You are the owner of this article.
Down the primrose path

Down the primrose path


The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the yellow roses along the primrose path are dazzling distractions from what, in a matter of days, has already been a long month for farmers and ranchers.

Worse, a long harvest and bitter winter also loom as President Donald J. Trump threatens even tougher trade sanctions on key U.S. food buyers beginning Sept. 1.

How did American agricultural and political leaders, especially the White House, put farm and ranch constituents on a cliff’s edge in so many crucial areas—trade, climate science, the economy, food assistance, data collection and analysis—in such a short time?

The easy answer is that they didn’t know what they were doing as they almost uniformly placed politics over experience and talking points over expert advice on everything from trade to taxes to technology.

The harder, more truthful answer, however, is that farm leaders absolutely knew what Trump Administration officials were doing when the White House attempted to cut departmental budgets, eliminated agencies, scrubbed scientific studies with political soap, boosted federal deficits to $1 trillion per year, picked trade fights with every key U.S. ag customer, demoted undersecretaries into irrelevancy, and misled Congress, ranchers, and farmers with glowing forecasts of their farm and food policies.

In fact, what Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials were doing was obvious: They were carrying out White House political directives without question or concern to curry favor with the President and his tweeting, vengeful thumbs. In any other Administration, Congress would have swiftly stepped in to probe, slow, and even stop similar shortsighted or harmful actions.

But, as Trump trumpeters remind us, this Administration isn’t like any before it. Nor, as it turns out, are any of its trade or farm policies.

For example, no American farmer or rancher would have taken all of two days in office to dump out of the almost-done Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with 12 other nations without first seeing what new markets the agreement—involving 40 percent of the global economy—would have offered the nation and its farm and food producers.

The Trump White House did so unilaterally and without pause.

Nor would have any American farmer or rancher, be free trader or protectionist, kicked off trade talks with their five largest ag customers—China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and the European Union—by threatening all with steep tariffs if they didn’t play by our rules.

The Trump White House did so unilaterally and without pause.

Nor would anyone in farm or ranch policy circles have moved to mute two critical U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), because of perceived but never proven political bias.

The White House is doing exactly that right now in its staff-gutting, forced—and possibly illegal—march of both from their longstanding home in Washington, D. C. to metro Kansas City.

Moreover, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney essentially proved Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s explanation of the move (to get both agencies “closer to their customers”) was Grade A baloney during a political rally Aug. 2 in his native South Carolina.

“By simply saying to people,” Mulvaney boasted, “‘You know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven…’ they quit. What a wonderful way to streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

Do you know anyone so cruel as to force people to choose a job over home, or a career over family simply because they have that power in the “liberal haven of Washington, D.C”?

And, yet, here we are.

We watch as few farm leaders and even fewer in Congress hold anyone in the White House accountable for your fast disappearing markets, your fast-sinking farm income, your growing dependency on government handouts, and the bleaching of your salt-of-the-earth reputation.

But this is what happens when you stroll down the primrose path; you become so bedazzled by the smell and color of the roses that you don’t look to see where you’re going.


Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Keep your hands visible. Don't be disrespectful. Say "yes sir, no sir." No sudden movements. These are the instructions inherited by Black children for generations. The directions are given, to sons in particular, with the hope they will get home alive should they come in contact with the police. Passed down like grandma's recipe for banana pudding, the fear cuts across class and income. ...

  • Updated

When it comes to COVID-19, a college campus is like a cruise ship, a cinema multiplex and a restaurant all rolled into one. Yet many U.S. institutions of higher education are forging ahead with on-campus, in-person classes and activities for fall terms, making campuses likely hotbeds of illness. Some students, faculty and staff will likely have permanent damage. Some will probably die. College ...

Friends, my heart is grieved. There’s already so much going on in our country, and we have recently witnessed the on-camera murder of George F…

  • Updated

The story surfaced like one of those trial balloons we're used to seeing out of political offices and campaigns - Republican insiders telling Fox News that President Donald Trump is grumpy about his reelection prospects and might quit the campaign if his poll numbers don't improve. Let him. But don't count on it. The campaign rejected the notion, calling it the "granddaddy of fake news." The ...

  • Updated

Right about now, the state and county fair season would normally be in full swing. For the elephants and camels who are forced to plod in endless circles; the tiger cubs torn from their mothers to be used as profitable photo props; and the cows, rabbits, chickens and other animals hauled around for 4-H and other "ag" displays, the coronavirus crisis has been a welcome reprieve. From April ...

  • Updated

Commentators have been busy trying to discern what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was up to when he joined the Supreme Court's four liberals Monday in striking down a Louisiana abortion law virtually identical to a Texas statute the court overturned in 2016. Was he cynically voting to save the Republican Party from the political fallout of an anti-abortion ruling? Or maybe a concern for the ...

Wear your damn masks, because my child needs to go to school this fall. It's been approximately 3,839 days of quarantine, and I'm in a pretty good routine. I broke down and bought a proper desk; unlike the table I had been using, it doesn't have a support beam underneath that barks my shin a dozen times a day. I set an alarm every morning. I figured out how to schedule calls and interviews ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News