Whether an agriculturalist supports Donald Trump or Joe Biden this election might come down to this:
If you see Trump, as one of his supporters described him, as a unique leader who keeps his promises and puts America first. Or if you view Trump, as a Biden supporter portrayed him, as a polarizing figure whose policies, especially involving trade, have hurt U.S. ag.
Samuel Clovis, a former agricultural adviser to Trump, and Pam Johnson, an Iowa farmer, former president of the National Corn Growers Association and a Biden backer, spoke Oct. 13 during a webinar hosted by the Farm Foundation and open to the news media. The nonpartisan Farm Foundation bills itself as "an accelerator of practical solutions for agriculture."
From Clovis' perspective, the Trump administration "has always been on the forefront of keeping our promises as we've gone forward. This has been a politician like no other we've ever had in the history of the American people." He also praised Trump for standing up to foreign governments and supporting American interests.
"We've been in a trade war for 40 years and finally we have a president who's willing to fight back," Clovis said.
But, Johnson said, "President Trump's policies led to economic crisis in rural America with long-term consequences: low prices, demand destruction of our markets both domestic and for exports. Farmers, we want to make our income from the marketplace; we say 'trade, not aid.' We now get 40% of our income from the government. This is not sustainable or desired."
"Sometimes I feel like everything farmers have done together to create markets, build demand for the crops, livestock and ethanol we produce and to build relationships with our customers has all been trashed" during Trump's time in office, Johnson said. "We simply can't stand four more years of this."
Johnson also was critical of Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on rural America, as well as Trump's stance of renewable fuels.
Johnson and Clovis did find some points of agreement, such as the importance of ag research and crop diversity.
"The diversity of our crops and crop rotations is a critical aspect of conservation … I think the Trump administration going forward will be delighted to support those things," said Clovis, who served as national co-chairman of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Some agriculturalists will remember that in 2017 Clovis was nominated by Trump to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture's undersecretary for research, economics and education, a position sometimes known as USDA's chief scientist. But Clovis withdrew before confirmation hearings could be held because of strong opposition in the Senate.
In summing up why they're supporting their respective choice:
Pro Biden: "We've given Donald Trump a chance. Frankly, I'm tired of the chaos and the drama. I am tired of important ag policies formulated by tweets. Now it's time for a better alternative," Johnson said.
Pro Trump: "You may not like Donald Trump's actions and behavior. But he's my guy. I supported him, and I still do. I think he's been great for agriculture and I think he'll continue to be great for agriculture," Clovis said.