Rural America in 2017 Dominated by New President's Policy Shifts

Dec 29, 2017  | 5 min  | Ep4319

2017 may be the worst year for natural disasters.

Through early October, 15 weather events each racked up a $1 billion bill and that’s before including California’s wildfires.

Meanwhile on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow Jones set 87 new record high closes since the 2016 presidential election.

As the new residents settled into the White House, the policy coming from the Trump West Wing loomed large over rural America.


2017 was a year of change in America.

A new president.

Policy upheaval.

Depressed prices.

But some things repeated.



Chemical concerns.

As Donald J. Trump took the oath of office, the winds of change were blowing around the capital city.

The president made good on his promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and kept alive the threat to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Five rounds of trade talks took place in 2017, but little consensus was reached between the major trading partners of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada: “Millions of good jobs on both sides of the border depend on the smooth and easy flow of goods and services and people back and forth across our border.”

Donald Trump: “We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We will be tweaking it. We will be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries. It is a much less severe situation than what’s taken place on the southern border.”

If any deals are going to be made, they will come in the first half in 2018 as elections in all three countries are set to take place.  

Gov. Sonny Perdue, Nominee for Secretary of Agriculture: “Food is a noble thing to trade. We’ve got a great story to tell.”

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue was the last of the Trump cabinet selected and heard in the confirmation process.

Following his swearing in, Perdue toured the country, laying out future plans for U.S. agriculture including food programs, renewable fuels and family farms.

Part of USDA’s mission is to battle wildfires and crews were working overtime in California late in the year.

The first big fire roared through California’s Napa Valley region in October, killing 42 people, causing more than $1 billion in damage and destroying more than 8,400 structures. At the time, it was one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s history.

Then came the Thomas fire.  Santa Ana winds fueled the blaze that has topped 272,000 acres and it now considered the second worst fire in the Golden State’s history. The hardest areas impacted were in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The latter area is home to a $1.5 billion dollar strawberry, leafy greens and fresh-cut flower industry.

Extreme weather also slammed the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Harvey came ashore in September. The year 2017 will go down as the fifth most active season along with the most major hurricanes since 2005. The damage is the costliest on record, nearing the $370 billion threshold.

Coleman Locke, Texas Cattle Farmer: “I know my son has been out there in the water for two days at least waist-deep working, trying to either move cows to higher ground or get hay to them and see that they’re OK.”

Fruit in the nation’s largest juice producer was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. Some 80-90 percent of the crop was impacted and could easily top $1 billion in damages.

Weather concerns came and went in the Corn Belt, but the biggest storm on the horizon for many producers was the future of the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator:  “We are proposing new volumes consistent with market realities focused on actual production and consumer demand while being cognizant of the challenges that exist in bringing advanced biofuels into the marketplace.”

Threats to reduce the level of fuel mixed with homegrown sources soured lawmakers and interest groups alike.

Governor Kim Reynolds/R – Iowa: “The renewable fuel standard plays a major role in sustaining our ability to continue as an agriculture leader by giving farmers another market for their commodities.”

After the arm-twisting, the EPA kept 2018 standards near existing policy. But oil-state supporters expressed frustration over the process setting up another tug-of-war again in the New Year.

The long-sought Keystone Pipeline cleared a regulatory hurdle in Nebraska in November, just days after a spill along the existing pipeline in South Dakota.

Ten state’s in the pipeline’s path and others in the surrounding region are deciding rules when it comes to chemical drift – specifically the application of dicamba. Rulemakers from Arkansas to the Dakotas made adjustments in how the weedkiller can be applied – if at all. Thousands of complaints have been logged in those states over damage caused after spraying.

For more on the year that was 2017, download the most recent version of the MtoM podcast. The first episode dropped this week and the next one will drop on January 2nd


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