WASHINGTON -- Several midwestern governors -- including Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard -- were part of a 64-member agriculture policy advisory team announced Tuesday by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Governors Terry Branstad of Iowa, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska were included on a list that also included former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former agriculture secretary John Block.
The announcement came as Trump, a New York businessman seeking his first elected office, looks to improve his standing among voters, including those in swing states such as Iowa.
“The members of my agricultural advisory committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities," Trump said in a statement.
Members of an executive board will "convene on a regular basis," it said.
The size of the committee shows support for Trump from the agriculture sector, particularly in the Midwest, Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes said in an interview.
Dalrymple has said he will support the Republican nominee, although the governor has expressed reluctance in getting behind Donald Trump as a candidate. In a May interview with KFGO radio host Dan Hammer, Dalrymple joked “Well, I’m pretty much down to one choice, aren’t I?” according to a podcast of the interview.
“I have said all along the way that I will be supporting the Republican nominee, whoever that turns out to be, and that looks like it’s going to be Donald Trump, so I will be supporting him,” Dalrymple told Hammer.
State Democratic leaders admonished the move in a press release, calling Trump’s campaign “abrasive and erratic.”
“Donald Trump is the most unqualified, unfit presidential nominee from either party in modern history,” said Dem-NPL Executive Director Robert Haider. “Unfortunately, rather than standing up to Trump’s offensive and dangerous behavior, North Dakota’s Republican officeholders continue to cozy up to him.”
The Trump campaign announced last week U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., would serve as the state’s finance chairman.
“North Dakota’s elected leaders should be focusing on the priorities that matter to working families here at home,” Haider said in the release. “Instead, they’re putting their party allegiance ahead of the people they represent by focusing on raising money and support for Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions.”
Messages left with Dalrymple’s office went unreturned as of Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Daugaard said he joined the advisory committee at the behest of former Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.
“(Heineman) recently called me to ask if I would be a part of this ag advisory committee,” Daugaard said in a statement. “I think it is essential for our next president to understand the importance of agriculture to our nation, so I was happy to accept the opportunity.”
In June, representatives of about a dozen agricultural associations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, met with staffers for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to begin a discussion on farm policy.
Clinton led Trump by more than 5 percentage points in the Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Friday.
Reuters Media contributed to this report.