If polls are right and Americans have lost enough respect for current president Donald Trump to vote him out of office next week, then what comes next for U.S. farmers?
Not a Joe Biden government. More and more, rural America has warmed up to his moderate message, his promise to restore dignity to the Oval Office and his emphasis on everyday economic issues.
But a vote for Biden is really a vote for California’s Kamala Harris, his vice-president. She’s expected to run the overall show as she sets sail on a bid for her own presidency in four more years.
Harris certainly has her attributes. But as she climbs the ladder to the top, farmers on both sides of the border need to pay attention.
For example, she takes a strong environmental position on agriculture. That permeates her overall perspective on all things related to food production. She voted against the Canada-U.S.-Mexico free trade deal, citing environmental concerns.
“By not addressing climate change, the [trade deal] fails to meet the crises of this moment,” she said. “Californians know that the climate crisis is already here. Communities across our state have experienced exacerbated fires, storms, floods, and drought, and the devastation will only get worse if we fail to take bold and immediate action to address it. This agreement will set the standards for decades.”
On this side of the border, the trade deal was hallowed by export-driven agriculture groups, who issued dire warnings about our economy’s future in the wake of less access to the U.S.
It’s unlikely the trade deal would be cancelled under a Harris vice-presidency. But it could be altered significantly with demands that the Americans’ two trading partners, Mexico and us, raise our environmental game as it pertains to farming.
The thing is, Canada’s environmental game looks pretty good by comparison. And before she punishes us for whatever wrongdoings she imagines we have here, she’d first have to implement higher standards in her own country.
That’s the tough part for Harris. She and Biden are on track to win, in part because they are carving out more of a following in conservative rural America. They’re beating Trump in farming communities where he gave producers farmers billions of dollars in support. Such huge money didn’t placate farmers – they took it, of course, but they resented how the U.S. farm economy became dependent on Trump rather than the market.
And many of them plain dislike his boorish, divisive attitude.
However, they’re still conservative. And if Harris-driven environmentalism targets them as offenders who have to significantly change their ways – ways that they have long considered sustainable – Democrats will lose whatever gains they’re likely to make. Harris will need them again in four years if she is to ascend to the presidency.
Another area where she could clash with Canada could be on agricultural workers’ rights, which are just becoming part of the public agenda here.
Harris is a champion for such rights in the U.S., co-sponsoring legislation that would shield agricultural workers from deportation and further, actually help them eventually become citizens.
It’s an acknowledgement of their key role in the country’s food production.
Would our approach to temporary farm workers, who likewise serve an essential role here, meet her approval? Overall, I suspect she’d wag her finger at us, particularly for the coronavirus-related deaths that befell some workers.
And if we didn’t meet her standards, we’d jeopardize trade.
In the big picture, I think many more Canadians would rather see a Biden government than endure four more years of Trump. But even if he loses, Trump’s “America First” message will still resonate throughout the country as Biden tries to patch it up and Harris looks at her long-term prospects.