Gingrich, Paul, Romney, Santorum – where do they stand on agriculture subsidies, ethanol, environment, the Farm Bill? Based on their campaign promises, what might farmers expect from them should one be elected as President of these United States?
Election campaigns are not known for being the place where substantive discussions about policy occur. After all, why let facts get in the way of a good sound bite, a clever quip or sharp rejoinder?
The same applies to agriculture policy and what will become of the Farm Bill, should one of the contenders be elected President in November. Now that the field has been trimmed to four candidates, here’s a brief overview of where each one stands.
Thanks to the good folks at Harvest Public Media. They did most of the heavy lifting and sifting through the news sources, forums and speeches. I’ve excerpted their findings here. They are presented based on the poll numbers and number of delegates at the time of publication.
Gov. Mitt Romney
When it comes to the Farm Bill, Gov. Romney has said little on crop insurance and conservation. According the Iowa Corn Growers Association’s presidential candidates’ report card, he got a “C” for his support of the ACRE program which provides revenue insurance to commodity crops. However, he did receive an “A” for his stand on supporting free-trade agreements.
He has said that he will put tariffs on imports from China to compensate for the country’s low currency but has not addressed what impact that may have on the Chinese imports of U.S products such as corn, soybeans and pork.
Not a fan of rules and regulations that hold back business, Romney has said that he would take aim at the EPA saying in a December 2011 interview with Fox News, “of all the agencies in Washington, it is the one most being used by this president to try to hold down, crush and insert the federal government into the life of the private sector.”
Sen. Rick Santorum
Sen. Santorum has said that the government’s crop insurance program may need to be scaled back due to budget issues. A supporter of agricultural subsidies in the past, Santorum specifically backed the Milk Income Loss Contract for dairy farmers. However, he does oppose subsidies for ethanol production and prefers a free-market approach to the energy.
“I believe we have to get rid of all tax incentives to all energy industry. I don’t think we should create a heart attack for any industry but we should phase them out over a period of time,” he said at an Iowa candidates forum last November.
Like Romney, Santorum favors overturning EPA regulations put in place during the Obama administration. He, too, is a proponent of expanding free-trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association awarded former Rep. and Speaker of the House Gingrich with an “A” for his stand on farm programs, the EPA, transportation, trade and energy. A firm believer in free-trade, Gingrich has advocated for tax write-offs of 100 percent for farm equipment made in the U.S. He has proposed a flat tax on income of 15 percent and strongly opposes estate taxes, calling them a “death tax.”
Calling his environmental position “green conservatism,” Gingrich says that conservation on the farm is a “useful way to support farmers while protecting the environment.” He believes that all energy should be sourced domestically and that bio-fuels will be an energy leader in the future.
If elected, Gingrich would replace the EPA with an “environmental solution agency.” He believes that “entrepreneurial environmentalism is a superior approach to bureaucratic, litigious, unrestrained regulation.”
Rep. Ron Paul
Like him or not, there is no doubting where Rep. Ron Paul stands on just about any issue. Here’s what he wrote about the 2008 Farm Bill:
“Those who believe federal farm programs benefit independent farmers should take note that after 70 years of this type of government intervention, small farms continue to struggle while large corporate farms control an ever-increasing share of the agricultural market. Subsidies for agribusiness should be stopped and the free market should be allowed to work.”
Rather than subsidies, Paul would like to see alternative energy technologies such as enthanol produced through tax credits rather than government subsidies. Under a Paul administration, the EPA is gone and polluters face property owners in court instead of going through Washington. He opposes all “unnecessary regulations on small businesses and entrepreneurs” exemplified by his support of raw milk, “I think you should make your own choice on whether you drink raw milk or not.”
In a nutshell, that’s where the four GOP contenders stand on agriculture. Have they told you enough to choose one over another? Is there something you’ve heard lately about where they stand on agriculture, food and farming?
Ron Wall was born in Saskatchewan, lives in Missouri and writes from both sides of the border.