If your Thanksgiving turkey could vote, it probably would have cast its ballot for Donald Trump.
The Republican president-elect won the nation’s top turkey-producing areas by a landslide, winning nearly all of the top 25 congressional districts ranked by the number of turkeys sold — and typically by large margins.
Trump’s dominance in turkey country featured wins in four of the five states that produce the most turkeys — including the swing state of North Carolina. While he narrowly lost the nation’s leading turkey-producing state, Minnesota, he managed to romp to victory in the parts of the state where the turkey production actually takes place.
In the vast, mostly rural western Minnesota district that ranks as the No. 1 turkey-producing congressional district in the nation — held for 26 years by Democrat Collin Peterson — Trump proved especially popular. While John McCain won Peterson’s district by 3 points, followed by a 10-point Romney win, Trump won there by 31 points.
It’s a phenomenon that was repeated to a degree in rural districts all over the country — one that nearly swung Minnesota and did turn a handful of other Midwestern states, giving Trump an Electoral College victory despite losing the popular vote. According to exit polls, Trump won 61 percent of the rural vote, compared to just 34 percent for Hillary Clinton.
“Rural America roars,” declared a headline from DTN/The Progressive Farmer the morning after the election. “Farmers and rural America largely got the election they wanted,” the magazine wrote. “Rural America is fed up with immigration changing the dynamics of their communities. They are fed up with Obamacare, its mandates and unfulfilled promises. And they liked what they saw as straight talk from Trump and his arguments that America is going to win again.”
Most of the top turkey-producing districts were already dominated by Republicans: Among the 24 districts from which the most turkeys were sold, according to the 2012 Agricultural Census, Romney won 20 of them. All but four were represented in the House by Republicans.
But many of them moved sharply toward Trump, particularly in Minnesota. While Trump’s statewide percentage in Minnesota was lower than Romney’s four years ago, he won majorities in the three turkey-producing districts.
In addition to Peterson’s district, Trump won 53 percent in the southern Minnesota district represented by Democrat Tim Walz. President Barack Obama narrowly carried the district in 2012, which ranks 11th nationally in turkey production.
Democrat Rick Nolan represents the 18th-ranked district on the list, a northwestern Minnesota seat that encompasses much of the state’s Iron Range. Nolan narrowly won reelection earlier this month, but the district flipped at the presidential level: While Obama carried it with 52 percent of the vote in 2012, Trump won 54 percent of the vote this year.
A number of other turkey-producing hotbeds helped Trump stuff his vote count. The second-ranked district by turkeys sold is the southeastern North Carolina seat held by Republican David Rouzer, where Trump’s vote totals in the counties that make up the district were larger than Romney’s four years ago. (Congressional-district-level vote counts aren’t yet available for North Carolina).
The ninth-ranked district — the western Iowa seat held by conservative Rep. Steve King — also went for Trump by a much wider margin than Romney won four years ago.
Like Iowa, Trump won Ohio — the sixth-ranked state in turkey production — by a comfortable margin. And a strong performance in the southern Ohio district held until last year by then-House Speaker John Boehner — which ranks 22nd nationally for turkeys sold — helped Trump surge to a nearly 9-point victory statewide.
The places in the country that produce the most turkeys are among the most rural in the country. That’s not a coincidence, according to Steve Olson, the executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Olson said Minnesota’s large corn and soybean crops help make the state number-one for turkeys.
“Two-thirds or three-quarters of the costs of raising turkeys is feed,” Olson said. “And that’s an advantage Minnesota has over other parts of the country.”
But, Olson said, the Minnesota turkey industry’s goals don’t always align with Trump’s.
“We’re in favor of immigration,” Olson said. “We’ve got job opportunities for people, so bringing people in from other countries to do that job is of interest.”
While Trump’s campaign platform did not include ending legal immigration, the president-elect at various times called for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today.
Olson didn’t address specifics of how Trump’s presidency might affect turkey growers, but he suggested the turkey industry relies on the labor immigration has provided.
“The counties where we’ve got a lot of turkey plants, we’ve got a lot of diversity,” Olson said. “We’ve got a large Somali population, a large Hispanic population, a large [Eastern] European population.”
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