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Early indications are farmers like Trump ag actions

President Zippy Duvall of American Farm Bureau said at 2017 Farmfest that his long-time friend, Sonny Purdue, will make a good U.S. agriculture secretary. Don Davis / Forum News Service

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Many, if not most, farmers say they like what they have seen so far in how President Donald Trump deals with agriculture.

Most specifically, they like him naming Sonny Perdue agriculture secretary, although some are concerned he was the last Cabinet nomination and Perdue's department still lacks many top officials.

But there is a question in many minds, when it comes to Trump and Perdue.

Farmer Lester Braulick of New Ulm, Minn., put it simply during the recent Farmfest: "Is he (Trump) going to let him do his job?"

Talking to farmers at Farmfest, the annual southwest Minnesota agricultural event that ended Thursday, Aug. 3, it became obvious that they are not ready to give Trump a grade.

Trump's administration has one major accomplishment farmers love: The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of getting rid of the Waters of the United States rule that farmers and ranchers say would be burdensome, giving federal authorities regulation over water bodies as small as puddles.

"The WOTUS was regulation without a purpose," farmer Greg Bartz of Sleepy Eye, Minn., said.

President Zippy Duvall of the American Farm Bureau said that farmers and ranchers are happy that the EPA is looking to "ditch WOTUS," as his organization has urged. He wants individual farmers to submit testimony to the agency to make sure their voices are heard and the Trump administration continues on its path.

The rule would be "very threatening to the way to operate our farms," the Georgian said, adding that the rule can mean a farmer needs to "run to town" to obtain a permit to put in a fence post or mow an area.

Many at Farmfest also mentioned that Trump has softened his rhetoric about the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has helped open up Mexican and Canadian markets. Trump had talked about dumping NAFTA, but appears to be backing off on that.

Duvall said a North Carolinian with farm background is advising Trump on trade, which bodes well for the agriculture community.

"I think most farmers would say they like the way the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) is coming together," Executive Director Chris Radatz of the Minnesota Farm Bureau said.

President Gary Wertish of the Minnesota Farmers Union agreed, but joined Braulick with a warning: "He has made a lot of promises campaigning. ... It is time to stop campaigning and start governing."

The Farmers Union leader said Minnesota farmers have "a little concern" that Perdue knows Georgia agriculture, after farming and being governor there, but does not know northern farming needs.

Duvall is not so concerned. "They need not worry about that."

As a friend for 12 to 15 years, Duvall said Perdue looks at himself as a servant of agriculture, regardless of where it is.

"He comes to the job with all the credentials," Duvall said, including buying and selling grain and knowing how to be a good administrator.

Duvall said Perdue would be the farmer's' voice in Cabinet meetings, and there may be one area he will have to buck Trump.

Perdue took a recreational vehicle on the road in recent days to visit farmers, including at a southern Minnesota stop.He plans at least one more RV trip this year.

Duvall said the top farm issue is labor, mostly the need to have immigrants available as farm workers.

"We are a victim of a failed immigration system," Duvall said.

While Trump may agree the system has failed, the president does not favor increased immigration. And Trump has called for immigrants here illegally to be deported.

Duvall said he expects Perdue to push for allowing at least some immigrants who came to the country illegally to be allowed to stay and work in agriculture. "They are paying taxes, they are doing all the right things; they just want to do right for their families."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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