Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

The US election is always on a Tuesday because of farmers, but is either candidate the farmers' choice?

US voters will make their choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar/Carlos Barria/Files
US voters will make their choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar/Carlos Barria/Files
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

It’s a little known fact but it is due to farmers that the US election takes place on a Tuesday.

In 1845, it was decided by US lawmakers that a common day for voting for president should be settled on across the US.

At that time America had largely a farming based economy and the logistics of allowing farmers and rural people vote was key in the decision-making process.

Farmers would have to travel to the nearest major town by horse and cart to cast their ballot. It was a trip that could take a whole day in some places.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were considered days of worship, while Wednesday was traditionally market day.

Folks would leave the farm on a Monday and travel through the day, arriving in time to cast their ballot on Tuesday before heading back to sell their fruit and vegetables on Wednesday.

But do the presidential candidates of today care as as much about the farming community and has either the support of farmers?

It’s fair to say that for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agriculture and farming are certainly not top priorities if both candidates' campaigns are anything to go by.

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US farmers have generally been left frustrated at the two campaigns that have only briefly touched on farming issues.

Although Clinton’s platform includes a detailed “plan for a vibrant rural America”, she rarely mentioned farming or food during the campaign.

Her plan includes “build[ing] a strong local and regional food system by doubling funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program to expand food hubs, farmers markets…and to encourage direct sales to local schools, hospitals, retailers and wholesalers.”

Further, current US Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack is Clinton’s top agriculture advisor and, according to most commentators in the US, this would signal the likely continuation of much of the current administration’s agriculture policies.

Meanwhile Trump’s platform does not specifically mention food, agriculture, or rural communities at all and he hasn’t mentioned it much during the campaign.

However he recently released a list of agriculture advisors that paints a picture of the sort of policies to expect under a President Trump - one that supports large feedlots over smaller producers and farmers' marketse.

Key issue for US farmers

However, immigration is the key issue for US agriculture at present and lobby group the American Farm Bureau estimates that between 50 and 75pc of farm labourers are illegal workers, who are at constant risk of deportation.

Online Editors