Presidential Candidate on Ag: Sanders
In the fourth installment of the Tri-State Livestock News’ presidential candidate features, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ positions on agriculture are explored.
Vermont Senator Sanders is gaining supporters across the country, who are “Feeling the Bern.” With promises of free college, closing the income gap, improving the living wage, and expanding social security, Sanders has certainly gotten America’s attention in recent debates with opponent Hillary Clinton.
But where does Sanders stand on agriculture? Here’s what ranchers need to know about Sanders’ take on key issues that would impact agriculture in the future:
1. Farm subsidies
According to statements made on his campaign website, http://www.berniesanders.com, “It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82 percent of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85 percent of soybean processing, and 63 percent of pork processing. It is unacceptable that there are over 300,000 fewer farmers than there were 20 years ago. It is unacceptable that the top 10 percent of farms collect 75 percent of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62 percent do not receive any subsidies. We have to adopt policies that will turn this around.”
Sanders plans to reverse trade policies like NAFTA, which he says have, “flooded the American market with agricultural goods produced in countries with less stringent environmental, labor, and safety regulations.”
In an op-ed in the Huffington Post in May 2015, Bernie wrote, “Since 2001, nearly 60,000 manufacturing plants in this country have been shut down and we have lost over 4.7 million decent paying manufacturing jobs. NAFTA has led to the loss of nearly 700,000 jobs. PNTR with China has led to the loss of 2.7 million jobs. Our trade agreement with South Korea has led to the loss of about 75,000 jobs. While bad trade agreements are not the only reason why manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have declined, they are an important factor.”
Sanders is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and said, “Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a free trade agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system.”
3. Renewable Energy
Senator Sanders supports major investments in wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other sources of renewable energy. Senator Sanders would substantially increase investments in wind energy and would make the Wind Production Tax Credit permanent.
According to Sanders, “Biofuels like ethanol have been an economic lifeline to rural and farm communities in Iowa and throughout the Midwest, supporting over 850,000 workers, all while keeping our energy dollars here at home instead of going into the pockets of oil barons in the Middle East and Russia.”
Sanders strongly supports the Renewable Fuels Standard. Substantially increasing our investments in renewable energy will be a major priority in a Sanders administration.
4. Farm Bill
According to http://www.feelthebern.org, “Bernie helped pass legislation that helped prevent the closure of family-owned farms, including The Agricultural Act of 2014 (‘Farm Bill’).
“Bernie also supports the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, a bill that expands and improves opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers as well as institutes several responsible environmental provisions.”
5. Food Stamps
“Sanders has supported Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and a diverse array of other nutrition-impacting pieces of legislation,” according to http://www.feelthebern.org.
Sanders believes that individuals who truly need assistance should not be denied access to SNAP. In 2012, he voted against limiting eligibility and bonuses for SNAP in the Senate Amendments 2172 and 2165.
“At a time when the richest people in this country are becoming richer and the middle class is disappearing, it is beyond shameful to cut food programs and nutrition programs,” said Sanders.
6. Immigration Reform
According to http://www.feelthebern.org, “Sanders supports immigration reform to ensure people who work and contribute to our economy don’t have to live in the shadows. He supported the DREAM Act, and comprehensive immigration reform efforts in 2013 that would have created a path to legal status. Additionally, Bernie supports waiving deportations for some groups of immigrants, such as those brought into America by their parents when they were children.”
In a July 2015 speech, Bernie highlighted that “undocumented workers are doing the extremely difficult work of harvesting our crops, building our homes, cooking our meals, and caring for our children. They are part of the fabric of America. Bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows will make it more difficult for employers to undercut the wages and benefits of all workers.”
Sanders supports allowing states to decide whether to require labels on foods that are produced from crops that are genetically modified. He believes in the “consumers’ right to know” and has slammed Monsanto in previous speeches.
“All over this country, people are becoming more conscious about the foods they are eating and the foods they are serving to their kids and this is certainly true for genetically engineered foods,” Sanders said in a 2013 press release. “I believe that when a mother goes to the store and purchases food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her child. Vermont and other states must be allowed to label GMO foods. My provision would protect states from threatened lawsuits.”
In case you missed the first three installments of the presidential series, go to http://www.tsln.com to read more about Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, as well as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Next week’s feature will be on Donald Trump.
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In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the Agriculture Department this week announced that plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing.