Does it matter to farmers who wins in November?
We’d know more if we knew where they stood on the farm issues.
There used to be a time when every presidential candidate had a farm policy speech, said retired Ohio State ag economist Luther Tweeten during last month’s Farm Science Review. No more.
Invisible. In this year’s formal campaign platforms that both ran more than 50+ pages, agriculture merited little mention. Tweeten said the Democratic platform gave agriculture one paragraph; the Republicans, three.
And if you do hear the candidates raise a farm issue, it’s likely to be corn-based ethanol, an expensive environmental warm fuzzy.
Bush and Kerry both supported the 2002 farm bill, with just a few tweaks.
Kerry backs country-of-origin labeling; the Bush administration has been sluggish too move it forward and would rather see voluntary labeling.
Farm bill revisited? Be warned, however: Both parties, Tweeten said, desperately want to get their hands on farm bill money to use elsewhere. If either side gets in by a landslide, he looks for the farm bill fiddling to be fair game.
It will take a large voter margin, Tweeten explained, because if you cut farm program expenses, you’ll need a voter support elsewhere to weather the farm state backlash over the next 10 years.
Of course, agriculture is greatly impacted by nonfarm policies.
Democratic fiscal policy wants to spend more money on health care and education. Republicans want tax cuts.
Either way, the federal deficit is likely to get bigger.
“If we live high off the hog, our children will be paying for it for a long time to come,” the economist cautioned.
Trade. Bush has promoted free trade agreements during his first term; Kerry supports global labor and environmental agreements.
If elected, however, either candidate will face an anti-trade movement around the world and strong domestic ag lobbies seeking to protect U.S. sugar or cotton, for example.
The realities for farmers, however, is changes to ag subsidies will have to be faced. Which candidate will be able to best juggle the world vs. U.S. trade interests?
Tweeten succinctly cuts through the campaign chaos with this observation: If you want tax cuts and open trade, vote for Bush; if you want a better environment, vote for Kerry.
Above all, Tweeten warns rural voters in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania not to be flattered by all this election attention.
“We’ve been inundated with rhetoric, but precious little support, so get used to it.”
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)