Despite headlines like Politico's Trump's Ag secretary search tests his support from farmers, High Plains Public Radio's Trump's dithering on USDA nominee gives ag sector the jitters there's nothing unusual in a late pick for USDA pick.
Three names being floated in the media have Minnesota connections.
Our local congressman shrugs in Minn. Rep. Peterson supports Trump's wish to repeal NAFTA,
So what can Americans, and particularly farmers in rural Minnesota, expect from a Trump presidency in 2017?
"Honest answer? I have no idea — and no one else I know does either," said U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), addressing a group of about 30 Becker County residents during an Agricultural Issues Forum hosted by the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
Peterson said that he was "waiting to see" who would be picked to be the new Secretary of Agriculture under president-elect Donald Trump's administration.
"I'm not sure what kind of message it sends" that Trump hasn't yet picked a new ag secretary, Peterson added. . . .
Peterson is being fair in that last sentence. Politico reports:
The last three presidents have all picked an Agriculture secretary in late December. Obama nominated Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Dec. 17, 2008, while George W. Bush tapped Ann Veneman for the job on Dec. 20. 2000. And it wasn’t until Christmas Eve, 1992 that Bill Clinton announced he had selected Mike Espy.
None of the three candidates reported in the media with Minnesota connections are Minnesota natives or residents of the North Star State, but the business ties are there. From weakest connection to strongest:
The Dallas Morning News reported last week in Trump will interview Elsa Murano, ex-Texas A&M president, for agriculture secretary:
Add another Texan to the list of people under consideration for agriculture secretary: Elsa Murano, the former president of Texas A&M, will meet with President-elect Donald Trump next week to discuss the role.
Murano, a Cuban-American immigrant, is joining Susan Combs, the former Texas comptroller and agricultural commissioner, and Sid Miller, the current agricultural commissioner, on Trump's list for USDA chief.
Murano has experience with the Agriculture Department: Under President George W. Bush, she served as the undersecretary of agriculture for food safety, and was the highest-ranking food safety official in the United States. . . .
The Minnesota connection? The Morning News reports:
. . . She also sits on the board of Hormel Foods, a Minnesota-based food manufacturing company.
The state of Minnesota is also one of the biggest advocates for irradiated food techniques, which Murano supports. Irradiation involves blasting meat with X-rays, gamma rays and electrons to kill certain pathogens, but critics say the full effects of the process are not known.
In her time working for the Bush administration, Murano unsuccessfully lobbied to lift a ban on irradiated meat in public schools. The directors of Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety have long critiqued Murano's position. . . .
Should she get the job, it's possible that putting the food safety scientist and former Texas governor Rick Perry in the same room will add drama to the reality TV president's cabinet meetings. Read the Daily News for the gory details.
Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, one of Herbster's companies, Conklin, maintains a large presence in Shakopee, Minnesota, although Herbster himself is based in Nebraska.
Back in July, Politico reported in Trump’s top ag adviser: A kingmaker from the plains:
Donald Trump’s top agriculture adviser has amassed a fortune from cattle breeding and farm equipment, given boatloads of cash to Mitt Romney and ran a long-shot bid for Nebraska governor three years ago that crumbled almost as soon as it began.
Trump has thus far revealed little about his new agriculture and rural advisory committee, but late last week, he identified the group’s leader: Charles Herbster, the owner of several agricultural enterprises, including an Angus cattle farm in Falls City, Neb., a farm equipment company in Kansas City, Mo., and a cattle breeding business in Northern Virginia. . . .
Read the rest at Politico. Mother Jones had more about the Conklin wing of Herbster's business empirette in Trump's Ag Czar Runs His Business Like Herbalife:
On Tuesday, the Donald Trump campaign formally announced its Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee—a crew of more than 60 GOP politicians (including Texas' colorful ag commissioner, Sid Miller) and agribusiness execs, chaired as previously announced by Nebraska cattleman and business operator Charles Herbster, whom I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.
Since then, I've learned something interesting about Herbster's company, Conklin, a Kansas City-based firm with an odd mix of product lines: pesticide additives called adjuvents; fertilizers for farms and lawns; probiotics for livestock, pets, and even people; industrial roof coatings; and motor oils for "everything from semis to farm equipment to race cars."
Turns out, it's a multilevel marketing operation: one of those companies—like Avon, Amway, or Herbalife—that sell their products to the public through a network of individual "distributors" who make money not just based on their own sales, but also from the sales of others they've managed to recruit.
Check out the rest at Mother Jones. Should Herbster rise--like cream or whatever ag biproduct of your choice--to the top of the pool, he'll fit in great with the education secretary, whose family made their fortune by convincing people to market Amway products.
Agribusinessman Bruce Rastetter, of Alden, Iowa, sold Heartland Pork to Christensen Farms in 2004, which caused the Sleepy Eye based firm to become what was at the time the fourth-largest pork producer in the United States.
On the ag tycoon's website, Christensen Farms is listed as a "pork production partner"; the image below is from a slide show on the page:
In the years following, Rastetter's Summit Agricultural Group has provided "active investment opportunities" via the Summit Ag Fund I LLP and the Summit Ag Fund II LLP by buying and selling farmland in Southern Minnesota:
Formed in 2010, Summit Ag Fund I, LLP invested its capital over a two-and-one-half-year period which included the acquisition of 56 farms in a four-state region. Through lease income and capital appreciation, the fund has generated significant returns to investors to date. Summit Ag Fund I, LLP has realized gains on select assets and is currently in the process of marketing additional properties for sale.
- Active 2010 – Present
- Committed investor capital equal to $32,800,000
Formed in 2012, Summit Ag Fund II, LLP is actively seeking investment opportunities via the purchase, development and leasing of farmland and proprietary infrastructure to local farm operators. To date, the fund owns assets in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- Active 2012 – Present
- Committed investor capital equal to $41,350,000
While the Summit Ag Fund II LLP is registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State's office as an active foreign (i.e., not Minnesotan) Limited Liability Partnership based in Delaware and a Minnesota Business Name for a Limited Liability Partnership based in Delaware with a CEO in Iowa, the Summit Ag Fund I LLP in listed as inactive.
That inactivity must be fairly recent, since a cursory search of various public property and sales records revealed buying and selling of farmland in Fillmore, Freeborn, Mower and Yellow Medicine Counties. We suspect there are more.
On December 22, the Des Moines Register reported in Bruce Rastetter met with 'transition officials' during visit to Trump Tower:
Iowa agriculture entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter met with officials on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team this week, aides confirmed on Wednesday.
Rastetter, a leading Republican donor in Iowa and president of the state’s Board of Regents, was photographed on Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York – the president elect’s office building where his transition team has been conducting interviews with prospective appointees to cabinet posts and other administration jobs.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller told the Des Moines Register Rastetter did meet with “transition officials” during the visit, but offered no details on the substance of the meeting. . . .
The Register posted more in a follow up article published Friday.
In March 2015, Politico reported in The real Iowa kingmaker How a pork and ethanol giant drew the entire GOP field to an Iowa stage:
A dozen potential Republican presidential candidates are about to sit down, one by one, with the biggest GOP donor in Iowa — a multimillionaire few people outside the state have ever heard of.
Bruce Rastetter, an agribusiness mogul who’s made a fortune in pork, ethanol and farm real estate, has long worked behind the scenes to help bankroll conservatives across the country, but Saturday is a public coming out party of sorts for Rastetter as he hosts the first-ever Iowa Agriculture Summit. It’s an event designed to promote farm policy in a state where pigs outnumber voters 10 to one, but it’s also a bold display of the political power Rastetter has amassed — and a reminder to candidates that his endorsement would be a big get ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
It’s an unusually public gig for a donor: Rastetter will chat with each candidate on-stage for 20 minutes before 1,000 Iowans and dozens of media outlets. He’ll get to ask Jeb Bush what exactly he thinks about ethanol, pepper Scott Walker with questions about EPA regulations and quiz Marco Rubio about where he stands on GMO labeling, if he wants. Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee will enter the agriculture policy ring, too.
How the 58-year-old self-made millionaire assembled one of the biggest GOP cattle calls yet is illustrative of the influential network he’s built over the past several years, as he’s emerged as the state’s top Republican donor at both the federal and state level, donating nearly half a million and $1.1 million, respectively, since 2003, according to campaign finance disclosures — sums that are likely a fraction of his total giving to groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. . . .
But Rastetter’s moves over the past decade look like a “how to” guide for becoming a political power player, with far more influence than other wannabe Iowa kingmakers. He started by building agribusiness empires in some of Iowa’s key sectors— including pork and ethanol — then built close relationships with Iowa’s political elite, like Gov. Terry Branstad. He slowly upped his contributions to Republican causes beyond the state in 2008, giving tens of thousands to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the National Republican Senatorial Committee over the past few cycles. And now, Rastetter is getting up close and personal with the presidential hopefuls in full view of the media and other deep-pocketed donors.
He’s also developed his share of business and political enemies in recent years, ranging from environmentalists who don’t like his hog operations to university advocates who don’t like the way his money has bought influence at the state’s public universities, where he leads the board of regents.
Rastetter, whose company has a financial interest in agriculture subsidies and strong land prices, in particular, is eager to insert farm policy into the 2016 conversation, though he is coy about his own policy positions. “It’s not my opinion that matters, it’s the candidates,” he said in a phone interview. . . .
Read the rest at Politico and google his name. If appointed, Ambassador to China nominee and current Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will have a special friend at the USDA.
Bloomberg has more on the search in Trump’s Search for an Agriculture Secretary Continues [video].
Photo: Bruce Rastetter definitely has the right look for Trump's reality TV cabinet. Photo via Politico.
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