Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rural areas will decide the big swing state of Pennsylvania, state ag secretary says

Rural voters in agricultural areas could be the difference in which presidential candidate walks away with the all-important 20 electoral votes in swing state Pennsylvania, where 42 of 67 counties are rural, Philip Brasher reports for Agri-Pulse. Republican nominee Donald Trump, who performed well during the primaries in rural areas, "has his eyes set on Pennsylvania and voters in its small towns and rural areas as he looks to win the state in November, but he may have to overcome the farm sector's concerns about his trade and immigration policies."

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who was nominated by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and is considered one of the favorites to replace U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, said at the Democratic National Convention that "trade is important to both agriculture and forestry industries in the state, Brasher writes. He said rural voters in those sectors are 'savvy enough to understand that in their industry you can't sustain that sector, whether it's forest products, protein sector, production agriculture … without trade.'"

"Trump has called for forcing all illegal immigrants, including farm workers, to leave the country," a move not popular in agricultural areas that rely on immigrant workers, Brasher writes. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton "has proposed ending all deportations of illegal immigrants except for criminals."

Redding said jobs are the biggest issue in Pennsylvania, but gun control will also play a major role, while coal dependent regions in the western part of the state have blamed Democrats for the loss of jobs. Other rural issues, such as health, infrastructure and education, should also play a significant role in how the state's voters cast ballots.

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