Trump’s views hit right chord with rural, agriculture sector

Some are interpreting Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential election win as a rural roar.

Looking at an election result map, aside from the urban West Coast and North East in Democrat blue, a vast swath of the United States — the part that is more rural — is solidly Republican red.

Rural voters also ensured that both houses of Congress are majority Republican.

Of course, the divide is not absolute. There are Democrats in red states and Republicans in blue states.

There are endless reasons why people voted the way they did, but one suggestion that has persuasive force is that many in the red states, those who grow crops and raise livestock, drill for gas and oil, harvest timber and extract minerals and the legions who work in related service industries, are sick of being lectured and portrayed as evil and uninformed by liberal elites.

Many of them vote Republican anyway, but many also believe Trump understands their problems and will address them by shaking up the status quo.

One part of the status quo that Trump promised to transform is the system of trade agreements that has evolved over the past 35 years. He promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That caused much consternation in Canada.

The U.S. accounts for 75 percent of Canada’s exports and 66 percent of imports as of 2015. The total value of Canada-U.S. trade is $671 billion, and agricultural trade accounts for $47 billion of that.

Most of Trump’s protectionist rhetoric was focused on Mexico as the destination of companies leaving to find cheaper labour.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, perhaps hoping that Trump’s Mexico fixation will give Canada a mostly free ride, has already offered talks on NAFTA.

Canada can also put some faith in the fact that there are many checks and balances in the American political system.

The presidency has few powers it can wield alone. Most policy moves forward only with the support of Congress. The states also have a voice.

The Republican party is traditionally favourable to international trade, and the governors of 35 states know that Canada is their top export destination.

As well, major U.S. farm organizations and commodity groups are export oriented and generally in favour of trade agreements that open markets for U.S. produced crops and meat. However, that didn’t stop R-Calf from convincing Congress to implement country-of-origin labelling.

Ultimately, trade issues might not be the biggest impact of a Trump administration on Canadian agriculture.

Trump’s rhetoric against corporate concentration might mean that proposed mergers of Monsanto and Bayer and of DuPont and Dow could face strong opposition.

However, environmental regulation might be softened, allowing more speedy approval of new agricultural chemicals and genetically modified crops and less control over water.

His agricultural policy advisers line up more with agribusiness and mainstream commercial farming than with those interested in local food, anti-GMOs, organic and animal rights.

Trump won’t act on climate change, making the Canadian government’s policy on a carbon tax more difficult to implement.

On a lot of this, many Canadian farmers would agree, even if they might disagree with Trump’s style and other policy stances.

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