Elections & Politics: ‘Wrenching’ Vote Changes NFU Policy Stances

The National Farmers Union annual convention in Minneapolis saw important votes to change the organization's platform on food labeling and crop insurance. Jerry Hagstrom of DTN says the votes emphasize underlying differences in farmer membership.

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Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson (right) rocks out with the band at a reception sponsored by the Nat Farm Pac during the week of the NFU convention.
Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson (front, in white shirt) rocks out with the band at a reception sponsored by the Nat Farm Pac during the week of the NFU convention.

DTN’s Jerry Hagstrom reports of shifting policy positions coming out of last week’s National Farmers Union convention in Minneapolis.

The NFU had favored mandatory labels showing that food came from genetically modified crops. Now the Farmers Union favors voluntary labels.

And the NFU now maintains that crop insurance subsidies should not depend on conservation compliance.

Hagstrom described the debates as “wrenching,” pitting “NFU’s traditional membership base of conventional crop farmers in the Plains against farmers in other states, who are more likely to be growers of fruits and vegetable and organic crops that they sell through farmers markets or directly to consumers.”

NFU president Roger Johnson noted the conflict in a speech but said, “It is my belief that these two types of agriculture not only have a lot in common, but in a lot of areas they can learn and benefit from one another.”

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Republican Donald Trump is leading in Maryland thanks in part to his strong support among rural voters, according to a poll taken by The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore.

John Fritze reports that Trump has a 9-point lead over his nearest competitor, Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Maryland holds its primary on April 26.

“Trump is leading with men and women, rural voters and those who describe themselves as conservative, according to the poll,” Fritze writes. “Cruz, who has emerged as Trump’s most significant threat, does better among those who describe themselves as “very conservative” and voters under 35.”

“Trump is picking up support across the political spectrum,” said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the Annapolis-based firm that conducted the poll. “He’s receiving support regardless of political philosophy.”

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In 2008, Bill Clinton spent a good number of days campaigning for his wife outside the major media markets. So it was no surprise to see the former president in Springfield, the third largest city in Missouri.

He told a crowd last Friday that he understands the problem of high student loans and then tied the issue to Republican majorities in the state legislature. “Look at what’s happening in Missouri,” Clinton said. “You get a Republican legislature. They’re legally obligated to fund the public schools. So they want to cut taxes or whatever and they do — they cut back on higher education and it drives tuition up.”

And he said that while he favored a $12 an hour minimum wage, going much higher could harm rural communities.

“But if you raise it to $15 in rural Arkansas or rural Mississippi or rural Missouri, there would be a lot of places that couldn’t support it,” Clinton said.

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How did Bernie Sanders win the Democratic primary in Michigan last week? A Democratic consultant told the Detroit News that he won with the support of rural voters.

“Bernie won Michigan due to crossover from Republicans and independents,” said Joe DiSanto, a Democratic consultant. “Sanders’ trade message resonated especially with men and rural voters, and Hillary needs to take several pages out of that playbook and run with it.”

The Daily Yonder’s analysis of the Michigan primary showed Sanders winning over Clinton by 22 points in small cities and by 13 points rural areas.

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Donald Trump finds the biggest support in areas where “white identity mixes with long-simmering economic dysfunctions,” write Neil Irwin and Josh Katz in the New York Times this weekend. The article compares census data and primary election results to identify the places where Trump is most popular with voters.

The places where Trump has done well cut across many of the usual fault lines of American politics — North and South, liberal and conservative, rural and suburban. What they have in common is that they have largely missed the generation-long transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into a diverse, information-driven economy deeply intertwined with the rest of the world.

“It’s a nonurban, blue-collar and now apparently quite angry population,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “They’re not people who have moved around a lot, and things have been changing away from them, but they live in areas that feel stagnant in a lot of ways.”

 

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