Romney Avoids Details in Farm Policy Address

October 10, 2012 12:47 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

No clear positions on key ag policy issues

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The election spin wheel was spinning hard yesterday, as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney journeyed to the typical political spot for a candidate: an Iowa farm just 20 miles west of Des Moines. Also typical was Romney's not providing his thoughts on controversial ag policy issues like which farm bill version does he prefer (the target price House bill, or the no-choice Senate bill), and his detailed position on food stamps.

Good list, but few specifics. Fewer regulations, lower taxes and more trade was Romney's pitch in farm country. No surprises there. Which regulations would go? What specific taxes will be lowered? Any taxes raised? And other than pushing for Obama's proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, what other trade accords are likely and with which countries or regions?

For the "details", Romney unveiled a 14-page position paper yesterday. Link

What about record farm income? Romney noting that President Barack Obama hasn’t done enough to support agriculture and encourage growth seemed an odd line with record to near record farm income the past few years. (The credit for that does not go to Obama and USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack, despite their trying to take some credit. It goes to a big demand-pull market that teamed up with Mother Nature slicing yields for major crops like corn and soybeans.) Nonetheless, Romney proclaimed he would "do everything in my power to strengthen once again the American farm." If you haven't heard that line before, you just haven't been in the industry.

Joining the farm bill blame game. Romney added his name to the list of those, including Vilsack, who are blaming others for the failure to date to get a new farm bill. Romney said President Obama bears some blame. "As president, Romney will ensure that a strong farm bill is passed in a timely manner to give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need for their operations and their livelihoods," according to the white paper.

Key Democrat pushes back on farm bill blame game. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, pushed back on Romney's attack and said House Republican leaders are the ones standing in the way of a farm bill. "I think it's unfair and it shows a complete lack of understanding of what's going on," Peterson said, according to The Hill. "The problem is not between the House and the Senate, the problem is Majority Leader Cantor won't put the farm bill on the floor." Peterson said Romney's new policy paper makes him "nervous" that Romney is not really with farmers on maintaining a safety net. "What he says in there is just what is safe to say in front of the Club for Growth," he said. "There is trade and regulations but that's not really the farm bill." Peterson said that Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has been the "No. 1" opponent of a strong farm safety net and called for deeper cuts to agriculture in his budget proposals.

Message to livestock producers. Of note, Romney expressed support for energy independence and said he supported the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), something which will not likely set well with many livestock, poultry and dairy producers. But did Romney support an extension of the lapsed biodiesel tax incentive? No position.

Comments: But Romney likely knows that just showing up on a farm is usually enough to satisfy many ag industry participants. It's what presidents do after getting elected. That's when farmers and ranchers know the real positions. For example, Obama's positions became clear after his administration embraced organic agriculture, farm gardens and an Ag Secretary that at the beginning of Obama's tenure rarely talked about production agriculture. Talk is cheap they say. It's the walk that's important.

Bottom line: Romney talked values with farmers at the Iowa event. That went down well with most if not all of the attendees. As most would-be presidents, he was short on farm policy specifics because that depends in large part on the personnel he would pick should he become president – personnel drives policy. But something tells me he would not pick an Ag Secretary who was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., nor a deputy secretary who studied environmental policy at MIT and before becoming deputy secretary, served for eight years as Assistant Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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