With the Iowa caucus slowly drawing nearer, 2024 hopeful Donald J. Trump made the case that he was “the most pro-farmer president that you’ve ever had” at a rally in Council Bluffs, a town across the Missouri River from Nebraska.
To support his case, Mr. Trump ran through a long list of actions he’d taken as commander-in-chief, including repealing former President Barack Obama’s expansive Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
“It was a truly outrageous federal power grab,” he told an enthusiastic audience.
President Joe Biden has made WOTUS more expansive again, vetoing a joint resolution of disapproval of his new WOTUS rule from both chambers of Congress earlier this session.
Mr. Trump cited various other policies from his presidency to justify his claim of being a uniquely pro-farm executive, including his repeal of numerous United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations and his administration’s United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement.
He characterized the latter deal as a “gigantic victory for the American farmer,” noting that American eggs, dairy products, and poultry were allowed into Canada due to USMCA.
“I used to come here, in Nebraska and other places, and they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s so bad what Canada does to us.’ Canada sounds so lovely, but they really ripped off our farmers and really ripped off our country,” Mr. Trump said.
He also referenced his $28 billion payout to farmers, which was carried out amid a U.S.-China trade war in which American agriculture was suffering. Mr. Trump suggested that the money his administration delivered would make it almost impossible for him to lose Iowa.
“I actually wanted to sign those checks, but people said it wouldn’t be appropriate,” the former president mused, drawing laughter.
Mr. Trump also referenced his moves on ethanol, a fuel produced using corn and other crops.
Notably, much of Iowa’s corn now goes to ethanol production.
“Historically a larger share of Iowa’s corn has been used for ethanol relative to the U.S. In recent years 50-70 [percent] of Iowa corn production is used to make ethanol, and 35-40 [percent] of U.S. corn is used for ethanol,” a 2023 article from the Iowa Farm Bureau states.
“I like to say very strongly and proudly that I fought for Iowa ethanol like no president in history,” Mr. Trump said to applause.
He drew attention to his 2020 promise, made during his first reelection bid, to let gas stations sell the E15 ethanol blend through existing pumps.
“It was a big thing as a candidate,” he said.
Mr. Trump also zeroed in on the record of his chief rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. As is increasingly the case, he tacked to Mr. DeSantis’s left—this time on non-fossil fuels.
He drew attention to then-Congressman DeSantis’s cosponsorship in 2017 of a bill that would have eliminated the renewable fuel standard.
“If he [DeSantis] had his way, the entire economy of Iowa would absolutely collapse,” Mr. Trump said.
He also drew attention to Mr. DeSantis’s recent vetoes of farm subsidies, noting that they drew negative comments from Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner, Wilton Simpson.
“He’s going to do that to Iowa and Nebraska and everybody else because that’s his inclination,” Mr. Trump told the crowd.
The July 7 rally in Council Bluffs came alongside the start of the former president’s “Farmers for Trump” coalition, led in part by state legislators in the Hawkeye State.
Before he spoke, Mr. Trump lobbed “Farmers for Trump” hats—green with golden letters—into the cheering throng of Trump fans.
“President Trump has proven himself to be the most pro-farmer president in our nation’s history,” said Republican Iowa State Rep. Mike Sexton, co-chair of Farmers for Trump, in a statement on the announcement.
“President Trump stood up to China taking advantage of Iowa’s farmers, repealed the devastating Waters of the U.S. [WOTUS] rule, protected Iowa’s critical ethanol industry, and replaced NAFTA with the incredible USMCA trade deal,” added Mr. Sexton, who chairs the Iowa House’s committee on agriculture.
Before Mr. Trump spoke, local Republicans and agricultural experts held a panel discussion on agricultural policy.
The speakers on that panel ranged from Justin Schultz of the Renewable Fuels Association to Iowan Matt Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general for several months during Mr. Trump’s presidency.
Even as Mr. Trump faces numerous legal challenges, Iowa’s likely Republican voters have begun to see him even more favorably than before, according to a recent National Research, Inc. survey.
Another 2024 contender, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, may also be gaining ground ahead of the primary and caucus season. Mr. Ramaswamy has been more supportive of Mr. Trump than most other Republican candidates.
A recent Echelon Insights poll showed the Millennial presidential candidate approaching Mr. DeSantis, whose numbers have generally fallen in recent months.
“I was surprised that Ramaswamy had achieved the level of name [identification] that the poll indicates. His showing as the third most popular GOP candidate was beyond surprising given his lack of a significant political profile prior to the past year,” political strategist Richard Manning told The Epoch Times in a July 5 email.
Yet, for now, “the race is Donald Trump’s to lose,” according to Manning.
In Iowa on July 7, the large and, admittedly, self-selected audience sounded eager for Mr. Trump’s latest pledges to the American people–and American farmers.