Rep. Crawford offers thoughts on agriculture, trade posts; drops hint on Ag Secretary pick

by Roby Brock ( 88 views 

First District Congressman Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, neither confirmed nor denied he may be in the running for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, but he said he feels strongly that a Southerner should lead the rural, pro-farm agency.

In a Wednesday (Jan. 4) interview with Talk Business & Politics’ Roby Brock, Crawford did not say whether or not he had discussed the position with President-elect Donald Trump and he deferred answering a question as to whether or not he is on a short list. If Crawford was tapped for the secretary post, he would have to vacate his seat in Congress setting up a special election to fill a vacancy.

Brock: What’s the latest on the Agriculture Secretary pick and have you had any conversations with the President-elect on this?

Crawford: Here’s what my concern is: I hope that whoever that individual is has a good understanding of the vital role of agriculture in this country. There’s a national security imperative, there is a rural broadband initiative that’s got to be completed, there’s a whole lot of things that come to bear (with) economic development in rural communities. We’ve been chasing smokestacks for years trying to improve the quality of life in rural America; we need to understand that that’s not necessarily the best way to go about it. Whoever that individual is I hope understands that and has a real ability to communicate with the folks who live and work in rural America.

Obviously, I have a geographic concern because I live in the South, the mid-South, and I want to see a southern perspective at the table as a counterweight to what has been somewhat of a Midwest monopoly when it comes to ag policy.

I’m going to gravitate towards someone who’s maybe a little more in the Southern latitudes and has a better understanding of the diverse ag economy we have in the state of Arkansas and states like Georgia, and throughout the South – Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. That’s kind of what my concerns are.

Brock: Respectfully, I’m asking: Are you in the mix or not in the mix for the post?

Crawford: (chuckles) I’ll just let that statement stand for itself. There has been some talk about that but really too early to tell. I know this has been a long, drawn-out process, but typically an Ag Secretary is one of the last to be named. So if we’re looking at schedules, the President-elect is on schedule. Let’s just see what happens over the next few days.

In the TB&P interview, Crawford also expressed his support for President-elect Trump’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative, Richard Lighthizer, a deputy trade rep in the Reagan administration.

“We use free trade and fair trade interchangeably. I think if we do anything going forward, we have to understand that fair trade and free trade are not necessarily the same thing. This pick gets that,” Crawford said.

He also noted that he believed Trump’s administration would push for more bilateral trade agreements instead of multilateral ones. Crawford supports the policy change.

“It’s okay for us to put our interests first,” he said. “The key here I think are bilateral trade agreements as opposed to multilateral. What happens in multilateral trade deals is the United States typically winds up behind the eight ball.”

More of Crawford’s interview will air this weekend on Talk Business & Politics, which airs Sundays in Central Arkansas on KATV Channel 7 at 9:30 a.m.; in Northeast Arkansas on KAIT-NBC at 10 a.m.; and in Northwest Arkansas on KFSM Channel 5 at 10:30 a.m.

Crawford’s interview also discusses the House ethics controversy this week as well as Trump’s potential conflicts between his business and political interests and, on a lighter note, the recent success of the ASU Red Wolf sports program.