President Obama and his GOP opponent Gov. Mitt Romney this week responded to an agriculture/rural communities issue questionnaire submitted to both campaigns by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). In the end, it’s no surprise the answers are long on philosophy and short on details.
On energy, both men support a strong alternative energy/biofuels policy, and both support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Obama says rural America “produced enough renewable fuels to meet roughly 8% of our needs.” Romney says he wants to see a North American energy independence initiative by partnering with Canada and Mexico. Obama says his Administration increased the ethanol blend rate to 15%, “and the new RFS helped boost biodiesel production to 1 billion gallons in 2011, creating 39,000 jobs.” Romney says alternative energy will lower the cost of energy to producers.
AFBF asked the candidates if they support the states’ primary role in regulation both non-navigable waters and non-point source runoff. The Obama campaign contends there’s too much misinformation about EPA’s intent, and stressed “we are not going to apply standards to water that have not been historically protected…all existing exemptions for agricultural discharges and waters are going to stay in place.”
Romney’s people contend EPA rules and regulations have been “seized by environmentalists to disrupt economic activity… (President Obama’s EPA) is embarking on the most far-reaching regulatory scheme in American history.” Romney wants to “modernize” EPA regulations, and wants a “rational” approach to rules that include cost/benefit analysis.
On a new Farm Bill, Obama says he understands the need for a strong farm safety net, and touts his Administration’s action to “increase the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to over 550,000 farmers…” along with expansion of farm credit. Romney says he wants to see a “strong farm bill that provides the appropriate risk management tools… (and) in the near term, my immediate priority is enacting disaster relief…” Romney also referred to foreign producer subsidies and warned we should not “unilaterally change our policies” so that “we don’t ever find ourselves in a circumstance were we depend on foreign nations for our food the way we do with energy.”
On broad fiscal policy, the candidates were asked how they plan to reform budgetary policy, with Obama citing his earlier plan for $4 trillion in deficit reduction, including $1 trillion in spending cuts. Romney says “getting reckless government spending under control is one of my top priorities.” Obama blames the Bush Administration and a bad economy, and says the Romney plan to cut the budget by $5 trillion lacks details. Romney says he’ll review and cut programs, with several programs destined to be returned to state control.
On immigration, AFBF approached this issue as a question about solving agriculture’s labor shortage. Romney said the current temporary ag worker visa program is broken, with 43% of applications not processed in a timely fashion. Obama says the system needs to protect U.S. workers and temporary ag workers should “only be used when U.S. workers are not available.” Obama supports the AgJobs bill on reforming the visa system, and says his Administration is already improving the system by creating a new Office on Farmworker Opportunities at USDA. Romney called for wholesale immigration reform, and said he’d not propose “heavy-handed regulations that limit youth opportunities involved in agriculture.”
On reforming the tax code, Obama’s campaign wants to see comprehensive tax reform, restated his desire to raise taxes on couples earning $250,000 or more per year, attacked Romney’s tax position, and says he’s protecting 97% of U.S. small business owners. Romney wants reform that lowers rates, broadens the tax base, gets to revenue neutrality and maintains a progressive tax code. Romney says his plan will create 12 million jobs.