With the randomness that’s been a hallmark of Donald Trump’s quest for the White House, the announcement of his Agricultural Advisory Committee arrived on Tuesday to strategically highlight the candidate’s broad swath of support from rural America.
The 64-person list is a cross-section of Republican Party leaders from farm and ag-friendly states. The chairmen of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are there (Michael Conaway and Pat Roberts), along with the governors of every single rectangle-shaped state on the Great Plains, the governor from the more sauce-pan shaped Oklahoma (Mary Fallin), plus numerous agriculture commissioners and a former USDA Secretary (John Block).
It includes former presidential campaign opponents (Jim Gilmore and Rick Perry) and misspells the name of Iowa’s agriculture secretary (sorry, Bill Northey, you don’t pronounce the "e"). It goes on to feature an array of lobbyists, including former Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner, who is now the head of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Rebeckah Adcock, CropLife America Inc.’s top government-affairs director, and Tom Nassif, the president of the Western Growers Association. It also includes a few people who have supported legal status for undocumented workers.
Nowhere to be found: Any big players from the American Farm Bureau Federation or current chiefs of the major commodity-crop lobbies.
So what does it all mean?
It means that, at least on paper, Trump is making sure his rural surrogates are supporting him on record, which can’t be taken for granted this cycle. It means that farm policy in a Trump administration would be largely guided by the pro-agribusiness, anti-regulation farm "establishment," rather than outsiders who might do things like, oh, separate the farm bill from food stamps, as called for in the Republican Party platform.
It means that, out of these 64 people, one would very likely be Donald Trump’s secretary of Agriculture, which means those not on the list know who to start being nice to. And it also means that, for all the conservatism of the list’s membership, the biggest lobbies on the farm bill are keeping a half-step of distance between themselves and Trump, lest someone other than Trump actually become president. Several Members of Trump’s Agriculture Committee Have Supported Legal Status for Undocumented Workers
And the party soldiers on, encouraged by this statement from the announcement and attributed to the candidate himself: “The members of my agricultural advisory committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities. With such a large list, there’s a lot of service to go around. And rural America can use it."
Rural America will just need to decide whether all that service should be led by Donald Trump.