Election 2012: Presidential candidates’ ag policy positions

SALEM, Ohio — The issues surrounding farm policy and food production went almost unmentioned during the three presidential debates. But both candidates do have specific plans for what they say will best serve the American farmer, as well as consumers.

Here is a look at where the candidates stand on key farm issues, as well as other issues facing rural America. The responses are edited from questionnaires issued by American Farm Bureau Federation and United Fresh Produce Association.

Energy

Obama: Supports a broad approach to energy independence. Says U.S. biofuel production is “at its highest level in history” and that last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to meet 8 percent of our needs, helping to increase energy independence to the highest level in 20 years.

He said the level of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline is increasing, and credited the Renewable Fuel Standard for helping to boost biodiesel production to nearly 1 billion gallons in 2011.

Romney: While also promoting energy independence, he encourages energy partnerships with Canada and Mexico. He said our domestic energy resources can create millions of jobs, while boosting businesses that supply the energy industry, as well as providing a more affordable energy and feedstock for agricultural businesses and manufacturers. He said the nation’s energy resources can be a “long-term competitive advantage” for agriculture.

The increased production of biofuels is an important part of his plan to achieve energy independence. Supports the Renewable Fuel Standard to support “increased market penetration and competition” and eliminating barriers to the electrical grid, fuel system and vehicle fleet.

Environment

Obama: Says farmers “are some of the best stewards of our environment” and that the ag economy can grow while also protecting the environment. On the matter of water quality and EPA regulations, he says his administration will not apply standards to waters that have not historically been protected. And all existing exemptions for ag discharges and waters will stay in place. Says there can be teamwork in safeguarding the waters “Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and those that support farming and economic growth.”

Romney: Says government oversight is “crucial” to protecting the environment, but statutes and regulations that were designed to protect public health and the environment “have instead” been used by environmentalists as tools to “disrupt” economic activity and the “enjoyment of our nation’s environment altogether.”

He faults the EPA and Obama for “embarking on the most far-reaching regulatory scheme” in American history, adding that “laws should promote a rational approach to regulation” that takes cost into account.

Farm policy

Obama: Like Romney, supports risk management tools to help protect farmers’ investments. Says he has increased the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help more than 590,000 farmers and ranchers after natural disasters and crop loss. As farmers cope with the drought of 2012, he says his administration is expanding access to low-interest loans, encouraging insurance companies to extend payment deadlines and opening new lands for livestock farmers to graze their livestock.

Says there needs to be a farm bill passed this year with “adequate” protection for farmers. Supports an extended disaster assistance program and maintaining a “strong” crop insurance program.

Says instead of making farmers pay more for crop insurance, the government should cut subsidies to crop insurance companies and make better decisions with conservation funding.

Romney: Supports passage of a “strong farm bill” that provides the “appropriate” risk management tools that will work for farmers and ranchers across the country. In the nearterm, plans to enact disaster relief for those not traditionally covered by crop insurance, to help farmers cope with the 2012 drought.

Says on the issue of subsidies, must remember American farmers compete with other countries who also subsidize their farmers, “so we must be careful” not to put our own farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

Additionally, warns against conditions that would cause Americans to become dependent on foreign nations for food, “the way we do with energy.” He said that ultimately, “it is everyone’s interest to achieve a level playing field” for American farmers to compete.

Farm labor and immigrant labor

Obama: Says “we must design a system that provides legal channels for U.S. employers to hire needed foreign workers.” Says the system must protect the wages of U.S. workers and only be used when U.S. workers are unavailable. Supports the AgJOBS Act, which allows farmers to hire workers and provide a “path to citizenship” for those same workers.

Also is setting up a new office on farm worker opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the first of its kind.

Romney: Says he “understands” and “appreciates” the role that foreign temporary workers play in agriculture. Also says the current system for issuing visas to temporary, seasonal workers “is broken.” Says it takes too long for visas to be approved, with nearly half of such visas not processed on time in 2006 and 2007.

Says he will make the system “functional” for both employers and employees, while speeding up the application process. Supports a legal immigration system that provides a “lawful alternative” to workers who would otherwise enter illegally.

Also vows not to propose “heavy-handed” regulations that would limit opportunities for youth to be involved in agriculture.

Taxes

Obama: Says the tax code has become “increasingly complicated and unfair.” Many tax incentives serve important purposes, but that altogether, the tax expenditures in the law are “inefficient, unfair, duplicative, or even unnecessary.”

Calls for comprehensive tax reform by extending the middle class tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year. At the same time, asks the wealthiest to pay “their fair share.” Remains opposed to extension of tax cuts for those with household incomes above $250,000 a year.

On estate taxes, his proposal would return the top tax rate on estates to 45 percent and reinstate the $7 million per-couple estate tax exemption. Also, would return capital gains taxes to the rates they were when Bill Clinton was president, while calling for the permanent elimination of capital gains taxes on key small business investments.

Romney: Calls for tax reform that lowers tax rates, broadens the base, achieves revenue neutrality and maintains the “progressivity” of the tax code.

Says this will help jump-start an economic recovery that will help create 12 million jobs in his first term in office. Regarding the estate and capital gains taxes, he says he will eliminate the estate tax while also maintaining the current 15 percent capital gains rate for wealthier Americans, while totally eliminating capital gains, dividend and interest taxes for those who earn less than $200,000 a year.

He says these lower rates will help farmers keep more of what they earn, while helping the middle-class save tax-free for long-term costs like college tuition and retirement, and to enjoy the “freedom that accompanies financial security.”

Trade

Obama: Notes that last year, American farm income reached a record high with a record number of agricultural exports and a record agriculture trade surplus that means more of our products are being sold in markets around the world.

He signed three historic trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and South Korea that will help increase exports by $2.3 billion — supporting nearly 20,000 American jobs. And he is working to expand local and regional food markets, noting that farmers markets expanded 53 percent in number since 2008.

Romney: Says ag trade is “incredibly” important to our economy and job creation. Warns against “ineffective” trade policy that lingers in bureaucracy and does not advance our economic interests.

Says he will work to promote multilateral trade agreements and reverse the course of the Obama Administration, which Romney says has only enacted three trade agreements — all initiated in the Bush Administration.

Says he will work with Congress to gain Trade Promotion Authority in order to complete trade agreements. Will also encourage the World Trade Organization to reassert itself in order to “resolve” and “restrict” non-science based trade restrictions.

Food safety

Obama: Says major reforms were necessary when he took office, due to the high frequency of foodborne illnesses.

Created the Food Safety Working Group to help look at ways to improve food safety, and passed the “most comprehensive reform of our nation’s food safety laws” in decades, increasing Food and Drug Administration authority.

Continues to develop ways to work with the food industry and increase the traceability of contaminated foods.

Romney: Says American farmers and producers, especially the produce industry, have a long history of taking responsibility for food safety and that preventive practices “are the best tools” to reduce food-borne illnesses, while also being the most cost-effective option.

Says preventive practices are best developed by the growers, handlers, processors and others involved with the supply chain. Says the FDA must “collaborate” with the industry, along with state agencies and colleges, to develop food safety guidelines.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

11 Comments

  1. okiestorm1 says:

    I will vote Romney,,I do not trust Obama,look what he and his wife has done, they now are working with the USDA and telling us what we can and can’t feed our children at home aand in school,,they do not help farmers and ranchers,Obama lies just about everything,,Obama wants us totaly dependant on govt.

  2. maggie b says:

    agree with okiestorm1. Only question for Farm & Dairy why are you publishing this drivel? Do you feel we are too stupid to listen to both candidates and understand what they said. Do you feel we’re too stupid to compare what they said to what they are actually doing? You should know better. Stick to stories about farm land and cows. That’s where you shine

  3. Chris Kick says:

    We published this because the presidential election is next week and the outcome will have significant impacts on all of agriculture, including the “land and cow” stories that we write. We do not question your ability to gather your own information or draw your own comparisons, but these comparisons were gathered by the nation’s top farm organizations, on complex farm issues, so that they could be shared.

    • Thank you, Chris, for this comparison. It’s the job of writers and journalists to help make sense of all the millions of facts, figures, issues, and ideas circulating out there. This is an unbiased article that helps me see the candidates’ differences and visions about an extremely important subject–the food we eat–that has not gotten much media coverage during their campaigns.

    • maggie b says:

      Chris I apologize for being harsh. My cat was being kicked that morning (things were starting out stressfully that day) and I let it affect my response that would have been better left unsaid regardless of how frustrated I was. You need an edit button or I need one! You are totally correct that bringing information is important.

      I think I’ve hit the wall on reading about the two candidates especially when some of what is said doesn’t reflect what has actually happened.

      I find it alarming that the secretary of agriculture has been speaking with HSUS about ways to control dog breeding by enacting new “rules” that would gut the ability of Americans to get the dog of their choice, a show breeder’s ability to create the best of the best, and eliminate rare breeds of dogs. (They say that it won’t affect hunting dogs – ha!) The idea has magically “gone away” right before the election.

      Dog breeding is animal agriculture. NO proposed law or rule is unimportant. They all have the potential to trickle down to other forms of animal ag. Divide and conquer is the way it is done. Forget what anyone says, remember what has been allowed to happen instead. As my old pappy used to say, “If it looks like a pigeon, and acts like a pigeon and hangs out with pigeons, then it’s probably a pigeon.”

  4. maggie b says:

    All I can say is that in 2008 we got the same unkept promises we are getting in 2012. Why should I believe them again or pretty much anything said? I’m taking a break from reading all the hype. In a couple of weeks even liberal media will tire of telling us what we think and I pray daily that God will bless American & Americans and we can move on to a brighter tomorrow.

    • Tom B says:

      I have heard the same thing in 2000 and 2004. Bush’s tax cuts to the rich are always going to trickle down. These policy’s are alway have led us to stagering deficites. When the media prints something that you don’t want to hear it is always the liberal media. Why don’t you look it up and if it isn’t true tell them. Most respectful media will publish the correction.

      • maggie b says:

        Bush is gone. He’s been gone for 4 years. For 2 of those 4 years the democrats controlled the house, the senate and the white house and what did they do? They socialized medicine.

        American’s have lost 40% of their wealth. For some older people there’s no time to earn it again.

        Bush’s deficits are fractional compared to the present administration and that was with the burden of a war on terror after 9/11. I’m not better off after the last 4 years.

        Maybe a successful businessman can do again what he’s done in the past successfully on both government and private levels and do it without putting animal rights activists in key positions in government.

        Whether you like business people or you don’t like them, they hire employees and give others an opportunity to work. Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs just means no more golden eggs. I don’t care how many millionaires are created or how rich they get as long as the rest of us can eat and have a roof over our heads. Making them poorer doesn’t make me richer, quite the opposite.

      • Jeff Arthur says:

        maggie, is Obama responsible for everything starting day 1? If a pilot takes control of a plane that’s in a nosedive, and pulls it up, did HE almost crash the plane? The crash that was set into place by Clinton, and yes Bush. (Of the sixteen years Republicans controlled Congress ten years, Democrats four, and a split 2. But we all agree Congress sucks.)

        So yes, lots of Americans lost a lot of money, because of what happened from both parties before he took office. It wasn’t something he did, and unless you’re holding him to the standards of a miracle maker, you can’t reasonably expect him to have fixed everything. Let’s not be silly.

        And the problem of debt is largely one of compound interest. Any farmer who’s ever had a loan knows about compound interest. You borrow some, and if you pay it back on time, it costs you an arm. If you’re late once, they get a leg, too. You know how you avoid that? By paying your debt early. You know how you guarantee you don’t make payments on time? Stop bringing in money.

        The idea that cutting taxes on the uber rich helps everything because they’re the job creators is kind of crazy considering 52% of Americans work for small businesses, and a large portion of wealth goes into investments that return capital gains, and not long term investment that creates jobs.

        If a millionaire could make money by hiring someone, they would do it. They wouldn’t require a tax cut to do it. (Though, if one’s available, they’ll take it. They’d be crazy not to.) Having more money does not mean you will spend it hiring.

        And more over, a lot of “business people” aren’t of one mind. A lot of them don’t mind paying taxes. (But they are willing to pay their million if it means everyone else does too, raising lots of tax revenue to pay down debt. Before anyone suggests they donate money.)

        America’s golden goose isn’t the wealthy person that kindly gives a job to a person because wealthy people are warm and cuddly. It’s the ingenuity and hard work of someone who both has an idea, and isn’t afraid to put work into it.

        We’ve created a system where you have to work 60 hours a week to survive, people just don’t have the time and energy left. And those that are unemployed often just don’t have any resources available to them because of a moral decay and loss of the family support we all know. People are alone. Families are alone. They just want to get by. People having to give every waking moment to employers just to get by? That’s the death of the golden goose.

        I’m not worried about getting the government off my back. The government is a tool, not a being. And rather than use it to help my bossman? I want to use it to get my bossman off my back, so maybe one day I can be a bossman myself.

      • maggie b says:

        Jeff the present administration may not be responsible for the savings and loan debacle (even though the dems pushed the program to offer subprime loans during Clinton’s time and McCain warned it was on the edge of a cliff but was shouted down about it) but they are responsible for spending a lot of time doing nothing of value (fiddling while Rome burned).

        I don’t approve the way they treat our allies nor our enemies.

        I don’t approve their reduction in our military capacity nor their secret promise to Russia caught on open mic that they’d make us less secure after the election.

        I don’t approve of them sending money to South America to drill for oil and denying us an opportunity to be energy independent here. They sent stimulous money to other countries!

        I don’t approve their ineffectual responses to threats and attacks nor the regulations they are putting into place that stifle small business.

        I’m a small business person and I currently work 3 jobs so the 60 hour week is a way of life.

        I have friends with mom & pop businesses. Small business people are being choked to death. This is not a theory this is fact.

        A person that can’t afford to pay all the additional fees (which is just one part of government induced expenses) involved with hiring a new employee can’t hire a new worker. Contrary to popular belief a small business person is working for themselves to make a living. When there is more work than they can do themselves, they give someone a job and two people can then make a living. Hiring someone means paying a salary, paying FDIC, and other expenses. This has to be worth the return in investment or there’s no purpose in doing it. All this is how small business people make their living. If I can’t make a living I’ll sit at home on the couch and watch TV.

        With a bad economy and new expensive regulations many small businesses are folding. That’s not helping things in general. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I will do my part to restore America. I will vote for Romney.

  5. okiestorm1 says:

    Obamas plan is to take from the rich and give to the poor,then take everything from the poor and give it to govt..we will be left with nothing,we will be under govt. controll if obama gets 4 more years,,why can’t people see that! Obama wants to do away with coal oil and gas,,,I was told that most of the electrial plants that frunish electricty to homes,buisnesses,towns,ect are powered by coal,,where is the electric going to come from if there is no more or not enough coal production!

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