Agricultural issues have yet to grab the attention of the 2016 presidential campaign in a meaningful way, even as the candidates zig-zag across Iowa in preparation for the Feb. 1 caucus.
But Roger Bernard, a policy analyst at Informa Economics, says there are a handful of topics that farmers and ranchers should pay attention to in 2016:
The issue of renewable fuels has been the one ag topic that has been discussed by current candidates. “I think ethanol’s probably been the one that’s come up the most, and that focused really on Mr. [Ted] Cruz,” Bernard says. “His statements, his positions were not very favorable.”
While candidates may not be discussing ag directly during the debates, there are plenty of policy issues affecting producers right now, from environmental regulations like the Clean Water Rule to big trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
For that reason, Bernard says it's important for farmers and ranchers to understand the candidates’ views on these issues. "I think Mr. [Donald] Trump is probably going to be viewed as someone who likes trade, or understands trade … even though he doesn’t like the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Bernard explains. That could be problematic, Bernard notes, since the TPP presents an important opportunity to increase U.S. grain exports to emerging markets.
Top Producer's Anna-Lisa Laca caught up with Bernard at the 2016 Top Producer Seminar. Click play to watch the complete interview.
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While the race to the White House commands the most attention among the media and voters, farmers and ranchers probably will be most impacted by whoever is tapped for the top spot at USDA, according to Bernard. “What is their focus going to be?” he asks.
That person would replace Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who has been on the job since 2009.
But Vilsack might not vanish. For the Democrats, Bernard thinks Hillary Clinton will be the nominee in the general election, and analysts have pointed to Vilsack as her possible vice-presidential running mate. “You can’t rule it out,” Bernard says. “Keep in mind that when Mr. Vilsack ran for president, when he pulled out of the race, he threw his support behind Hillary Clinton.” It all depends on where the Clinton campaign thinks it needs support, according to Bernard, but he adds that having a person who understands agriculture in No. 2 spot in Washington would be a “major plus for U.S. agriculture.”
Of course, a lot could change before Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, when voters will go the polls and elect the next president.