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A produce industry look at the elections

Side view of the front of the US capitol building.

Each presidential candidate has a very different vision for our country should he win the presidential election this week, but both have said agriculture is a top priority.

And there are other elections to keep an eye on for produce industry interests.

For instance, the longtime chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson (D-MN), is in a tight race, said Richard Owen, legislative and regulatory affairs team lead for the Produce Marketing Association BB #:153708.

On the Senate side, polls show many races are close, and which party controls the Senate may not be known by the end of election day, Owen said. Georgia has both Senate seats open and would go to a run-off if candidates don’t reach 50 percent of the vote.

The biggest prize is the presidency, and Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458, has a tip for viewing on Tuesday night.

“We’ll know the result early with Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona,” he said. “If they all go Biden, it’s over. Florida is the key for Trump, and then Pennsylvania.”

Guenther said there’s a chance the election results won’t be known on Tuesday, but the trends will be pretty clear.

He said that while the Trump administration has made agriculture a focus, and he’s had successes in trade—lowering regulations and with USDA’s food box program—it hasn’t been strong for issues important to the fresh produce industry.

Most of the leadership and attention have come from other sectors of agriculture, and Guenther is hopeful a second Trump term would turn that around.

While Joe Biden hasn’t floated any names for ag leaders should he win the presidency, Guenther said the Obama/Biden presidency had agriculture staff that knew the produce industry well, such as Secretary Tom Vilsack, who campaigned on Biden’s behalf to a produce industry audience about a month ago.

He said the Arizona Senate race is also a close one, with interest from the produce industry there.

Of course, the pandemic has affected the races, and Owen said the combination of who wins the presidency along with which party controls Congress will decide if any coronavirus-fighting strategies will change.

As one would expect from a Republican leader, Owen said Trump has been more hands-off than Biden would likely be, as Biden has indicated he would consolidate power in fighting the pandemic, which would affect the fresh produce industry on multiple levels.


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services