Last Thanksgiving, some of you may recall the football game that kicked off with what may be the longest-ever version of the National Anthem. Though it is typically around two minutes, legendary singer Aretha Franklin stretched the song to a full four minutes and 35 seconds before a matchup between the Lions and the Vikings.
On that day I was at the end of the line for a Thanksgiving feast and very hungry. The television was on in the background leading up to the game when I had finally gotten my massive plate full of Thanksgiving food and sat down to eagerly feast.
I didn’t even notice what was on the television across the room, and neither did anyone else, except for my seven-year-old son. I shoveled the first heaping fork full of food into my mouth to kick off one of my favorite meals of the year.
I quickly scooped up my next fork full but stopped with the food halfway to my mouth when I saw my son, sitting up on his knees in his chair beside me with his hand over his heart watching the waving American flag on the television. I REALLY wanted to keep eating, but I have learned that some things are more important than my stomach. This was probably one of them.
I sat down my fork and placed my hand upon my chest in support of my son who was supporting his country. My stomach growled menacingly, but it would only be a minute or two before I could resume my feast. So there we sat in a room full of diners unaware of what was happening with our focus on the flag and the various shots of the singer at the piano. The volume was down very low but I could occasionally make out parts of the song. I strained my ears and picked up “The rocket’s red glare” and a couple of other bits and pieces as the aroma of the incredible food before me was almost overpowering. And then I heard “home of the braaaaave” and issued a sigh of relief. I got ready to resume eating, but the then song kept going, and going and going. My son sat stalwartly watching the flag on the screen. I did the same.
After lunch I patted my overly filled belly with contentment, but I got even more satisfaction from that little bit of patriotism beside me at the Thanksgiving table that day. That was definitely something to be thankful for after a presidential election campaign that left much of the country feeling less than grateful to live in our great nation.
With the holidays behind us now and the inauguration looming, it has many in agriculture wondering about the coming days of the Trump Administration. National Corn Growers Association CEO Chris Novak recently provided his take on what can be expected in the first weeks of the Trump Administration at the 2016 Grain Farmers Symposium in Columbus.
“We just saw an election unlike any other. The first 100 days of the Trump Administration represent challenge and opportunity for agriculture. There are some great appointments but we may have some questions too,” Novak said. “Pulling out of TTP and proposing to re-negotiate NAFTA might be the downside of the first 100 days. I think we will see a greater emphasis on bilateral trade deals and less of an emphasis on large multilateral negotiations. President-elect Trump is committed to trade, but bilateral deals that he negotiates. We are seeing some shifting political sands. Trump supports trade but he doesn’t support these trade deals.”
Trade, of course, is a vital part of marketing U.S. agricultural products.
“We are talking about how we can better communicate the importance of trade. Free trade agreements work. When we put these deals in place we see growth in trade, particularly in agriculture,” Novak said. “TPP meant a lot to grain farmers, in part because of what it meant for livestock farmers. We are competing with Canada and they are negotiating these free market agreements and we are losing some advantage. When we said we would not do the TPP, Japan said ‘OK’ we’ll do one with the EU. If we face restrictions on trade and can’t compete with countries with negotiated agreements, we are left with the market primarily between our borders and we cannot supply the world’s growing population with food. We are going to need export markets.”
Concerns about the Trump Administration’s trade policy increased in some circles after it was announced that Peter Navarro would lead the National Trade Council, a newly created group. Navarro is a business professor who has been openly critical of globalization and trade with China. He has been tasked with setting strategies for negotiating trade and increasing manufacturing jobs domestically.
Another concern from the NCGA is the future of ethanol policy under the Trump Administration.
“There is obviously significant oil industry presence in Trump’s cabinet,” Novak said. “We hope that does not override his interest in renewable fuels. Is ag ready for a free market?”
On a more positive, note, however, Novak said that he expects the Trump Administration to address the challenging regulatory environment that has flourished in the last eight years.
“The upside is with the intense regulatory environment. President-elect Trump has taken notes and has said ‘we need to address this,’” he said. “We can get rid of the EPA and get rid of these regulations, but at the end of the day Americans sill want clean air and clean water and they will vote for those things. Having an EPA is still important to us and we need reasonable, balanced, science-based regulations, even at the same time as we push for regulatory reform. Nature abhors a vacuum and if the government steps out of regulating these things, we have to watch out what may fill in. There will be a different balance between economic policy and social policy. I think Trump recognizes that his vote was secured with rural America and the farm community. He will look to make sure he addresses those issues.”
Amid all of the inevitable political battles in the coming years, it is important to remember that there are well meaning folks on either side of every issue and that we all live under the same flag. Taking a bit of time to recognize that is always important, even if it is a VERY long four minutes and 35 seconds.