A few weeks ago, fellow AdFarmer Ron Wall posted a great overview of the remaining Republican presidential candidates’ positions on key issues important to agriculture. Since then Rick Santorum – the main challenger to Mitt Romney’s long-presumed nomination – has stepped out of the race.
With the final presidential pairing – Romney vs. incumbent Barack Obama – all but official, now’s a good time to take a similar look at the president’s positions on ag policy over the past four years, as well as what we might expect during a second term.
As a native Iowan, I’ll admit to obvious bias for my home state, so I hope you’ll forgive me by starting this discussion with the presidential candidate report card that was compiled and released by the Iowa Corn Growers Association prior to the January 3rd caucuses that started the 2012 presidential marathon. Each candidate was scored on the areas of energy, farm programs, trade, EPA and transportation. President Obama checked in with an overall B grade. Interestingly, candidate Romney registered exactly the same grade, which perhaps only reinforces conservatives’ concern that Romney isn’t conservative enough for their tastes.
When you look at President Obama’s tenure over the past three-and-a-half years, a key priority has been walking that fine line between supporting so-called “Big Ag” while also promoting and elevating small farmers. If progressives and conservatives alike both find fault, then the administration may indeed be achieving some element of balance, as is indicated in this insightful Politico profile on President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
I See Budget Cuts…
While no one can predict with certainty what a second term would look like, the initial 2013 Federal Budget submitted in February by the Obama administration – including recent discussions over the 2012 Farm Bill – provide some strong clues.
- It’s not surprising that in the year of a general election there is a strong appetite for reducing federal spending., Agriculture, –of course, is an easy target. The initial budget proposed cutting $32 billion over 10 years by eliminating direct payments, reducing crop insurance spending and “better targeting conservation spending.” The initial 2012 Farm Bill legislation approved by a 16 to 5 vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26th would reduce this figure to an estimated $23.4 billion over ten years.
- The Obama Administration’s budget includes a recommended investment of $6.1 billion in renewable and clean energy, including support of ethanol and other current and next-generation biofuels.
- The Obama budget also offers an element of support to smaller farmers, through slight increases in funding for the USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission and the USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service).
While those of us in Iowa have been living with presidential politics for more than a year, the race – as they say – has only just begun. As it progresses through the summer and fall, it will be interesting to see if the differences in agricultural policy between the two candidates are real or rhetoric.
Dan Kirkpatrick is an AdFarm PR and business development guy who lives and works in Iowa.