What’s to Come?

According to the political Monday morning quarterbacks, Donald Trump’s victory was fueled in part by strong support from rural America. Look at the cornfields of Iowa to illustrate the importance of flyover states. No doubt Trump garnered a bumper crop of support from those in agriculture.

The obvious questions now are what does Trump’s election mean for the agricultural sector and how might it steer technology adoption in the near future? Much of Trump’s support was garnered because of his “get the government off our backs” message. Specifically, Trump cited EPA overreach initiatives like the Waters of the United States ruling. Meanwhile, his inclusion of ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Act toward the goal of domestic energy independence was not missed by food, fiber and fuel producers.

Issues in focus. There are two other issues that may prove to be wildcards in impacting ag. Those are a more nationalistic trade agenda and a massive national infrastructure overhaul.

Trade policy under Trump could be the biggest prickly pear. The concern is whether ag exports would be caught in the middle of friendly fire of any trade war with major importers such as China and Mexico. Farmers who lived through Carter’s Russian grain embargo of 1980 certainly didn’t like seeing their fruits of labor being used as a political weapon. It’s a slippery slope, indeed.

In any such spat, there are some interesting ways U.S. producers could protect themselves from such collateral damage. Even as positive as U.S. ag exports are for the country as a whole, even most producers would be shocked at just how much food is imported. Are our land, resources and knowledge growing the foods and ultimately delivering the products the consumer craves? Bottom line: Should and could we be growing something different on millions of acres instead of corn and soybeans?  And could technology make that happen?

A sidebar to its trade stance–that may be more of a real-and-now issue–is how a Trump administration will view global mergers with companies based outside the U.S., for example, ChemChina/Syngenta or Bayer/Monsanto. The oversight by a Trump Federal Trade Commission could change the direction of Big Ag and Big Data. Would a Monsanto-owned Precision Planting sale to John Deere have a better or worse chance of going through? It’s certainly food for thought.

If there is to be a massive infrastructure push in this country it is imperative that rural America have equal seating at the table. It has to be real, unlike the hollow promises of the previous administration to cover small towns and farms with affordable high-speed Internet. This time such investment needs to be real and tangible. If done the right way it will transform rural America like the rural electric coops did in the 1930s, empowering an entire nation not just its big cities.

Technology investments like high-speed Internet and moving high-tech companies from out-of-touch addresses in San Francisco to the Silicon Prairie (Kansas City, Omaha and Sioux Falls) can and will transform rural America. Only time will tell if it’ll happen. Regardless, the course of agriculture and its related technologies have been changed forever.