Support for Trump Comes with Reservations

Brenda Thomas, president of Orchard View Cherries in The Dalles Brenda Thomas, president of Orchard View Cherries in The Dalles

There are plenty of farmers — in Oregon and around the country — who did not support Trump and who believe regulations can be good for business.


“There are reasons for regulations,” said Brenda Thomas, president of Orchard View Cherries in the Dalles. Orchard View, which has 2,400 acres of cherry orchards, has been owned by the Bailey family since 1923. Thomas is owner Ken Bailey’s daughter.

“My family is extremely environmentally supportive,” said Thomas, who did not vote for Trump.

“We live in the Columbia Gorge and we have to obey all the Columbia River Gorge Commission’s rules. We are not organic farmers — cherries are very difficult to raise organically — but we do take very good care of our land.”

The Baileys export 20% of their cherries to the international market, including to the European Union — which has a stricter pesticide limits than the U.S. To qualify for export to E.U. countries, cherries have to go through “maximum residue limit” testing, which monitors for residues from sprays.

“If you go over that limit, you can’t ship,” explains Thomas. Complying with these regulations opens up a lucrative market to Orchard View that would otherwise not be available.

Thomas is also disturbed by Trump’s executive orders on immigration and his rhetoric around undocumented immigrants, both of which have created a fearful environment among the orchard’s 1,000 seasonal workers.

“We count on these people — they are part of what we do every day,” said Thomas. Though these workers are all documented, many of their friends and families are not.

Even Todd Nash, the Commissioner of Wallowa County in Eastern Oregon who voted for Trump, had some major reservations about Trump.

“His personality! His flippant comments! It was really tough for me to vote for somebody that was not respectful in a lot of ways,” said Nash. “During the campaign, every time he would say something that was so offensive, I kept saying, ‘Doggone it! Don’t make it so hard for me to vote for you!’” he recalled. 

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But ultimately, Trump’s “relatability” — the fact that he wasn’t a politician and didn’t think like a politician — won out.

“People are so accustomed to working through these bureaucratic processes, getting into the weeds and doing these illogical fence projects,” says Nash. “It just becomes nuts. We wanted somebody who would say ‘No, that’s stupid! Let’s not do that.’ We wanted somebody who talked plainly.”

This article is one in a series of profiles about Oregon farmers and the Trump Administration.

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