The following is how President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney answered a recent American Farm Bureau Federation questionnaire.
A new farm bill will be enacted and implemented over the next four years during a time of significant evolution in agriculture. What policy and risk management tools do you propose to ensure that agriculture is a profitable, competitive and viable industry?
I understand the need for a strong farm safety net. That’s why I 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 to keep their family farms and provide for their families. 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.
And I know that any farm bill passed this year – and there needs to be a farm bill passed this year – needs to have adequate protections for America’s farmers. That’s why I have called for maintaining a strong crop insurance program and an extended disaster assistance program. We can reduce the deficit without sacrificing rural American economic growth, as the Romney-Ryan budget would do. Instead of making farmer pay more for crop insurance, we will do it by cutting subsidies to crop insurance companies and better targeting conservation funding.
I support passage of a strong farm bill that provides the appropriate risk management tools that will work for farmers and ranchers throughout the country. In the near term, my immediate priority should be given to enacting disaster relief for those not traditionally covered by crop insurance as this year’s drought has worsened. My running mate, Paul Ryan, voted for this relief in the House. Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled Senate went home for August break without enacting them.
On the broader question of farm programs, we must be cognizant that our agricultural producers are competing with other nations around the world. Other nations subsidize their farmers, so we must be careful not to unilaterally change our policies in a way that would disadvantage agriculture here in our country.
In addition, we want to make sure that we don’t ever find ourselves in a circumstance where we depend on foreign nations for our food the way we do with energy. Ultimately, it is in everyone’s interest is achieve a level playing field on which American farmers can compete.
In the context of regulating water quality, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increasingly encroached on states’ authority, from nutrient loadings in Florida to total maximum daily loads in the Chesapeake Bay to overall regulatory reach through proposing “guidance” that essentially gives EPA regulatory control over all waters. Do you support reaffirming the primary role of states in regulating both non-navigable waters and non-point source runoff?
Farmers are some of the best stewards of our environment, which is why my administration is working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers on more than 30 million acres of land to help conserve our lands and protect our waters. I have seen how we can bolster growth of our nation’s agricultural economy while protecting our environment. Now there is a lot of misinformation out there about changes to clean water standards. We are not going to be applying standards to waters that have not been historically protected. And all existing exemptions for agricultural discharges and waters are going to stay in place. I believe that we can work together to safeguard the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and those that support farming and economic growth.
Government oversight is of course crucial to the protection of our environment. But statutes and regulations that were designed to protect public health and the environment have instead been seized on by environmentalists as tools to disrupt economic activity and the enjoyment of our nation’s environment altogether. President Obama’s Administration has embraced this approach, his EPA embarking on the most far-reaching regulatory scheme in American history.
Modernizing America’s complex environmental statutes, regulations, and permitting processes is crucial to ensuring that the nation can develop its resources safely and efficiently. Laws should promote a rational approach to regulation that takes cost into account. Regulations should be carefully crafted to support rather than impede development. Repetitive reviews and strategic lawsuits should not be allowed to endlessly delay progress or force the government into imposing rules behind closed doors that it would not approve in public. Energy development, economic growth, and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand if the government focuses on transparency and fairness instead of seeking to pick winners and repay political favors.
What priorities will you set for reforming the tax code? How should tax reform deal with the estate tax and capital gains taxes, two critical concerns for farmers and ranchers?
The tax code has become increasingly complicated and unfair. While many tax incentives serve important purposes, taken together the tax expenditures in the law are inefficient, unfair, duplicative, or even unnecessary. That’s why I’m calling for comprehensive tax reform. First, we must extend the middle class tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year. In fact, my proposal extends tax cuts for 97 percent of all small business owners in America.
But at the same time, we need to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share. I remain opposed to the extension of tax cuts for those with household income is above $250,000 and support the return of the estate tax exemption and rates to 2009 levels. These policies were unfair and unaffordable when they were passed, and they remain so today.
Governor Romney would take the opposite approach – his tax plan would require an average tax increase of $2,000 on middle class families with kids, to pay for a new round of tax cuts for multi-millionaires, who would get an average break of $250,000.
My proposal would return the top tax rate on estates to 45 percent and reinstate the $7 million per-couple estate tax exemption, which exempts all but the wealthiest 3 in 1,000 decedents from the tax, but still helps us reduce the deficit. Independent experts estimate that under this plan, only 60 small farm and business estates in the entire country would owe any estate tax in 2013.
I’d also return capital gains taxes to the rates they were when Bill Clinton was president. But I’m calling for the permanent elimination of capital gains taxes on key small business investments.
We must pass fundamental tax reform that lowers tax rates, broadens the base, achieves revenue neutrality, and maintains the progressivity of the tax code. This will help jumpstart an economic recovery that will help create 12 million jobs in my first term in office.
Regarding the estate tax and capital gains taxes, we must work to help all working families, including farmers and ranchers, keep more of what they earn. As president, I will eliminate the estate tax, helping keep family farms and ranches intact when businesses pass on from one generation to the next.
I will also maintain the current 15% capital gains rate for wealthier Americans, while totally eliminating capital gains, dividend, and interest taxes for those who earn less than $200,000 per year. This will help middle-class families save tax free for long term costs like college tuition and retirement, and to generally enjoy the freedom that accompanies financial security.
Read the full questionaire at http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=legislative.2012presidentialQuestionnaire.
–American Farm Bureau Federation