Sonny Perdue and Lawrence MacAulay have their obvious differences. One is American and the other is Canadian. One has right wing politics and the other leans a little more to the left. One likes ice cream and the other…oh wait, they do have some things in common.
Besides ice cream, they both like to talk about supporting free trade, reducing red tape and a genuine love for agriculture. Maybe more than anything else, as agriculture secretary and minister, they’re viewed as representing farmers and ranchers in their administrations.
The challenge is that agriculture’s best interests can conflict with what the leader of the country wants, as we see with their bosses’ anti-NAFTA rhetoric in the U.S. and proposed tax rule changes in Canada.
Last week on Agritalk, I said this about Sonny Perdue and his big challenges ahead with President Trump and NAFTA:
Sonny is still towing the company line, which is to be expected in this administration, but he has now added “but” to his statement. It sounds like he is already apologizing for the president and the impact pulling out of NAFTA will have on the industry. It’s a good thing Sonny went on this cross country RV tour when he did because if the president pulls out of NAFTA, he will have a hard time looking at farmers and ranchers, saying that the president cares about agriculture.
It really hit me when a RealAg audience member tweeted us asking if we were going to interview MacAuley on the tax changes and whether he will be sticking up for agriculture in the caucus meeting.
The majority of Canadian agriculture is very upset with Trudeau on the suggested changes. Shouldn’t MacAulay be standing up to the well-tailored Morneau and well-groomed Trudeau, demanding “No, I will not let you do this to the people I represent as the Minister of Agriculture in Canada”?
This is the kind of resistance that Sonny Perdue put up earlier in the spring when he convinced President Trump with a series of maps and charts that NAFTA was actually good for a group of people that voted for him. However, the effect of those maps and charts wore off quickly as the president returned to his NAFTA termination rhetoric without much hesitation.
Whether your politics are left or right in Canada or the U.S., you should understand one thing, agriculture is lower on the totem pole of priorities for any left or right leaning government than we want to believe. Politicians talk a good game. In the case of Trump and Trudeau, their actions on trade and tax reform, respectively, are not in line with our industry.
Sonny and Lawrence have an impossible job. They are inside cabinet and they seem to have less influence to drive political direction and decision-making than we hoped.
Faced with deciding whether to speak up against their leader or upsetting the people they’re supposed to represent, it’s no wonder Perdue and MacAulay enjoyed that Savannah, Georgia ice cream back in spring.