As President Donald Trump takes office, a Madison County farmer will be providing the new administration a local voice to agriculture issues.
Plain City native Fred Yoder is on the new administration’s agricultural advisory committee. He spoke during a Madison County OSU Extension-sponsored breakfast Friday at the Red Brick Tavern.
According to Yoder, the advisory committee has been giving a great deal of insight on the selection for the nominee for secretary of agriculture.
“[Trump] was adamant about finding someone that was Latino, or a woman, or something unusual,” he said. “You know, it’s because his makeup of the cabinet was pretty white and pretty normal.”
Committee members were supportive of Trump during the search, but did push back on some potential candidates, which Yoder said slowed down the process.
“Rick Perry [former Texas governor] was actually in the running early for secretary of agriculture,” said Yoder. “Thank goodness he didn’t get it.”
The nominee selected by the transition team was former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, whom Yoder praised as a good choice.
“When he was governor, he was very much ag focused. Pretty much in tune with what rural America was needing and wanting,” Yoder said.
Perdue is a trained veterinarian and has experience working on production agriculture, particularly in insurance and running grain elevators.
“He’s one of us and I think that’s the most important thing we can garner from him,” said Yoder. “He’s one of us. He understands who we are and what we do. I think that’s going to be reflected in the way he does his job.”
Yoder offered some high praise for Trumps other picks, as well. Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder’s push against a national $15 an hour minimum wage could keep labor costs down.
“We got to look at some of those jobs as starter jobs,” said Yoder. “Those jobs will go away if we price them right out.”
But it wasn’t all praise. Yoder said there were some “red flags” farmers should be aware of. Robert Lighthizer, the Trade Secretary nominee, has promoted trade restrictions with foreign countries, including China, one of the largest importers of American crops.
Yoder said anything that impairs a free and open market might be bad for agriculture.
“Let’s face it, we can’t survive without a good strong trade regime,” said Yoder. “[With open trade] we can produce cheaper, we can produce quality. We have to have good trade for our bottom line.”
Yoder’s biggest concern across the cabinet is ethanol and bio-fuel production, which many cabinet nominees have misgivings for.
“Trump has said it’s a priority, but we have to make sure the legs aren’t cut out from under us,” said Yoder. “Unfortunately I’ve counted eight on the cabinet who are anti-mandate [for blending ethanol and petroleum blending in gas] and anti-bio-fuel.”
Among them, big oil proponents like Rex Tillerson, former Exxon Mobile CEO and nominee for secretary of state, or Perry might be a concern.
Even Purdue has been shown to have an unfavorable view on ethanol, which Yoder thinks is partially due to his background in livestock.
“I think we need to be proponents of an ‘all of the above strategy’, when it comes to energy,” Yoder said.
If people want to show their support or opposition for initiatives, Yoder said farmers can contact him. He will relay comments to the committee.
“Should we tweet him?” asked one audience member. The question was met with a unanimous roar of laughter.
“It wouldn’t hurt, but I would imagine he’s pretty busy today,” said Yoder, laughing.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.