Produce industry members will vote in the upcoming presidential election as individuals, but if they want to also vote for their business’s interest, Trump and Biden spokesmen gave them reasons.
Two campaign representatives addressed the audience of the United Fresh Produce Association’s virtual Washington Conference on Sept. 23, and both kept their points far more civil than the national political discourse has been.
Ray Starling, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, said the produce industry should vote for President Trump because of the people he has led the agriculture economy.
“People are policy,” he said, and Sec. Perdue has all the qualities that reflect the American farmer, such as hard work, humility and ingenuity. Starling also noted much of Perdue’s staff is drawn from state departments of agriculture, so they are people who truly represent American agriculture.
He also noted that his position, as an agriculture advisor to the president, went unfilled in the Obama-Biden administration, which shows its lack of interest in agriculture.
Starling said Trump’s idea of a harvest box full of nutritious food for the hungry was panned three years ago when he brought it up, but it’s essentially the food box program now, which has successfully helped farmers, distributors and hungry Americans during the pandemic.
He said Trump has also been successful renegotiating trade deals with China and the USMCA, which benefit agriculture, and he’s cut many of the regulations that the Obama-Biden administration burdened farmers with during his years in office.
“The big picture is that Biden will raise taxes and support the Green New Deal” which will hurt everyone in agriculture, including the produce industry.
Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said Vice President Biden’s campaign slogan of “build back better” means building a more resilient supply chain in agriculture, which includes improving the food bank network and improving infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and ports, which Trump said he would do but has not.
Vilsack said Biden’s first job, however, will be to control COVID-19, which is something the Trump administration hasn’t done.
“We need to get back to what we know works, such as masks, distancing” and other actions that can decrease the virus spread, he said.
Vilsack said his candidate does not support the Green New Deal but rather the Biden New Deal, which combats climate change, improves conservation, pays farmers for carbon storage and encourages the reuse of waste products.
He said Biden’s plan for regulation will create greater transparency and participation by those who are regulated, such as farmers.
Vilsack said the big picture message from Biden is that he will create a less divisive and divided nation as president.