Trump Campaign Advisors Receive Over $2 Million in Trade Bailout Payments

Fifteen members of an agribusiness council that advised Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign have received $2.2 million from the federal bailout program for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war with China.

Two months before Trump won the 2016 election, his campaign announced the formation of an Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee. Designed to smooth over any misgivings farmers might have voting for a rich Manhattan playboy, the council was a who’s who of industrial agriculture luminaries.

The group’s founder and leader is Charles Herbster, a Nebraska farmer, rancher and CEO of an agricultural products company. During the campaign, Herbster told Politico the group’s focus would be fundraising and mobilizing rural voters. In a set of talking points distributed by the committee, a topline message to farmers was “If you want a more predictable and profitable future, your choice is straight forward – you must vote for Donald Trump for President.”

Since Trump entered the White House, nothing has been predictable for American farmers. But for 15 members of the advisory council, Trump’s trade war has brought more than $2 million in Market Facilitation Payments, the Department of Agriculture program for farmers whose access to the Chinese market has been cut off by the president’s tariffs.

EWG obtained data on the payments from USDA through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Market Facilitation Payments to Trump’s Ag Campaign Advisors

Name, Farm Location



John J. Armstrong Muscota, Kan.

Kansas Wheat Commission member


Michael D. Brandenburg  Edgely, N.D.

State representative, North Dakota


John S. Dalrymple III Casselton, N.D.

Governor, North Dakota, 2010-2016


Rodney L. Davis Florissant, Mo.

U.S. representative (R-Ill.), House Agriculture Commission


Steve L. Foglesong Astoria, Ill.

Former president, National Cattlemen's Beef Association


Ronald Ray Heck Perry, Iowa

Past president, American Soybean Association


Charlotte Kelley Burlison, Tenn. 

Cotton grower, former county Republican Party chair


Ted A. McKinney Tipton, Ind.

Under secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, USDA


Jim Moseley Clarks Hill, Ind.

Former deputy secretary, USDA


Jim L. Reese Nardin, Okla.

Former Oklahoma secretary of agriculture


Marcus Rust Remington, Ind.

CEO, Rose Acre Farms, second largest egg producer in U.S.


Leslie Rutledge Marion, Ark. (wife of recipient Boyce Johnson )

Arkansas attorney general


Kip Tom Leesburg, Ind.

U.S. ambassador to U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture


Steve Wellman Syracuse, Neb.

Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture


Walt Whitcomb Waldo, Maine

Former Maine agriculture commissioner





Source: EWG, from USDA data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act

Among the Trump campaign advisors receiving MFP payments is Kip Tom, who is one of the largest corn, soybean and seed growers in Indiana. Last year Trump appointed him the Rome-based ambassador to the United Nations for food and agriculture. Toms Farms Partners, one of his businesses, received $509,000 in MFP payments.

Among other notable members of the advisory committee:

  • Charlotte Kelly, who owns a 14,000-acre Tennessee cotton farm, received $874,000 in MFP payments.
  • Jack Dalrymple, a wheat and soybean farmer who was the Republican governor of North Dakota from 2010 to 2016, received $256,668 in payments.
  • Ron Heck of Iowa, past president of the American Soybean Association, received $168,147.
  • North Dakota state Rep. Mike Brandenburg, whose farms grow wheat, corn and soybeans, received $118,106.

Billions of dollars in MFP payments have also flowed into the bank accounts of “city slickers” who live in the nation’s largest cities and mega-farms owned by America’s richest farmers ­– not to small struggling family farmers and minority farmers.

One of the Trump ag council’s campaign talking points was “A Trump administration will change things. You will have the government off your back and out of your pocket.”

A trade war that has cut off many growers from their most important market is hardly getting government off farmers’ backs. And $2 million in bailouts? The government is definitely in these advisory council members’ pockets.

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