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Where the Candidates Stand on Agriculture

October 4, 2012
By: Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy and Washington Editor

Biofuels, regs and trade in the presidential election

Amid the struggling economy and stubborn unemployment rate, most of the election debate stems around the budget deficit and the debt situation. Nevertheless, agriculture fits into the bigger picture and the presidential face-off between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

The added dynamics of a farm bill in flux and the most severe drought in decades have rural voters keeping a watchful eye on the campaigns.

Farm policy. President Obama and his team have continued to push for lawmakers to wrap up the farm bill, primarily to restart disaster programs that would help livestock producers.

When it comes to a safety net, the Democratic party’s platform supports "increased availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business after natural disasters and crop loss."

Due to weather and market volatility, Romney and his fellow Republicans believe farm programs should be "as cost-effective as they are functional, offering risk management tools that improve producers’ ability to operate when times are tough. Programs like the direct payment program should end in favor of those, like crop insurance, that help manage risk and are counter-cyclical in nature."

p12 where the candidates stand on ag chart

Biofuels. In light of the drought and high crop prices, several U.S. governors have requested a waiver of ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Obama and his administration will "stay committed to biofuels because the RFS has increased the amount of biofuels consumption," said former Iowa Agriculture Commissioner Patty Judge, who represented the administration at the Presidential Forum on Agriculture, sponsored by the Farm Foundation.

Romney and the Republican party also support the RFS mandate, according to Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). "There needs to be new ways to use that product [ethanol] and take the next steps in terms of science and in terms of using other things to produce ethanol other than corn," he added.

Regulations. The Democratic National Committee says the Obama administration is focused on a "simpler, smarter and more cost-effective approach to regulation, rather than one riddled with special rules written by lobbyists. Efficient and effective regulations enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink and our air is safe to breathe."

The committee also claims that the directive by President Obama to have all agencies review and streamline outdated regulations will save at least $10 billion over five years and eliminate tens of millions of hours in annual paperwork burdens.

As for Romney’s regulation agenda, Johanns said the Republican presidential candidate would practice a "time-out" on new regulations. Regulations are "a wet blanket over the economy," Johanns noted. "There needs to be a thoughtful approach on what we are doing. We need to do the right cost-benefit analysis" on the impact of regulations, he said.

The Republican National Committee’s reply to the Democratic stance is that regulations "must be drafted and implemented to balance legitimate public safety or consumer protection goals and job creation. Constructive regulation should be a helpful guide, not a punitive threat. Worst of all, overregulation is a stealth tax on everyone as the costs of compliance with the whims of federal agencies are passed along to the consumers at the cost of $1.75 trillion a year."

Johanns argued that the administration is out of touch with reality, citing the now-tabled child labor laws for farms and claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to regulate farm dust and ran surveillance flights over Nebraska feedlots.

Johanns added that there are "a pile" of regulations that the administration will not release until a second term. "When the election occurs, hold onto your hat," he warned.

Judge disputed Johanns’ assertions. "I don’t believe [the Democrats] are out there with fistfuls of regulations just waiting to release them," she countered. "Let’s put the farm dust issue to rest. There are no pending regs on dust. Period."

Judge continued, "Do we need to be careful? Absolutely. If things are going too far, we should call [the administration] on it. We need a healthy economy that is not burdened with regulations."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - October 2012



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