Matthew Weaver/Capital Press
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — The Washington state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency has a message for ranchers: Keep your faith in President Donald Trump.
“There just really is a heart for the people in rural America,” Brian Dansel told a Spokane County Cattlemen meeting June 6.
He cited Trump’s executive order promoting agriculture and rural prosperity in America, removing troublesome regulations and providing more “common sense and local control.”
“It’s really remarkable, I think, that the president, who comes from Manhattan and has never farmed or done any of that in his life, has a heart for it. He’s a good man for it,” Dansel said. “He doesn’t want to see the farmers and producers hurt, but he also knows you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on these trade deals.”
Dansel called trade a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
“While we want access to markets, we have a little bit of a problem with the (Trans-Pacific Partnership) being a little too intrusive and onerous,” he said.
Dansel said he expects eventual trade pacts with individual countries, but doesn’t foresee any sort of plan like TPP.
“In agriculture, one of our biggest challenges in my opinion is that we have producers who are well-intentioned and come from the right spot, but maybe we get folks from wheat fighting with folks from the beef industry, and dairies are always getting bullied on by (the Environmental Protection Agency) and the Department of Ecology,” he said. “It’s hard to have a unified voice. That I think is what’s missing from today’s agriculture.”
Dansel said he’s heard from trade groups and agencies that they have faith that Trump and the USDA will be able to access markets.
“Donald Trump is a good man and I don’t think he’s going to abandon these folks,” he said. “Just bear with us. I think the good times are coming.”
Born in Republic, Wash., Dansel was a Ferry County commissioner and served on the Washington State Senate from 2013 to 2017. He was special assistant to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue when Perdue came on board in January 2017, and took at the Farm Service Agency office in Spokane in November 2017.
Dansel praised Perdue as a worker who is first in to the office every morning, and last to leave.
“One of the things I saw that I never thought I would see from a Cabinet-level secretary, was him going around and literally asking even janitors, ‘How can I make your job better? What can I do?’” Dansel said. “He gives that level of detail to every single person that comes into the building.”
Programs that serve ranchers include the livestock indemnity program, to guard against loss of cows for weather events, natural disasters and unforeseen circumstances. Dansel said changes have been made to improve the program. An “absurd” rule under the Obama administration required three straight days of temperatures of 20 degrees below zero to qualify, he said.
Now, ranchers must provide a letter from their veterinarian to qualify, Dansel said.
“That’s what I think people have been looking for: A little bit more of a common-sense approach,” he said.
Dansel is working to get more access for ranchers to funds under the program.
Dansel also cautioned youths who use the FSA’s microloan program and their parents: Be sure to pay back the loan. If not, they might not be able to qualify for student loans or other federal benefits.
“We’ll work with you. ... We’re not here to be the bad guys,” he said. “But sometimes, and it’s just the way the world works. There are rules, and one of the rules is, you’ve got to pay back loans. We’re also trying to teach responsibility with lending and borrowing.”