When it comes to agriculture, President Donald Trump is doing a crackerjack job, says a senior official with the top U.S. cattle association.
“If you listen to the media, it’s nothing but conversations about Russia, South Korea and the overall general hatred for people who just don’t like Donald Trump,” said Colin Woodall, senior vice-president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“What it’s not telling you is that the president while all of the showmanship is going on with the tweets and with the bad reporting of the media, he’s getting a lot of stuff done for agriculture.”
Woodall, CEO Kendal Frazier, and several of the association’s staff were among the 700 attendees at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference.
In a session on American-Canadian relations, Woodall said Trump has been good for the cattle business because he’s surrounded himself with lots of good people who help him get things done. He praised several of Trump’s appointments, such as the controversial choice of Scott Pruitt as the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency — even though he sued the agency more than a dozen times while he was attorney general of Oklahoma.
“Mr. Pruitt came to us and said we no longer have to fear the EPA and that he wants to work with us,” Woodall said. “That’s something we haven’t seen in the United States over several administrations, both Democrat and Republican.”
The new secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, rode a horse to work on his first day, which shows his commitment to agriculture while Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue is a veterinarian, he said.
“He’s also a businessman so he understands the role of all of us in agriculture, but he also understands where government should and, most importantly, should not be,” he said.
Neil Gorsuch, the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, has a track record of “judicial decisions that are there to protect our side of the equation against the Leonardo DiCaprios and some of the others who live in those blue (Democratic) states.”
And when it comes to keeping the border open to trade in cattle and beef, Canada can count on his organization, he added.
“We have a strong commitment to the cross-border relationship that comes from our relationship with your diplomatic staff in Washington, D.C.,” said Woodall.
He urged attendees to discount media coverage of Trump and U.S. agriculture, saying the media is under the influence of the “left coast” (Washington, Oregon and California) and “left-er coast” (New York, Maryland and New Jersey), which don’t like either the president or conventional agriculture.
But he admitted this is an unusual period in American history.
“There’s an ancient Chinese curse that says, ‘may you live in interesting times,’ and as I’m sure all of you have seen in the media, it’s interesting times down south of the border right now,” said Woodall.
But Trump’s moves to ease the regulatory burden on cattle producers have been welcome, as have his efforts to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It was going to change the nature of ranching, change the nature of agriculture, change the nature of land use in our country in a way that nobody was really prepared to handle,” he said.
He also said his organization is pushing for more trade deals and access.
“When it comes to the renegotiation of NAFTA and the talks that are going on as we speak in Washington, D.C., we want our government to do no harm to beef and cattle trade,” said Woodall. “We think they’re working and we think they work quite well — and we don’t want the president and his team to mess them up.”
His organization is also working hard to make sure that country-of-origin labelling (COOL) is not revived, he said.
“All of you sitting here know that COOL is a failed policy and a failed program that jeopardized the relationship that we talked about earlier.”
He said he hopes the NAFTA negotiations will go smoothly and proceed quickly. He added his organization did not agree with the president’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks as it was a way to fix the problems with tariffs in Japan.
“That’s one area where we have butted heads with the president, and that’s on the issue of TPP,” said Woodall.