Some presidential candidates indirectly cover ag issues |

Some presidential candidates indirectly cover ag issues

The Montana Farm Bureau is closely following the “Rural Route to the White House,” U.S. presidential election coverage produced and distributed by Agri-Pulse. The American Farm Bureau is officially the exclusive sponsor of this coverage. The coverage will be focused on the agricultural perspective of the presidential election, including the candidates’ positions on key farming and ranching issues. Following are updates on the candidates’ comments.

The presidential candidates continue to travel across the U.S., participating in presidential debates and other events. Trade and immigration have taken center stage with presidential candidates, although the Obama administration’s new “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act was covered in the fourth Republican presidential candidate debate.

WOTUS drew comments from Republican Candidate and Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who said he would seek repeal, noting that it’s devastating for agriculture and many industries. Republican candidate Carly Fiorina agreed with Bush, noting that the WOTUS rule must be eliminated and other EPA regulations need to be repealed as well.

As for trade, Donald Trump continued to rail against trade agreements, attacking the recently completed Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying it’s a “terrible deal for the U.S. economy.” He said he would rather work trade deals with individual countries.

Trump kept up his rhetoric that all illegal immigrants should be deported. Ohio Gov. John Kasich said it was impractical to deport all illegal immigrants. “We all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border. It’s a silly argument. It is not an adult argument. It makes no sense.” Bush agreed with Kasich.

In sharp contrast Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton voiced her support for helping illegal immigrants in the U.S. She defended President Obama’s executive actions, now blocked by the courts that would allow more than 4 million adult illegal immigrants to stay in the country. “Let’s move toward what we should be doing as a nation and follow the values of our immigration history and begin to make it possible for them to come out of the shadows,” Clinton said.

No candidates addressed how drastic immigration changes would affect agriculture. The closest candidates came to discussing agriculture directly was about farm subsidies and the Renewable Fuel Standard which sets the amount of ethanol in gasoline.

When the sugar program was mentioned, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said sugar “subsidies” should be done away with to help pay for defense spending. “Sugar farmers farm on roughly 0.2 percent of the farmland in America, yet they give 40 percent of the lobbying money,” Cruz said. “I would end those subsidies to pay for defending this country.”

(Agri-Pulse noted that the USDA generally operates the sugar program at no cost to taxpayers by using market allotments and import quotas to prop up prices, although there is also a provision allowing government purchases of sugar for ethanol fuel production to prevent surpluses from developing.)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie supports the Renewable Fuel Standard and says he would implement even more energy options. Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio says the Renewable Fuel Standard should be left in place through 2022 to “respect the investment that people have made” in the industry. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said although he doesn’t agree on mandates, the RFS has been in place a long time and he wants to find a way to help people comply. Cruz has proposed to phase out the biofuel mandates. The 2007 energy law set annual biofuel usage targets through 2022.

Ben Carson had previously called for shifting oil subsidies to biofuels into expanding the number of ethanol pumps. But in the in the third presidential debate he said “I was wrong” about that idea. “The best policy is to get rid of all government subsidies and to get the government out of our lives and let people rise and fall based on how good they are,” concluded Carson, a former neurosurgeon.

Finally, Paul gave an exclusive interview to Agri-Pulse where he addressed the GMO labeling bill, saying he would prefer to have the marketplace determine labeling. “The labeling requirements are enormously expensive and just add to the cost of foods. Somebody who is poor can’t buy as much food because of the requirement of labels to be stuck on things.”

–Montana Farm Bureau