Iowa agriculture leaders eager for Trump

Branstad, Rastetter and Northey helping advise policies

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Having advised the Donald Trump campaign on agricultural policies, several heavy hitters in the Iowa agriculture industry Wednesday said they’re excited about the future for farmers and the nation’s economy.

“It’s a really positive feeling about a change in the direction of the country that now has an opportunity to create high-quality jobs in the U.S.,” said agribusiness mogul Bruce Rastetter, chief executive of the Summit Agricultural Group in Alden and president of Iowa’s Board of Regents.

Rastetter, who has been called a political kingmaker for his campaign contributions to a variety of politicians including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in August was among six Iowans tapped for Trump’s 64-person Agricultural Advisory Committee.

The committee, led by Gov. Terry Branstad and including Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, was charged with “pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support for our rural communities.”

Rumors swirled that Rastetter was being groomed to become secretary of agriculture in a Trump administration. Asked about that possibility Wednesday, Rastetter said he doesn’t know what his future holds.

“What I had said on the Trump agricultural advisory committee is I wanted to help, I wanted to make a difference,” he said. “It’s important to Iowa, and I want to continue to support the new president anyway I can and have a positive outcome for Iowa and the country.”

Rastetter said he hasn’t heard from the Trump campaign, which presumably had a “busy night.” After Trump’s win, though, Rastetter said he reached out to Christie to congratulate him “on his work and his efforts and his earlier endorsement” of Trump.

Rastetter said he expects a “significant portion” of the advisory committee to be “involved in some form or fashion to help lead the dynamic change and the direction of ag policy.”

That change would involve redefining trade policy, shrinking the role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and altering tax plans, Rastetter said.

“I think having free trade and being able to trade agriculture products around the world are pretty critical for agriculture, as the United State produces surpluses in almost everything we do,” Rastetter said.

Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Branstad’s office, said the governor was pleased to lead the advisory committee and focus on issues like the Renewable Fuel Standard. That, Hammes said, is something Branstad has been fighting for passionately for years.

“A strong (Renewable Fuel Standard) is essential to a strong Iowa economy, and we are pleased to see that Iowans and Americans have chosen a leader that will restore a strong and robust RFS,” he said.

Northey praised Trump’s support for renewable fuels and his concerns over existing trade agreements.

“While he had real concerns about trade agreements, he was talking about the benefits of trade and the need to be able to do trade right,” Northey said. “There’s been a lot of frustration with that over time.”

He also voiced concern over regulations and the impact on farmers.

“Certainly new regulations that just seem like, to many in the countryside, they are coming out nearly every week. They need to be evaluated,” he said.

Northey said he looks forward to working with the new president’s team “whether it’s in the administration or as Iowa’s secretary of ag or in another role in Iowa,” he said. “I would be very interested in being able to help the administration accomplish what they’re interested in doing.”

For all of The Gazette's Election 2017 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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