Soybean farmers across Iowa participated in a telephone town-hall meeting in December, speaking directly with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. It was the first of several opportunities planned by the Iowa Soybean Association to focus attention on the critical topics of agricultural policy and trade.
In light of proposed budget reduction, several callers expressed concern that cuts would be disproportionately aimed at agriculture and, considering ag’s return on investment, said the government should invest in areas such as research and infrastructure "that benefit ag and all of America."
Gingrich responded: "As is the case in our personal lives, there is a big difference between the government’s investing money and just spending money." He said he would strongly support investing in research, confident it will lead to increased production. He also said he understood the need to improve roads, adding he would favor onshore and offshore oil drilling to reduce dependence on foreign oil and use the proceeds for infrastructure.
Callers also asked about taxes, specifically estate taxes that make it difficult to pass the family farm to the next generation. Gingrich favors permanently abolishing "death taxes."
He also proposes a "fair tax" on income, offering taxpayers the option to pay a simple 15% flat tax. Gingrich said, "We can’t replace the current system without a fair and complete understanding" of the repercussions, but he would support a commission to work for a year preparing a "fair tax" and then let taxpayers choose from options.
When farm bill issues were raised, callers told Gingrich the crop insurance subsidy is their top priority. Gingrich admitted farm policy is not an area where he is knowledgeable but said he would seek input from ag leaders such as Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Tom Latham.
Regarding the trend of increasing regulations, specifically mentioning Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, Gingrich said he would get rid of the EPA and replace it with an "Environmental Solution Agency" that would show "cooperation and common sense." He said he supports a revised Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) and biofuel tax credits and believes "we will see remarkable increases in the next years."