Trump Embraces the Ag-Right
President Trump is set to address the annual American Farm Bureau Federation conference in Nashville, Tenn., this afternoon.
On the surface it may seem like Trump is giving a speech to one of our nation’s most beloved icons – the American farmer.
But, the Farm Bureau actually represents a small, tight-knit clan of wealthy, far-right ideologues who oppose gay marriage and gun-free zones, support racist voter suppression laws, and want to gut social welfare programs like Medicaid.
Most of the members the group claims are farm insurance policy holders, not actual farmers. Farm Bureau members who are in fact farmers tend to be the farm country equivalent of the 1 percent.
And they turned out to vote en masse for President Trump.
Founded in 1920, the American Farm Bureau Federation is the most deep-pocketed organization representing farm interests. According to Bloomberg News, they have offices in 2,795 of the nation’s 3,144 counties and have “long been recognized as the top farmer group in Washington, where agribusiness is listed as the 10th-biggest industry in campaign contributions.”
A long-time denizen of the Swamp, the Farm Bureau primarily exists to help kill bills it doesn’t like (e.g., climate change legislation) and to funnel billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies to mega farms and wealthy landowners. Thanks to its insurance business, the Farm Bureau is awash in cash.
To the casual observer, it may seem that this privileged cadre of farmers represented by the AFBF have had their electoral fealty to Trump reciprocated.
After all, Trump has supposedly delivered to their interests by repealing the Clean Water Rule, cutting their taxes and rolling back regulations. But the Clean Water Rule repeal did not impact ordinary farming activities, most farmers did not get a tax cut and farmers need regulations to sell their crops.
The truth is that Trump’s trade bluster threatens farm export markets and his draconian immigration policies are fueling farm labor shortages.
So why roll out the orange carpet?
Because Trump’s public embrace of socially regressive politics and the far right perfectly dovetails with the Farm Bureau’s worldview.
Look no further than the AFB’s 2017 policy book for proof.
In the book, the Farm Bureau advocates for a bushel of ultra-conservative goals, like eliminating gun-free zones, block-granting Medicaid to the states, urging the repeal of Obamacare, and making the racially discriminatory case for a national voter ID requirement and the elimination of multilingual ballots in public elections.
And in clear confederation with alt-right supporters who hoisted tiki torches in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of Civil War-era monuments, AFBF policy opposes “the purging of United States history by the removal of symbols that represent historic events and/or persons from our nation’s past.” The group also uses an inordinate amount of white privilege to call for “a system for reparations, in consideration of past errors or omissions that relate to waters being given to the states, to individuals, state governments and to other parties,” while simultaneously opposing Native Americans’ right to sovereignty.
Farm Bureau members also affirm in their codified policy that a “family should be defined as … marriage between male and female.”
The Farm Bureau’s disdain for same-sex marriage is a particularly rabid issue for voting members. At the 2015 convention, the Farm Bureau’s Resolutions Committee recommended ditching the opposition to gay marriage, but “delegates from Arkansas, Indiana and Georgia rose in opposition.” The vote wasn’t even close to keep the anti-gay marriage message in the group’s policy book.
And when a delegate at the group’s 2016 convention proposed striking language that opposed special privileges for those who “engage in alternative lifestyles,” his fellow members rejected the proposal by a margin of 82 percent to 18 percent.
The Farm Bureau’s retrograde policy book has long been part of its political strategy.
In his 1971 exposé of the Farm Bureau, “Dollar Harvest,” former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger wrote:
The Farm Bureau has aided the far right in many ways. The Bureau has provided a conduit for right-wing propaganda to many areas of rural America. It has consistently given platforms to itinerant peddlers of right-wing propaganda, lending respectability to their views.
When Trump appears before the Farm Bureau today, he will be not speaking to America’s farmers – he’ll be preaching to his base.
Photo courtesy of AP Photo