years later we have a new WOTUS rule but legal challenges lie ahead. After a year of trade wars and uncertainty the Administration scored some big wins with trade deals with Japan, China and USMCA. Of those Japan is paying the most immediate results. Canada still needs to approve USMCA which offers more certainty than significant improvements for agriculture. The long awaited deal with China offers hope but questions remain. Will the Chinese buy as much as has been promised and how long will the coronavirus delay those purchases? Still it seems trade, a big concern in 2019, may be a positive for President Trump in 2020. However a big box still unchecked is the Administration’s handling of the Renewable Fuels Standard. Despite approving E 15 sales year round, the Administration’s grade on biofuels is incomplete. EPA’s granting of small refinery exemptions (SREs) continues to undermine the RFS and hurt farm income and rural jobs. Like so many issues in our country today the President’s ag record is divided. Perhaps another round of MFP payments closer to November will help close the deal. However the biggest advantage Donald Trump enjoys with farmers is the same one he had four years ago. Most farmers seem to feel that they are better off with Donald Trump than they would be with whoever is running against him. As long as that belief remains, his rural base, even with some cracks, should remain as well.