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2016 election to have ramifications for ag
By WHITNEY PIPKIN
ARLINGTON, Va. (May 17, 2016) — Donald Trump had just become the de facto Republican candidate for president last week when Washington, D.C., consultant Tyson Redpath took to the stage at the Animal Agriculture Summit to tell the audience what the upcoming election might mean for their line of work.
He didn’t pull any punches toward the Republican frontrunner as he addressed an audience of more than 200 representatives of the animal agriculture industry.
Trump “has gone almost a year into his campaign and has not tethered himself to really any sort of finite policy details,” said Redpath, senior vice president of The Russell Group. “Some say, ‘Shame Trump,’ but I think that will maximize his flexibility in the Oval Office.”
Not to mention, he added with a grin, “He may unify Congress out of sheer vitriol toward the Trump administration.”
The contest for America’s next president, as Redpath described it, still appeared to be “an unpopularity contest” directed more by who people don’t want in office than who they do. But that doesn’t mean animal producers, or the organizations that represent their interests in Washington, have the luxury of ignoring a race that could have vast implications for their fields.
Redpath laid out scenarios in which the Democratic frontrunner, Hilary Clinton, could be voted into the Oval Office, too. On its face, he said, it is rare for a candidate from the same party to follow someone who’s been in office for eight years. To do so, she would need to harness some of the demographics that were key to President Obama’s victory.
That means Trump, who has received 2.5 million more primary votes at this point than Mitt Romney received in the previous election cycle, “should not be underestimated.”
But Redpath said he was there to get the audience thinking about what the future might hold under either administration — and how they can get their voices heard even before that person enters office.
The 2016 election could represent a turning point for animal agriculture or, at the very least, a massive shift from the policies that have reigned for the past eight years.
On foreign trade, Redpath said the outlook will be initially dim, but that conditions should improve.
“Look, it is not unprecedented for multilateral trade agreements to be renegotiated,” he said. “It’s not unprecedented for multilateral trade negotiations to take three or four years to be submitted to Congress. That just happened under this administration with the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian trade agreements. In particular with Korea, I know personally there were elements of that that were changed.”
Redpath said while both candidates seem opposed to certain free trade agreements, he is still optimistic.
“I certainly think both candidates have voiced very clearly their objections,” he said. “That doesn’t mean objections can’t be overcome or resolved.”
Here are some questions Redpath said the animal agriculture industry needs to ask about the next president of the United States:
• What does the industry want in the next U.S. secretary of agriculture? The last 40 years have seen secretaries with backgrounds as members of congress, governors or state agriculture directors.
“If the industry has thoughts on that, I encourage you to come forward early and in a very public way,” Redpath said.
• Should the Food and Drug Administration commissioner be appointable?
With the passage of the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, Redpath said, the FDA is becoming more relevant to how producers conduct their day-to-day business and oversees 80 percent of the food supply as well as animal feed and medications. Should that person be someone the next president can elect?
• Is it time to modernize the USDA’s meat and poultry inspection system?
The food safety act was, in Redpath’s view, “a recognition that food safety laws need to be updated after 70 years.” Federal meat inspection, he said, is 110 years old. For poultry, the relevant laws are 60 years old. Is it time to modernize — or might the next president think so?
• Will another Farm Bill be possible?
Redpath said he’s noticed a growing divide between representatives of rural and urban areas that indicates that the next Farm Bill battle could be the biggest yet — and end without a resolution.
“We have to reinvigorate the rural urban coalition that has carried Farm Bills for 40 years,” he said.
Redpath closed by looking at the track records of the two most likely presidential candidates and what they say about their trajectories.
Clinton’s administration would function a lot more like the current one and likely come with additional regulations to the industry, if her voting record on related topics is any indication.
Though Trump’s cabinet picks could be the most unpredictable, Redpath said, at least “he’s going to get the best people — in his mind.”