UNION COUNTY — Central Ohio farmer Fred Yoder was on his tractor Friday afternoon busily grinding up corn stalks in his Union County corn field, while at the same time fielding questions about an important new role he will be playing in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
Yoder is a member of Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, a position he was named to in October. The committee will help shape the new administration’s agriculture policies and review candidates for the many agriculture positions that will need to be filled in Washington, D.C., and across the country once Trump takes office, including the Secretary of Agriculture, Yoder said.
“I am very excited about this. Let’s see what happens,” he said.
Yoder called the committee a “who’s who” in the agriculture world, and includes almost 100 members to date. Yoder is chair of the “North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance,” a national climate and agriculture group representing all factions of production agriculture.
“Gary Baise, a high-profile agriculture attorney I have worked with, contacted me,” he said. The attorney had heard from other members on the committee suggesting he call Yoder.
“When he called me, I felt very honored, and I told him I would be glad to join.”
He said the committee has had several conference calls before the election, “and I think that is probably what will happen again here soon. … We have a number of things coming up — the Farm Bill, food safety and more, so I look at this committee as his think tank to put a different perspective on the issues instead of inside the beltway. Trump truly is trying to change the way decisions are made,” Yoder said.
Yoder, 62, is a fourth-generation farmer who has lived and farmed near Plain City for more than 40 years. Along with his wife, Debbie, and his two adult children, Josh and Sarah, he grows corn, soybeans and wheat on his 1,800-acre farm. He lives in Union County, but his farmland is split between Union and Madison counties.
He also has operated a retail farm seed business for more than 36 years and sells seed to all kinds of farmers, including those who use biotech varieties, conventional varieties, and also to those who grow organic crops.
What did he think of the presidential election results? Is he a strong Trump supporter?
“To be honest with you, there are some things I don’t necessarily appreciate about him. But the one thing I do appreciate is his attitude of change and new perspective. We were on a direction that was not sustainable. He has a different way of thinking about things. I am excited about it,” Yoder said.
He added that he “had to be convinced” that Trump “wants change and we can count on it. So far I am very impressed by the way he is adamant about changing the way things are done in Washington, D.C., actually working together and getting results.”
Yoder said he has been going to Washington for years, and, “I have to tell you that the last few years has not been fun. It has been gridlock and no one wants to get anything done. Mr. Trump wants to change that and I believe him. The one thing that became obvious to me is that he is not going to micromanage things. He is going to put good people in these positions and turn them loose and say, ‘Do your job.’”
He said over the last few days Trump has been acting presidential, “and I appreciate that.”
In addition to serving on the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, Yoder has served as president of the National Corn Growers Association, and has served for many years in the Ohio Corn Growers Association in various leadership positions. He served as chairman of the NCGA’s Biotech Working Group, which helped to develop protocols to ensure that new emerging technologies could be used safely on the farm while protecting other existing crop systems.
Fred has traveled many times to the European Union to speak about co-existence of production systems, where both organic and other production systems can thrive side-by-side as neighbors.
He is a charter member of the Board of Directors of “Solutions from the Land,” a nonprofit organization working with the World Bank in organizing the “Global Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance,” enabling developed and developing countries to ramp up global food production and distribution in a sustainable way.
In 2011, Yoder was inducted into the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame. He is also a White House “Champions of Change” recipient — traveling to Washington to receive the award from President Barack Obama. He recently chaired the development of a white paper relating climate change adaptation to producing enough food, feed, fiber, and fuel for the world’s growing population.
Gary Brock is editor of Civitas Media’s farming and agriculture publication Rural Life Today and can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter @GBrock4.