The 2016 U.S. general election occurs Tuesday, Nov. 8, and while there has been relatively little discussion of specific farm policy issues by either candidate, they have weighed in on a number of matters of importance to farmers throughout the campaign so far.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton covers several rural issues on her website (www.hillary clinton.com/issues/rural- communities), while Republican nominee Donald Trump’s website does not (www.donaldjtrump.com).
The issues on which both presidential candidates have taken public positions include renewable energy, trade policy, climate-change policy and immigration.
Iowa’s voters have forced candidates to take public stands on biofuels for the past several elections. As a result of the desire by all candidates to kick off their campaigns with a win in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton and Trump came out in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—the same position taken by every major candidate in the race at the time, except for Sen. Ted Cruz.
At the 30,000'-level, Clinton and Trump appear to maintain the same position on RFS.
However, in May 2016 at an energy conference in Williston, N.D., Trump spoke about energy issues, primarily about “unleashing” U.S. production of coal and natural gas and his rejection of climate change and the steps the Barack Obama administration has taken to address it. He referenced renewable energy, indicating he did not want the U.S. government to “pick winners and losers.” Trump’s wording is similar to language used by RFS opponents. Those groups have been pushing to reduce or eliminate federal incentives for renewable sources of energy such as wind and biofuels.
Clinton gave a speech in Ankeny, Iowa, in August 2015 on her plans to “support rural America.” It included specific proposals to promote the use of clean and renewable energy sources. These ideas include expanding RFS to drive development of advanced bio-fuels and doubling investment in rural renewable energy facilities.
Both candidates have said more about trade. Clinton and Trump alike oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which awaits Congressional consideration. Clinton’s trade comments have focused narrowly on her view that TPP, as negotiated, fails to meet her standards on U.S. job creation and wages. Of the 10 free-trade agreements that came to the floor during her Senate career, she supported six.
Trump’s comments are more expansive: He’s asserted every previous free-trade agreement the U.S. government has negotiated was a “bad deal.” In July 2016, he suggested the U.S. leave the World Trade Organization, describing the multilateral trade organization as “a disaster.”
The two candidates differ significantly on immigration. Trump has discussed what, in his view, is a need to shut off illegal immigration by building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. His plan envisioned a mass deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Recent press reports have said he has since softened his language about deportation in private meetings with potential donors, but this shift in attitude has not yet been aired publicly by the candidate.
In contrast, Clinton is supportive of the comprehensive immigration reform plan passed by the Senate in 2013 but never taken up by the House. In her 2015 speech in Iowa about the rural economy, she acknowledged U.S. agriculture is heavily dependent on immigrant labor, and pointed out billions of dollars of product are lost every year because of labor shortages during harvest.
It it is clear many policies that affect U.S. agriculture could look very different in the future, depending on which candidate wins the election come November.