DES MOINES, IA- September 12, 2012 -With less than 60 days to go before the presidential election, the Romney and Obama campaigns met in Iowa to debate farm policy through surrogates; Nebraska Senator and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns and Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor and former State Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge squared off in an event held as part of the opening session of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Convention on Wednesday evening, at the Norman Borlaug World Food Prize building in Des Moines, Iowa. The debate was hosted jointly by NASDA and Farm Foundation, NFP.

In her opening remarks, Judge pointed to the Obama presidency's track record of lowering dependence on foreign fuel, record farm income and record farm exports, while at the same time focusing on the safety net for producers. Johanns said Obama "has been anti-agriculture," claiming he proposed a 45% “death” tax, which Romney would eliminate. He also highlighted EPA's alleged dust regulation and feedlot flyovers.

The debate moved into discussion on the drought and the farm bill. Judge claimed existing crop insurance legislation mitigated some of the damage, but added, "I really hate to see this whole thing being used as a political football, but I'm afraid it is election time and certain amount of that is going on." Johanns agreed with her, pointing out the key issue is to do the farm bill "right," which he explained will definitely include spending cuts. "If we can get those two bills to conference," said Judge, "and we can have people of good faith sit down and decide what farm policy is going to be, I agree with the Senator on this one - that needs to happen."

The Renewable Fuel Standard, Judge said, is an important part of the president's progressive effort to lessen dependence on foreign oil. "They're starting to fly planes with it, can you believe that?"

While Romney supports the RFS, Johanns said the current budget submitted by the Obama administration doesn't provide any funding to support further development of ethanol's uses. "It is that budget that leads the way," Johanns said, "and I've just seen, on this very important issue for agriculture, a lack of leadership. We need the kind of leadership that steps up and says 'There's a next generation here; let's step forward.'"

Romney, Johanns argued, would lead America forward, particularly in his approach to EPA, Labor Department and FDA regulations, which the senator said would be "thoughtful and careful."

"Over at the office of management and budget," said Johanns, "where every regulation has to clear, there is a pile of regulations that they are not releasing because they don't want to before the election. When the election occurs, hold on to your hat."

"Let's keep the facts on the table," Judge responded, denying future regulation is linked to the election. "We need to have a healthy economy. We cannot be overburdened with regulation that does not add anything and simply penalizes us."

The first audience question came from Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, who was frustrated over the increasing percentage of farm legislation spending consumed by entitlement programs, and asked what the candidates would do to get bigger producers back into farm programs despite income restrictions.

"What works in Iowa may not work in Louisiana," Judge said. She added the Obama presidency will focus more on crop insurance-type programs instead of ones like direct payments.

Johanns stated Romney would "get government off the backs of farmers," but speculated payment limitation will exist in the final farm bill regardless.

On the issue of trade, Judge felt trade obstacles are "an ongoing issue that requires trade associations, the private sector through them, USDA, our congressional delegation; it requires all of those factors to solve these problems regarding trade."

Romney's trade plan, according to Johanns, includes engaging the World Trade Organization to balance trade standards. "Those standards, he said, "have to be science and common sense; they can't just be seat-of-the-pants, all-of-a-sudden-the-border-is-closed-to-a-given-country." However, he believed most future progress will be made through bilateral negotiations. Additionally, Johanns said, were Romney to become president, he would seek trade promotion authority from Congress, something Johanns said Obama has not requested because it would upset labor unions.

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