Trump presidency a mixed bag

Jan. 19, 2017 - by MEAT+POULTRY Staff

While there was some support by the meat industry for Donald Trump as president, many will recall during the Republican primary campaign, Trump blasted Jeb Bush as “low energy,” leading some in the industry to think of Trump as a supporter of protein-packed meat and poultry. Turns out, he may turn out to be no friend of the industry at all. At best, a Trump presidency looks like a mixed bag for the industry.

A week after the presidential election, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) urged Congress to take action and pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would open up trade for the American meat and poultry industry with nations on the Pacific Rim. NAMI says TPP is necessary to the future growth of the industry in the world’s fastest-growing economic region. The industry is also a big supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) making international trade easier between the US, Canada and Mexico.

President-elect Trump is no fan of the TPP at all, in fact, he’s been very much against it, during the presidential campaign and now. Industry and trade analysts predict there’s no chance of TPP being approved now that Trump has been elected. He’s also opposed NAFTA, and has concerns about two other trade initiatives under negotiation – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment and the Trade in Services Agreement. While the TPP is seen to help American exports from the meat and other industries, the plan is also seen as a way to help worker conditions in countries in South America and the Asian Rim, something Trump doesn’t seem to care about.

On the good side, according to Politico, Trump is planning to eliminate the estate tax, wants to kill the Waters of the US Rule, and wants to include agriculture in determining the nation’s immigration policies.

Trump also says he wants to roll back federal regulation, and have an impact on the next Farm Bill, which will be coming up in 2018. Such a move likely would have little effect on the meat and poultry industry because of the regulatory focus on food safety. With everyone agreeing American food needs to be safe for consumers, there isn’t much chance for any movement there. And if immigration laws are enforced more strictly, as Trump promises, that could hurt both the meat and poultry industry and restaurant owners, possibly with shortages of labor.

But Trump has endorsed the idea of cutting some food safety regulations, particularly those enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, what he calls “the FDA police.” He’s talked about his tax plan, which calls for cutbacks at FDA, an agency he thinks has too much control over food production hygiene, food packaging and food temperatures, and even the nutritional content of dog food. He thinks the increased inspections of food facilities are “overkill” and thinks they should be cut back. But because most members of Congress, Republican and Democratic, seem to think food safety is important, his ideas in these areas aren’t likely to go very far.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s recent announcement mandating 15 billion gallons of ethanol to be added to America’s fuel supply this year, 200 million more gallons than proposed in May, will hurt the nation’s poultry industry. The new figure breaches the 10 percent blend wall, and in the words of NCC President Mike Brown, the move goes against the intent of Congress. It has also cost the chicken industry $59 billion more in feed costs since the ethanol fuel plan began. With a Republican Congress in tow, whether President Trump will take action to change this course of action remains to be seen.

What else? The movement to raise the minimum wage is supported by restaurant workers, but opposed by the National Restaurant Association. As a longtime employer of workers in the restaurant and similar businesses, Trump isn’t likely to endorse raising the minimum wage.

As far as government food assistance goes, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has always been tied quite closely to the Farm Bill. Trump favors moving SNAP away from the Farm Bill, in line with Republican thinking. Doing so would make it more vulnerable to federal budget cuts.