In addition to the exasperation experienced by anyone watching the spectacle created by the 2016 presidential primaries, grain-based foods executives should feel some measure of relief about the farm program reforms that occurred beginning in the 1980s. For most of the 20th century, bakers, millers and grain executives waited each year in nervous anticipation of government decisions related to price support programs. For better or worse, these decisions would affect the supply and price picture and business prospects for participants up and down the food chain. The decoupling of farm supports from planting decisions for most commodities, as happened in the past couple of decades, has largely and thankfully removed such policy issues from increasingly troubling political discourse.
None of this is to say grain-based foods doesn’t have a stake in the current campaign season. The surprise victory of Bernie Sanders and the expected success of Donald Trump in Michigan have brought questions about free trade back into the spotlight in ways that should cause considerable concern. In the best of times, protectionism is a popular subject for candidates seeking to stir up voter anger, and in the current fractious environment accusations of unfair trade practices or currency manipulation against trade partners have been resonating.
A topic worth thoughtful discourse is the widening income gap and stagnation of wages for those at the lower end of the earnings spectrum. A drag on the entire economy, the breach has been felt acutely in the last several years by grain-based foods. Identifying policies that may remedy this problem is an objective worth pursuing.