Decision 2012: The Candidates and Agriculture

American farmers feed, clothe and fuel the U.S. population every day. Agriculture also is critical to our nation’s economy. Our government has a role in ensuring Americans have access to a safe, affordable and abundant food supply.

Each election year, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the unified national voice for agriculture, asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address the issues that concern our nation’s farmers and ranchers. This year, reports the AFBF, energy issues and farm policy are the key topics in the candidate’s responses.

Energy

Obama responded that “our rural communities, farmers and ranchers can increase our energy independence and boost the transition to a clean energy economy. Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuel, such as ethanol and biodiesel, to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years…and the new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) helped boost biodiesel production to nearly 1 billion gallons in 2011, supporting 39,000 jobs.”

Romney also supports the Renewable Fuel Standard and other agriculture-derived energies. He said, “I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies, Canada and Mexico, to achieve energy independence on this continent by 2020. The increased production of biofuels plays an important part in my plan to achieve energy independence. In order to support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources, I am in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Farm Policy

As I reflect on the conversations I have been part of and witness to over the past several months, the resonating message to our elected officials was to pass the farm bill. The farm bill is a package of federal legislation enacted every five to seven years to set the general direction for America’s farm and food policy. Congress enacted the first farm bill in the wake of the Great Depression with the dual goals of supporting AFarm programs account for 22 percent of farm bill allocationsmerica’s farmers and ranchers and helping them to maintain their land. The 2008 Farm Bill approved $284 billion over five years. Of that, 22 percent was allocated to programs for farms and 68 percent was allocated to nutrition programs. Congress failed to pass the 2012 farm bill before they adjourned and before the September 30 deadline.

Regarding farm policy, Obama said he “increased the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help over 590,000 farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business after natural disasters and crop loss. My administration expanded farm credit to help more than 100,000 farmers struggling during the financial crisis…and as farmers continue to go through hard times because of this drought, we are expanding access to low-interest loans, encouraging insurance companies to extend payment deadlines and opening new lands for livestock farmers to graze their herds.”

Romney said he supports passage of a strong farm bill “that provides the appropriate risk management tools that will work for farmers and ranchers throughout the country.”

Summary

Obama said he is committed to strengthening rural America through growing products that the world wants to buy. “I am the only candidate that is committed to strengthening the farm safety net, strengthening rural economic growth and supporting rural investments in clean energy,” he commented.

If he is elected President, Romney said he would give farmers relief from hefty environmental regulations, as well as “a commonsense energy policy that develops our resources right here at home; a renewed focus on opening new markets; and a pro-growth tax policy that encourages investment and recognizes that death should not be a taxable event.”

Thanks to the American Farm Bureau Federation for representing the critically important agriculture industry and getting important answers from our country’s current and potential leaders. The full questionnaire and responses are available here.

Throughout the month, we will continue to explore how the presidential candidates will impact our other key industries, including education, health care and sustainability. Stay tuned as we summarize each candidate’s stance on the critical issues so you can evaluate the differences for yourself.