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President of South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, Scott VanderWal.
Courtesy Photo
President of South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, Scott VanderWal.

State Farm Bureau President meets with President Trump


F.Ganje - January 11, 2018

NASHVILLE, TN – The national convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) took on a decidedly political tone when President Donald Trump made an appearance – the first in 25 years of a seated president – at the event attended by growers from across the country.

South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation President (and AFBF vice president) Scott VanderWal, Volga, SD, who had a private audience with the President, said that while a lot of farm interests have felt overlooked or ignored in the first year of the Trump administration, Trump’s appearance at the convention showed his support.

“He made sure to really compliment our members,” shares VanderWal.  “The President shared that farmers and agriculture  hold our country together and is the foundation for everything we do and creates prosperity.  That was good to hear from him.”

President Trump’s references to regulatory changes, estate tax reform and patriotism got a huge positive response from AFBF members.   Still, several of his policy stances - from threatened withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, to immigration restrictions that could choke the flow of migrants needed to harvest U.S. crops, to cutting crop-insurance payments popular in agriculture - run contrary to the positions represented by Farm Bureau, the biggest U.S. farmer organization.

“He talked about trade a little bit but not a lot,” shared VanderWal. “It’s one of the concerns that people in ag country have had as far as renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“But he did assure us that they understand that agriculture has been a beneficiary of the trade agreements in place and he said that agriculture will come out better. So, we’re going to trust him.”

Among South Dakota resolutions brought to the national floor is a call to reform the Wetland Conservation Provisions (also known as Swampbuster) in the upcoming Farm Bill. VanderWal says the provision continues to be a problem in some areas of the state and region.

“It has to do with the way the Swampbuster program is currently enforced,” he observes.  “In parts of South Dakota and North Dakota, growers are not getting timely and accurate wetlands determinations.  That is creating issues with production agriculture.  We need to get that fixed.”

While other parts of the U.S. economy are going strong, farmer finances have struggled since the end of a commodities boom in 2013. Profits in 2017 are estimated at less than half the record levels of four years earlier.

VanderWal, who comes from a South Dakota county that gave Trump 53 percent of its vote,  says, “The president would get more done if Congress were more aligned with him.”  He added, “The Farm Bill is coming up and that’s a big thing for agriculture because it provides certainty and stability moving forward.  We’re hoping for a quick completion because as we get into the election year, it becomes harder to get things passed – especially anything controversial.”

AFBF members also witnessed the signing of executive orders that clear a path for getting more broadband coverage to rural America. The president closed his speech to convention goers  by signing two orders supporting cell towers in rural America and streamlining their construction on federal land.

The executive orders are two of the 100 recommendations in the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force Report delivered to the president by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.  The report is the result of what the task force has done since Secretary Perdue became part of the Trump Cabinet.



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