At the start of my career, in 1973, there were two things I was told never to discuss with a customer or supplier: religion or politics. Both topics evoke so much passion; if I were to discuss either, I could risk offending someone and possibly losing a customer.
In the almost two years I’ve been writing, I’ve thrown jabs toward all segments of the industry (including my own). As far as I know, all of my industry friends are still talking to me; my hope is that will still be the case after they read this column.
I’ve been politically active for more than 30 years. I’ve worked with and contributed to candidates on both sides of the aisle. In my roles as chairman of United Fresh and as chairman of United Fresh’s Government Relations Committee, I’ve met with members of Congress, their staffers, Department of Agriculture officials, and even the Vice President to further the interests of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. I’ve been both a registered Republican and Democrat, and I have consistently voted for the person — not the party.
I write this almost 70 days before the 2016 election — an eternity in a political campaign. When I began to layout my outline of this column, my intention was to look at the presidential candidates strictly from a produce industry perspective. After all, this is Produce Business magazine.
I looked at the candidates’ positions on immigration and free trade — both of which are important issues to the industry. Donald Trump’s intention to build a wall and send more than 10 million people back to Mexico is certainly not in the best interest of growers across the country, who, even today, are having difficulty finding workers to harvest crops.
This election is no longer about business issues, social issues, economic policy, political party affiliation. … This election is about the fitness and competency of the person
to serve as the next president. …
Likewise, turning our back on international trade agreements would create trade wars where fresh fruits and vegetables exporters could get caught in the early crossfire. On the contrast, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would open to U.S. growers a market of middle-class consumers that experts predict will be the world’s largest buyers of fresh fruits and vegetables by 2030. Advantage: Clinton on both of these issues.
In addition, I researched the perceived regulatory environment and tax policies for a Clinton or Trump administration — including the death tax and its impact on family businesses and the ability of one generation to pass ownership onto the next. General business regulations, and specifically in the produce industry, are more likely to be tougher in a Clinton administration. On the converse, tax policies would likely be more business-friendly under a Trump administration.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized this election is way more important than issues related to our industry. In fact, this election is no longer about business issues, social issues, economic policy, political party affiliation, or even potential Supreme Court nominees. This election is about the fitness and competency of the person Americans elect to serve as the next president of the United States. Like them or not, these are the two candidates that their respective political parties have chosen to be on the ballot November 8. With all due respect to the third-party candidates, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president.
Hillary Clinton served our country as a United States Senator and as Secretary of State. She has spent her life working to help the working class, children and the disadvantaged. While in the Senate, Clinton demonstrated the ability to get things done by working with members of both parties. She has survived more than 20 years of attacks from those who sought to destroy both her and her husband’s careers. She made mistakes, but who hasn’t? Most importantly, she has shown the ability to remain calm under fire, and to act thoughtfully in making critical decisions.
Donald Trump falls short on so many of the qualities required to be president that I almost don’t know where to start. Trump’s knowledge of economic policy and foreign affairs is limited at best. His comments have shaken our allies around the world, and his egotism and inflated self-image are astounding. He stated that he never hires people smarter than he, as he always wants to be the smartest person in the room. A know-it-all who shoots from the hip is unfit to serve as our next president.
Donald Trump’s campaign aligns with the worst elements of our society: prejudice, xenophobia, and intolerance. Trump has mocked the disabled and shown a lack of respect to our active military, war heroes, and veterans. When asked how he sacrificed for our country, he equated his job creation to a parent losing a child while fighting for our country. His schoolyard-like name calling should not be tolerated from an 8-year-old, let alone a candidate for the leader of the free world.
We have two candidates to choose from, and neither is perfect. Many voters lament that they will have to “hold their nose” and pick the lesser of two evils. It’s not a question of who you dislike less; it is simply a question of competence. I think the choice is an easy one. I cannot vote to give the keys to the car to someone who might drive it off a cliff.
Alan Siger is chairman of Siger Group LLC, offering consulting services in
business strategy, logistics, and operations to the produce industry. Prior to selling Consumers Produce in 2014, Siger spent more than four decades growing Consumers into a major regional distributor. Active in issues affecting the produce industry throughout his career, Siger is a former president of the
United Fresh Produce Association.