via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Second of two parts on how McCain and Obama
size up key issues
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recently submitted some questions to presidential candidates John McCain
(R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Today is part two of a two-part series
on how the presidential candidates responded. I will have my comments
on the candidates' responses in a future dispatch.
Question: On a basic farm policy
level, are you in favor of or opposed to price supports and/or subsidies
to producers, not only in the U.S. but abroad? If so, why? If not, why
not? (NOTE: Sen. McCain opted to combine the first four questions
with one response which follows Sen. Obama's answers to these questions.)
Obama: “I support a robust
safety net that targets assistance appropriately and provides farmers
with risk mitigation tools that protect them from weather and market conditions
that are beyond their control. This includes traditional farm programs,
crop insurance and disaster assistance. I supported the 2008 Farm Bill
and both the bill’s Permanent Disaster Program (SURE) and the new
revenue counter-cyclical program, the Average Crop Revenue Program (ACRE).
On the other hand, John McCain, as recently as October 1, 2008, said he
would abolish all agricultural support programs.
“American farmers and ranchers provide
the world's most plentiful, safest and secure food supply. Agriculture
however is a risky business, one in which producers often face risks
that are outside of their control. I therefore believe that a government
provided safety net is both necessary and appropriate to protect our
“As for the rest of the world, many of
our trading partners have similarly recognized the significant risks
inherent in agriculture and the strategic importance of a steady food
supply, and provide their farmers and ranchers with a safety net. In
the future, I will work with our farmers, the U.S. Congress, and our
trading partners to ensure that our safety net is targeted appropriately
and is not distorting markets to the detriment of producers in other
Question: Some of the prior versions
of U.S. farm law relied on controlling supply via limits on the amount
of acreage farmers could plant a given crop or the government kept excess
supplies of grain off the market place until prices rose to certain levels.
Are those still tools that could be used in today's market and economic
structure? Or should they remain programs of the past?
Obama: “American agricultural
policy is constantly evolving and over the years we have moved away from
supply control policies and toward a more effective safety net that unleashes
the productive power of our farmers. The inclusion of SURE and ACRE in
the most recent Farm Bill is an example of how agriculture policy changes
over time. These programs represent an effort to incorporate lessons from
the past to create a better, more response safety net for producers.
“We need a safety net that reflects the
challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Rather than return
to some of these old policies, I think it is better to focus on what
agriculture needs going forward. This means a robust safety that targets
payments appropriately net and is configured to reflect the current
Question: What are some agriculture
policy steps we must absolutely avoid?
Obama: “In considering
agricultural policy, we must not forget the interconnectedness of agricultural
policy and infrastructure improvements. Unfortunately, maintenance and
upgrades to our waterways have been chronically underfunded. As president,
I will increase funding so that we can upgrade and maintain our waterways
as they are a vital component of our rural infrastructure and enhance
the competitiveness of our homegrown products. I also supported the Water
Resources Development Act, which authorized major upgrades to our waterways
infrastructure, including the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway
System. As president, I will work to provide the funding necessary to
advance these new projects as well.”
Question: What are some agriculture
policy steps we must pursue?
Obama: “In the early 1980s
American agriculture faced a tremendous crisis due to high debt. Our country
faces the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression and
while that crisis has not yet directly affected agriculture, an Obama-Biden
administration will be vigilant to ensure that it does not spread to America's
family farms and ranches. In the 1980s farmers and ranchers had a president
that was reluctant to act due to a rigid aversion to government intervention.
As president, I will not fail to act if government can help prevent the
type of devastation agriculture saw then. My opponent's long history of
opposition to farm bills, opposition to government intervention and long
history of deregulation draws a sharp contrast to the types of policies
producers can expect of my Administration.
“A trend that we must continue in agriculture
is the development and utilization of renewable energy. Farmers are
on the cutting edge of America’s path to energy independence.
We are already replacing millions of barrels of imported oil thanks
to our successful biofuels program, and I recently established a goal
to have 60 billion gallons of our fuel come from biofuels by 2022. I
am a proud supporter of the Renewable Fuels Standard and tax incentives
for biofuels. I’ll invest $150 billion over the next ten years
in our green energy sector, enhancing farmer profitability, injecting
capital into rural economies, and creating up to 5 million new jobs
in the process – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.
This isn’t just good for our domestic industries – this
is important to protect our national security.
“My opponent on the other hand, has said
that, “ethanol has, absolutely, under no circumstances any value
whatsoever” and voted against renewable
energy at least 23 times, all while supporting providing the oil and
gas industry with $4 billion in tax relief each year.”
Questions: 1.) On a basic farm policy
level, are you in favor of or opposed to price supports and/or subsidies
to producers, not only in the U.S. but abroad. If so, why? If not, why
not? 2.) Some of the prior versions of U.S. farm law relied on controlling
supply via limits on the amount of acreage farmers could plant a given
crop or the government kept excess supplies of grain off the market place
until prices rose to certain levels. Are those still tools that could
be used in today's market and economic structure? Or should they remain
programs of the past? 3.) What are some agriculture policy steps we must
absolutely avoid? 4.) What are some agriculture policy steps we must pursue?
McCain: “I will focus agriculture
policy on meeting the food, fiber, feed and energy needs of America and
the world. As President, I will approach America’s agriculture policy
with the goal of ensuring our farm, ranch, timber and commercial fishing
industries are competitive in the global marketplace. I oppose subsidies,
which distort markets, artificially raise prices for consumers, and interfere
with America’s ability to negotiate with our international trading
partners to the detriment of the entire agriculture community and consumers.
I understand the power of American leadership in helping other countries
solve their poverty problems through agricultural development. By maintaining
America’s long tradition of developing and sharing agricultural
technology, American farmers can continue to have trading partners that
buy high value US products.
“America needs a risk management program
for agriculture that reflects the realities of the global marketplace
for food, fuel and fiber in the 21st century. When farmers suffer from
a natural disaster such as droughts or floods, we should assist them
– this is a commitment we have made to our farmers and I will
“I am firmly committed to bringing the
agriculture community together to develop a sustainable market-driven
system of risk management. Rapidly rising input costs and fluctuating
commodity prices threaten the financial stability of American agriculture.
The 21st century global agriculture market is too complex for America’s
farmers to rely on an outmoded system of pre-determined Counter-cyclical
payments that assumes narrow trading bands for these input costs and
commodity prices. A market-based system of risk management will furthermore
eliminate the influence of special interests on America’s agricultural
Question: How should agriculture view
the fact that you did not vote on the conference report of the 2008 Farm
“Unfortunately, running for president is a tremendously lengthy
process and I have missed quite a few Senate votes during this time. However,
I do support the 2008 Farm Bill and announced my support of the bill when
the conference report came up for a vote. I also made it clear that I
objected to President Bush’s veto of the bill, and that I supported
the successful override of that veto.
“I made clear that I stand with farmers
in supporting a package that provides stability for agriculture. I support
the new resources that the Farm Bill provides for renewable energy and
conservation. I also strongly believe that the billions of additional
dollars that the Farm Bill provides for those Americans facing food
insecurity in these troubling economic times are desperately needed.
Though I had hoped to see more reform in the bill, I ultimately decided
I couldn’t turn my back on our farmers, rural communities, and
lower-income Americans who struggle to put food on the table.
“My opponent, who was on the campaign trail during the vote as
well, issued statements in which he supported President Bush's veto
of the bill and called farm bill spending wasteful and farm support
McCain: “In today’s
economy, when hardworking American families buy groceries they feel the
sting of misguided federal agriculture polices. Instead of fine tuning
our farm programs to improve their efficiency, we’ve allowed them
to swell into mammoth government bureaucracies that generally exist to
serve special interests at the behest of Congressional benefactors. Sixty-nine
years after the Great Depression and the advent of the Farm Bill, well
into the 21st Century, commodity prices have reached record highs. I believe
American agriculture has progressed to the point where we need a fundamentally
different approach to risk management for agriculture.
“I am not opposed to providing a reasonable
level of assistance and risk management to farmers when they need America’s
help. Farmers never abandon America, and America mustn’t abandon
them. When a farmer suffers from a natural disaster such as droughts
or floods, they rightly deserve assistance. But they need a hand up,
not a hand out. And more than hand-outs, more than ballooning disaster
payments, the families and small businesses throughout the Heartland
are demanding affordable quality health care, better education for their
children, lower taxes, and relief from government regulation.
“Rural America has seen farm bill after
farm bill passed without policies that adequately promote economic development
or address population loss. We must improve rural life, provide high-tech
connectivity essential for jobs and education, open trade markets, maintain
our competitiveness, and reduce overregulation for farmers and ranchers.
“For now, we need to put an end to flawed government policies
that distort the markets, artificially raise prices for consumers, and
pit producers against consumers. We’ve once again failed farmers
in that regard, which is why I opposed this bill.”
Question: Given that the 2008 Farm
Bill is now law, what areas will you now focus on for U.S. agriculture
Obama: “While the Farm
Bill is now law, that does not mean that there is not still work left
to be done on the bill. I have heard some disturbing reports of how the
U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to implement a number of the provisions
in the law. As president, I will work to implement the 2008 Farm Bill
in keeping with the intent of Congress. The legislation is the product
of more than 18 months of negotiations that attempted to satisfy a complex
set of competing priorities. If particular provisions are difficult to
administer or present technical challenges to the Department of Agriculture,
I will work with leaders from both parties in Congress and relevant stakeholders
to make appropriate adjustments.
“Of course, our agricultural policy is
more than just the Farm Bill. As most farmers know, commodity markets
within the last few years have become more volatile and unpredictable.
My Administration will take a close look at these markets and engage
with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to ensure that
they are working properly.
“Agriculture has been at the center of
the latest round of international trade negotiations. My administration
will not just be focused on getting a deal, but getting a good deal
for American agriculture and workers. It’s also important that
we ensure that our trade agreements create a level playing field for
American businesses and workers, and that our farmers and businesses
secure robust market access as a result of these agreements.”
McCain: “I believe that
rural America can best be served by a comprehensive development strategy
to increase economic opportunities which will include lower taxes, strong
markets, a vibrant economy, high-tech connectivity, protection from natural
disasters, better choice and availability of health insurance, better
quality education and retirement security. My commitment to technology
and innovation will support prosperity and the quality of life in rural
“I support a 21st Century green revolution.
Optimizing the use of land, water and other resources requires a robust
scientific research agenda. As President, I will direct the USDA to
carry out comprehensive research to help develop more stress-resistant,
higher yielding crops to increase production per acre. This will not
only be critical to addressing our worldwide food needs, but also necessary
to combat global warming. I will also promote conservation programs
that encourage maximum environmental stewardship, vital to assisting
farmers in the improvement of America’s soil, water, air and wildlife
“I believe that American farmers and ranchers
can continue to integrate environmental policies that maintain quality
wildlife habitat near and downstream of farmland. The past quarter century
has shown that environmental stewardship programs such as the Conservation
Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program have helped reduce wetland
loss, improve water quality, and minimize soil erosion. As America builds
a new energy economy which includes bio-diesel, cellulosic energy and
other agricultural energy sources, common-sense conservation programs
should be incorporated into the good agriculture practices central to
sustaining healthy ecosystems.
“I believe that the 65 million Americans
who live in America’s rural heartland deserve 21st Century services,
jobs, education and healthcare. I realize that advances in agriculture,
information technology, and business opportunities will allow rural
Americans to create their own economic opportunities that are the key
to expanding economic prosperity throughout rural America. I support
improving the flow of private capital, broadening the availability of
technology, supporting the rapid evolution of bio-fuels technology into
a sustainable industry and strengthening the infrastructure necessary
to deliver the economic output of rural America to the global market.”
Question: Do you support a ban on
packer ownership of livestock for a designated time prior to slaughter.
If so, why; if not, why not?
Obama: “I support Senator Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa)
bill that would ban packer ownership. Today meatpackers produce more than
20 percent of the nation’s hogs, and their share is growing. When
meatpackers own livestock, they bid less aggressively for the hogs and
cattle produced by independent farmers. When supplies are short and prices
are rising, they are able to stop buying livestock, which disrupts the
market. I support this legislation and will fight to enact it into law.
“As president I will also have my administration
enforce existing laws that can help reduce discrimination against small
and mid-size farmers. I will issue regulations for what constitutes
undue price discrimination and my Administration will enforce the law.
I will also strengthen anti-monopoly laws and modify federal agriculture
policy to strengthen producer protection from fraud, abuse, and market
McCain: No position.
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