Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rural America favored Trump, but agendas of many rural residents and farmers are not the same

Many in the agricultural industry cheered Donald Trump's presidential victory as a sign that rural America had made its voice heard loud and clear, Dan Charles reports for NPR. But farmers and non-farmers in rural areas do not all share the same agendas, and are adverse to each other on some key issues.

Many rural residents supported Trump's stance on deportation and tighter border security, including building a wall along the U.S./Mexican border, Charles writes. Farmers rely on immigrant labor—often consisting of undocumented immigrants. They also "favor trade deals that Trump attacked during his campaign, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, which could expand their exports of pork, beef and grain."

Struggling small towns might not need farmers, who make up a very small minority of rural residents, as much as farmers might need the small town, Charles writes. Chuck Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Iowa, told Charles that farmers "are worrying about that car dealer, and they're worrying about that bank, and they're worrying about the small insurance company and they're hoping to God that they don't lose their school."

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall in his post-election statement "referred interchangeably to 'rural Americans' and 'America's farmers and ranchers,' suggesting that those are the same people," Charles notes. Duvall talked about "free trade, environmental deregulation, immigration policies that don't take away farm workers and continued funding for programs that help farmers financially when prices fall or bad weather ruins their crops. But does the rest of rural America care about these issues?"

A recurring theme in many small towns is a need to keep young people from moving away to ensure the town's future, Charles writes. "This, in fact, is why many Midwestern mayors and county commissioners are no longer quite so focused on getting companies to move to their communities, in order to bring in new jobs. Jobs aren't enough to make their millennials stay." That means investing in youth and the community in ways that make the younger generation want to stay or return home after college. (Read more)

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