What could a Trump administration mean for global agriculture?

Like everyone else in the world, here at the ORFC we’ve been watching the American elections with a growing sense of bafflement and personally for this author, some serious dismay.

It’s no secret that Mr. Trump’s 100-day plan will mean bad news for the environment, with the current climate negotiations in Morocco dominated by conversations around his threat to withdraw the US from the global United Nations climate change process and promote domestic fossil fuels, thus destroying the leadership the US had shown along with China under Obama.

But what’s been written so far about the potential impacts of a Trump administration on domestic and global agriculture?

Given his protectionist rhetoric on production of all kinds and his retrograde understanding of science and environmental issues, we are unlikely to see anything other than a renewed support of big ag and intensive farming, regardless of the damage it will cause to livelihoods, communities and the natural world.

Certainly his plan to renew coal production and enhance reliance on domestic fossil fuels will play to the strengths of the mega-farms (or CAFOs) which are well used to functioning in an over-reliant state on all farm inputs (water, fuel etc) and could benefit from the likely further drop this will force on global oil prices.

But it does also make these same farms more vulnerable. As the rest of the world plans to move towards a lower carbon future, these wheezing dinosaurs of agriculture will slowly become less and less competitive than those competing using self-reliant agroecological principles, controlling their costs in part through renewable energy.

However – and I say this very reluctantly – his plan to remove the US from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal might have inadvertent positive impacts on the environment.

Hear me out: the deal contained a clause with language that allows corporation to sue foreign governments if they feel their domestic environmental and public health regulations could hurt their profits. This has been one of the core issues that has had European campaigners concerned over TTIP and CETA.

Why does this matter? It’s potentially one less way that big agriculture can cause harm and further trample alternative food and farming industries, such as those championed by the ORFC community.

Trump’s intention to renegotiate NAFTA will definitely impact agricultural exports for all countries involved (Canada, Mexico and the US). Interestingly a 2000 study from the Center for Environmental Cooperation found that most NAFTA-related goods were trucked across the three countries, significantly boosting emissions, but as a more protectionist agricultural production policy is untested in a modern America, we have no idea whether any emissions gains will be lost in sub-national redistribution of produce.

We – as a group – are collectively for a food and farming system that is truly sustainable and holistic, delivering for the needs of our present without compromising the needs of future generations.

But in the actions of Mr. Trump’s conduct throughout the election process, it seems a highly distant possibility that Mr. Trump shares these long term, genuinely smart economic and ecological investment values. I can’t see the US (and therefore its’ destructive exported farming approaches) shifting more wholesale into a more enlightened time of agriculture any time soon.

In the meantime, here’s a roundup of some of the most useful articles I found since news of the election results broke on Wednesday morning…

Katharine Mansell, ORFC Marketing and Communications Coordinator, 12 November 2016