Trump may well have a positive influence on European agriculture

Donald Trump’s decision to, effectively, put the TTIP discussions on hold may well be a blessing in disguise for farming and food in this part of the world – particularly the dairy sector.

The United States’ new president has made no secret of the fact that he wants no truck with imports – food included – coming into his country. So, if this reasoning is to be taken through to its logical conclusion, the new man in the White House will not want to push the boat out, where US food exports are concerned.

In contrast to Canada, the United States is not a premium dairy market. So it would not be that big of a catch for Irish dairy processors. However, the US dairy industry has an formidable capacity to ramp up its output levels within a relatively short period of time.

A combination of high-merit Holstein cows and cheap feed can be quickly transformed into a very sizeable milk pool. Adding a further incentive in this regard is the fact that the tonnage of US maize utilised for bio-ethanol production is now well back on previous years.

It may well turn out that farming and food will not be a major policy issue for Trump. He has yet to appoint a Secretary of State for Agriculture and, as far as I am aware, he has never made a mainstream campaign speech reflecting any in-depth views on the future of that specific industry.

Again, this might be good news for farming and food on this side of the Atlantic. The United States has a truly staggering potential to produce more food. However, recent White House administrations have focused on the challenge of making US agriculture more environmentally sustainable. An equally strong focus on conservation has also been evident. So, let’s hope that Trump is happy to let this state of affairs remain the norm while he is in office.

There is little doubt that North America’s farm belt is steeped in support for the Republican Party. So, one would assume that Trump will not have to turn cartwheels in order to keep the guys in check shirts happy. Moreover, these very same producers seem pretty content with the support measures available to them, courtesy of the current US Farm Bill. And this should be a cause for concern for farmers here in Ireland.

Essentially, US farmers and their government contribute to a form of insurance scheme, which pays out in the event of a weather-related catastrophe or prices flat-lining. Brussels has made no secret of the fact that it does not have bottomless pockets when it comes to supporting agriculture into the future.

And there is little doubt that the EU Commission has had a very close look at how our North American cousins fund their farm support measures, with the intention of introducing something similar in this part of the world at some stage down the track.