Farm Progress

Say a German farm magazine asks you how the presidential election will affect U.S. agriculture, in 200 words or less. What would you say? Here’s what I tried to say.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

November 15, 2016

2 Min Read

Last week, just before the election, my German friend and colleague Christian Muhlhausen messaged me on Facebook. I met Christian several years ago when we were both attending the International Federation of Ag Journalists Congress in Sweden. I was there for the Young Ag Journalists Boot Camp, which he’d gone through the year before. He’s an excellent photographer and puts out a beautiful magazine, Land & Forest. We’ve kept up ever since, thanks to social media, and chat occasionally about global agricultural issues.


Still, I was surprised when he asked if I would write a reflection on the U.S. presidential election and what the outcome would mean to agriculture — in 200 words or less. It seemed easy enough on Monday — less so by Wednesday. Still, I gave it a shot.

I have a lot more I’d like to add, particularly about the rural-urban divide that absolutely and completely revealed itself last Tuesday. And how the Founding Fathers clearly saw it coming, writ in their handiwork of the Electoral College. Here’s a look at what I reported; let me know if you agree!

From an agricultural perspective, I believe we can draw a few conclusions from the U.S. presidential election. First, the results surprised virtually everyone. Second, Donald Trump had far more support than anyone realized. And third, Americans are divided by rural vs. urban; rural America made its discontent known in this election (plus, the Electoral College worked).

Here in the heart of the rural Midwest, farmers and small-business owners are profoundly disappointed with Obama administration policies, including EPA overreach (trying to regulate the tiniest body of standing water) and the Affordable Care Act (paid for by the middle class; one farmer’s annual premiums went from $4,500 per year in 2011 to $20,000 per year in 2017). In their minds, Hillary Clinton promised more of those policies. Journalists experienced less access throughout the Obama administration; our American Agricultural Editors’ Association even sent a letter to the president, protesting lack of access to key federal officials.

Certainly, there is concern about Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, and about his ideas regarding trade. Agriculture wants to be a good global neighbor. Neither Trump nor Clinton favor the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which agriculture strongly supports. We gained insight into Trump's agricultural policies this fall, but expect more details.

There’s also a sense among the rural farm community that the general media is mischaracterizing it, calling people uneducated, poorly read, desperate and intolerant. That’s certainly not true. The farm community loves its neighbors, wants sensible immigration reform, desires racial and gender equality, and is very educated.

We are hopeful and waiting to see what’s next.

Holly Spangler,
Prairie Farmer/Penton Agriculture
Illinois, USA

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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