As Donald J. Trump prepares to take office, it remains unclear whether his administration will continue a push to support local food system development, beginning farmer loans and specialty agriculture grants.

As Donald J. Trump prepares to take office, it remains unclear whether his administration will continue a push to support local food system development, beginning farmer loans and specialty agriculture grants.

Chad Franke, of Roggen, is hopeful that he will.

“Donald Trump is a wild card. He doesn’t owe anybody anything, so I think we’ll see less regulation and that could be a very good thing,” Franke said. “But as far as the local food movement, I don’t think there is going to be a seismic change any time soon. Bureaucracies change slowly.”

Barbara Patterson, government relations director for National Farmers Union, agrees.

“Outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spent a lot of time bringing local food into the department and integrating local foods into the discussion,” Patterson said. “That can’t be undone in four years. Some of those things will still be there.”

Another reason the emphasis on local food might persist at USDA is that it’s largely market driven.

“The local foods thing is not driven by the producers, it’s driven by the consumers,” Franke noted. “Consumers will continue to vote with their wallet.”

Neil Fischer, who lives at Castle Rock and raises bison near Pine, believes it would be difficult for the incoming administration to ignore the booming demand for local and regional food. Fischer created the Farm 2 Table Trading Post to help farmers sell direct into local markets.

“Really, what the consumer wants is a relationship. It’s more of a generational thing than a political thing,” he said. “We’re just responding to consumers, especially the millennial consumers.”

So far most of Trump’s ag advisors and ag secretary candidates have been from large conventional farming backgrounds.

While Fischer said Trump’s victory was a vote for change, he added it wouldn’t stop entrepreneurs like him from finding ways to connect farmers with consumers willing to pay a premium for locally grown products. In fact, if Trump frees up the business environment from excessive regulation, it could boost the success of marketing co-ops like his.

“I just want the government to get out of the way,” he said.

Franke noted that the agriculture community as a whole recognizes the need to recruit new farmers, and small niche markets are critical to that effort.

“I tell beginning farmers if there is a strong government commodity program in a sector, you can’t begin farming in that environment, because your margins are so small and you have to be so big,” he said. “As a beginning farmer, you can’t go out and borrow $2 million dollars to put your first crop in the ground, but realistically that’s what you’d have to do. Instead, you’ve got to find those markets that will accept 10 pigs at a time or two head of cattle or fresh lettuce from a small acreage, maybe a farmers market or a small restaurant. That’s where the niche for small beginning farmers is.”

In recent years, the ag department has increased support for the beginning farmer loan program, a trend Franke hopes is here to stay.

“When I applied, the loan cap at that time was $25,000 and now it’s $50,000,” he said. “It’s a popular program. I think the support is there, and I think it will continue.”