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Ag groups heartened, nervous about Trump's early executive orders

Sara Wyant

WASHINGTON — Since day one in the oval office, Donald Trump has unleashed a flurry of executive orders, met with congressional, business and labor leaders and visited with foreign dignitaries. And he's been tweeting remarks on his personal Twitter feed throughout the day.

"The American dream is back. We're going to create an environment for small business like we haven't had in many, many decades." Trump tweeted after issuing his latest executive order dealing with regulatory reform. That order requires two regulations be revoked before any new one can be advanced.

Many executive actions were taken during Trump's first week, some were heralded by agricultural groups and some made some of those same organizations nervous.

Regulatory reform

Farm and ranch groups are generally supportive of efforts to repeal some of the most burdensome regulations.

Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, told Agri-Pulse that NPPC is generally supportive of the order as a means to make sure farmers, ranchers and business owners "aren't overburdened."

"While there's constantly new regulations added, there's never any taken away," Warner says. "At some point, something's got to give."

But there were also plenty of questions about which regulations would be affected by these orders.

In the legislative process, bills passed by Congress commonly require rulemaking by executive branch agencies. Warner says that rulemaking can get to such a point where regulations might be duplicative or outside the intent of Congress. NPPC isn't necessarily trying to slice current regulations to a lower quota, Warner says, but NPPC members think a healthy look at what's on the books could be a good thing.

"It's not a matter of numbers ... do they work and are they something that Congress actually asked for?" Warner says.

But others aren't so sure how the order would work in the reality of a government agency.

For example, if a new regulation is produced by the Agriculture Department, would two USDA regulations need to go or would regulations from another department also be up for grabs? What about rulemaking that updates programs but is not a completely new regulation such as annual blending targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard?

The order simply states that whenever a new regulation is promulgated or offered up for public comment, the proposing agency or department "shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed."

"To the extent this stays in place and doesn't get modified, you're going to have a lot of people at a lot of agencies and outside organizations digging through to see where there's any dead weight that would be easy to throw overboard," says Ferd Hoefner, with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Trade worries

Trump's executive orders on trade are perhaps the most worrisome for the agriculture sector, although the crackdown on illegal immigration could make it even harder to find workers.

One of Trump's first actions was to pull the U.S. of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact that most U.S. farm groups counted on to help boost sales for producers who are struggling with low prices and rising financial stress.

He also wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, outlining new deals with two of our top trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

The American Farm Bureau Federation predicted that tariff cuts and other measures in just the TPP would net farmers an extra $4.4 billion annually, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association was counting on the pact to help it compete with Australia for Japan's massive beef demand.

Wheat farmers were also hoping the deal would be approved. "U.S. wheat farmers depend heavily on export demand to determine their per-bushel income," says Jason Scott, chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates. "We can compete very effectively in Asian and Latin American markets where the demand for high quality wheat is rapidly increasing and our organizations took a long view of the benefits TPP held out — a trade agreement that promoted economic growth abroad as a way to grow export sales and prosperity for farmers at home."

Editor's note: Wyant is president and founder of Agri-Pulse Communications Inc. Agri-Pulse Editors Spencer Chase and Philip Brasher contributed to this report.