Potential Presidential Candidates Talk Agriculture at Iowa Summit

Potential Presidential Candidates Talk Agriculture at Iowa Summit

It’s not unusual for potential presidential hopefuls to travel to Iowa along the campaign trail. However, some of those candidates met at the Iowa State Fairgrounds over the weekend to get a jump-start to 2016, by talking about agriculture issues with producers in the ‘I’ State.

This marks the first Iowa ag issues forum where potential presidential candidates spoke strictly on agricultural issues pertaining to the American farmer.

Iowa may have a population of more than 3 million people, but it’s a state with a lot of political pull.

“The issues that are important here are not necessarily always going to translate everywhere in the country," Des Moines Register political reporter Kathie Obradovich said. "To be able to hear them talk about that here in Iowa is key."

That’s why Iowa has hosted its first Iowa Ag Summit, where political candidates such as Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker stopped by.

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"This is a rare opportunity for Iowans to hear people who want to be president talk about those issues. Some of those include ethanol, environmental regulations for the federal government are important and also money available for conservation and crop insurance safety nets that farmers care about,” said Obradovich.

Iowa’s Governor Terry Branstad explained Iowa’s role with exports. "Currently, the U.S. has free trade agreements with 20 partners, and those agreements support 47% of Iowa's total exports," said Gov. Branstad.

His message seemed to set the tone, along with stressing the importance of ethanol to the state. "Don't mess with RFS,” said Branstad.

It was a big topic that was debated throughout the summit.

“The markets will have to decide this. The law passed in 2007 has worked. At some point, we will see a reduction of RFS need because ethanol will be such a valuable part of the energy feed-stock for our country,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb  Bush.

Ted Cruz didn’t hold back on his stance to not endorse RFS. He supports biofuels, but doesn’t think Washington should be dictating the market. "I recognize this is a gathering of folks where the answer you'd like me to give is 'I'm for the RFS, darn it.' That would be the easiest thing to do," said Cruz.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made an appearance too. Like other candidates, he doesn’t support ag exports to Cuba at this time. "Not until Cuba makes some concessions for freedom and liberty and releases the political prisoners,” said Huckabee.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie assured the crowd that he's versed in agriculture. "New Jersey is the Garden State. So it's not like I come out there not knowing any of this," said Christie. He gave a simple ‘no’ answer when asked if GMOs should be labeled.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ended the summit and was one of the only candidates to speak about infrastructure and crop insurance changes. "I think there needs to be a certain sense, a kind of a safety net--but an assurance out there. Certainly crop insurance provides some of that stability,” said Walker.

He received lots of applause about the food stamp program. "For adults without children who are able to work, I don't allow them to get assistance unless they’re signed up for employability training programs because I believe firmly there are jobs to be had across our state as across America. I want to make sure they have the skills to get those jobs," said Walker.

While the big topics included RFS and GMOs, the Keystone XL pipeline and infrastructure were  hardly mentioned.

Which of these candidates do you think would be the best for agriculture? Let us know on the AgWeb discussion boards. 

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