Cargill weighs in


Two federal court judges and an appeals court justice found over the weekend that President Trump’s executive orders banning refugees from entering the nation probably violate the US Constitution on its face. A federal judge in Washington issued a temporary restraining order against the Trump executive action, and an appeals court justice affirmed it. The three-justice Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is expected to decide whether to issue a stay of the executive order this week. At issue is whether the executive branch has the authority to ban Muslims from entering the country. The First Amendment bans establishment of religion, but the Constitution also lays out broad powers to the President in national security affairs. The question surely will be decided ultimately by the US Supreme Court.

Attached to the pleadings by the attorneys general of Washington and Minnesota are briefs from the titans of the tech industry — Google, Amazon, Apple and 97 others — arguing that the travel ban seriously disrupts their commerce. Trump’s orders are bad for business.

The orders even brought the boss of Cargill off the sidelines. Last week CEO David MacLennan delivered a speech at a business luncheon at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul warning that America will drive off the best and brightest in its industrial innovation, and that the Trump policies will harm rural communities.

“We have to turn the tide on some of the current themes that we are seeing,” MacLennan said. “Geopolitics are shifting and we are standing at the crossroads of some really important issues for business and society.”

Cargill is among the world’s largest grain traders and food processors. It is partners with Alceco Cooperative of Albert City in Ag Partners, a burgeoning agribusiness supply firm in Northwest Iowa. Cargill has been heavily involved in meatpacking for decades. Trump has had a big impact in office less than a month.

“It causes some of the smartest people from outside the US and those looking to come to the US to question. The world’s best and brightest may start looking at other countries as their land of opportunity and that would be profoundly un-American. It would weaken not only our food system but also the US economy.”

American agriculture and food production depend on the immigrant.

MacLennan reminds us that we are not just talking about heady Constitutional division of power theories. We are talking about the future of food production in Iowa.

Rarely does Cargill talk about politics or world trade. It is privately owned and does not have to speak about anything.

So when MacLennan talks, that speaks volumes.

Trump is showing signs of starting to listen. He deferred to the courts, although he tried to belittle the federal judge by calling him a “so-called justice.” (The judge is a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush.) A Constitutional crisis was avoided.

A business crisis is in full bloom.

Trump has threatened to send US troops into Mexico to chase down “bad hombres.” It is our largest ag export market.

He has threatened to ditch the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since it was created in the early 1990s, agricultural trade among Mexico, the United States and Canana has quadrupled. You just don’t dial that back through executive action. NAFTA was painful for many in its implementation; it will be painful for many more if deconstructed.

“We need to be mindful of the effect on jobs and the impact of trade on jobs in local communities, but that’s not an all-or-nothing approach,” MacLennan said. “If the US steps back from our leadership role in the global economy, I can guarantee you other countries will very, very quickly fill the gap.”

Unfortunately, Iowa’s congressional delegation says nothing.

The issue is left to the courts to decide because a feckless Congress can’t do its job. Trump is operating in a vacuum of political leadership that cedes its authority to the court. Congress has been unable to pass any meaningful immigration management bill since 1986. Trump’s plan is to build a wall and shut the doors to the outside world. That will destroy Storm Lake, the protein center of the Midwest. We look to the attorneys general of two other states to defend our interests, because our own attorney general and two US senators cower at the thought of it. (Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined the fray Tuesday after the Washington and Minnesota attorneys general plowed the ground.) The CEO of Cargill spoke more truth in one luncheon than the rest of those political rubes could muster over a career.