Branstad, Rastetter named to Trump agriculture advisory panel
Iowans offer advice on renewable fuels, ag markets
James Q. Lynch
CEDAR RAPIDS — A heavy contributor to Republican candidates denies being named to Donald Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee is part of a plan to land an appointment as Secretary of Agriculture.
“It’s a step in the direction of providing ag policy, which is something I’ve had an interest in my whole life and it’s really important to Iowa,” said Bruce Rastetter of Alden, president of Summit Ag Group and president of the Iowa Board of Regents that oversees the state universities. He has given millions to GOP candidates, including Gov. Terry Branstad, who also was appointed to the Agricultural Advisory Committee, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a Trump confidante.
There are a “host of issues on the agricultural front and rural issues, but renewable energy will be an important part of the advice” Branstad offers Trump, the governor’s spokesman, Ben Hammes, said.
Rastetter, Branstad and four other Iowans have been named to the committee, which according to the campaign, “will provide pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities.”
Rastetter, who is invested in corn and soybeans, which are used to make ethanol and biodiesel, respectively, expects to advise Trump on ‘how important open markets and trade are to U.S. ag across the globe.
“The importance of accessing growing markets for grain and protein is pretty critical. Beyond that, the importance of ethanol to agriculture in general and as a component of U.S. energy should be part of a national policy,” he said.
Although Trump has frequently criticized trade agreements, Rastetter is confident he understands the need for trade.
“We just need to make sure it’s fair and on a level playing field, that U.S. producers have access to those markets without caveats that limit access to those markets,” Rastetter said.
Branstad “has been very supportive of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Hammes said. “Donald Trump is just saying he thinks he can get us a better deal. We agree that of he can get us a better deal we’re all ears.”
Other Iowans named to the Trump ag advisory panel are Annette Sweeney of Alden, a former state legislator, farmer and ag advocate; Ron Heck, a farmer and past president of the American Soybean Association; and Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey.
Sam Clovis of Hinton, national chief policy adviser to Trump, also will serve on the committee.