As far as politics goes,
there is one and only one issue that will dominate 2016…who will be elected the
next President of the
So far, agriculture as a
campaign issue has been trumped (literally) by high-profile controversies over
immigration, national security, terrorism and personalities. (For more on how Iowa farmers rate important issues in the presidential campaigns, click here. )
These are the issues poised
to dominate the early battle for party nominations: the
But after the Republican
National Convention in
Rural voters will want to know where the nominees stand on crop insurance, the Renewable Fuel Standard, the use of biotechnology, agriculture research, trade and farm credit, among other issues. Some candidates have already touched on these issues; others have not.
On the Republican side, Jeb Bush the former Governor of Florida, an important agriculture state, has told the Iowa Farm Bureau “I support crop insurance and farm programs that help farmers and ranchers manage unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic risks, such as natural disasters. These programs must also be fair to taxpayers, and we should always be looking at them to ensure they meet the needs of today.”
Another Governor in the race, John Kasich of Ohio, voted “yes” on the 1997 Farm Bill while serving in the House and, in a 2012 speech, described agriculture as "the strongest industry in Ohio," Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey signed legislation in 2015 allowing 16 year-olds in his state to obtain special agriculture drivers licenses allowing them to operate farm equipment and, after Hurricane Sandy in 2013, he declared fourteen New Jersey counties as disaster areas making them eligible for USDA relief. In 2011, he signed legislation providing $90 million to a variety of state-level farmland preservation programs.
In contrast, Senator Ted Cruz was named the “anti-farmer candidate” by the American Sugar Alliance after voting against the 2014 Farm Bill and calling for elimination of the Renewal Fuel Standard for ethanol, the sugar program, and crop insurance. On the Highway Bill, Senator Cruz voted against restoring the $3 billion crop insurance cut, then reversed his vote against restoring the cut, then voted against the bill on final passage.
Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul voted to protect crop insurance as a part of the Highway Bill but joined Cruz in opposing final passage. They also joined Cruz in opposing the 2014 Farm Bill.
Donald Trump, who has not had to go on record by casting votes in the House or Senate, announced his support of ethanol during a recent tour of an ethanol plant in Iowa, saying “What you’re doing here is a fantastic thing, and we stay away from the Middle East, we take care of ourselves right here….that’s the way we want to keep it.” Trump did not, however, take any position on the key Renewable Fuel Standard.
Upping the ante, Trump has now starting attacking Cruz for his ethanol views, saying, "With the ethanol, really, he's got to come a long way, 'cause right now he's for the oil," Trump said "But I understand it, oil pays him a lot of money. He's got to be for oil, right?” Trump then continued, "But I'm with you. I'm self-funding. I have no oil company. I have no special interest."
Trump’s aggressive stance against illegal immigration has also raised concerns over its potential impact on the availability of farm labor.
Like Trump, Ben Carson does not have a record on agriculture. He had suggested ending oil subsidies and using that money to build new ethanol blending pumps, but he reversed this view at the third Republican primary debate on October 28, 2015, where he said: "I was wrong about taking the oil subsidy. I have studied that issue in great detail and what I’ve concluded, the best policy is to get rid of all government subsidies and get the government out of our lives and let people rise and fall based on how good they are.”
On the Democratic side, Senator Hillary Clinton released a comprehensive rural plan on August 26, 2015, saying “A strong agriculture economy remains a critical cornerstone of a vibrant rural economy.”
Bernie Sanders supported the 2014 Farm Bill as well as the Renewable Fuel
Standard. In a December 2, 2015, Iowa Public Radio interview, he commented on the new RFS level for
2016, which reduces the minimum amount of ethanol to be blended with gasoline,
saying “I happen to believe that climate change is the great environmental
crisis that we face…. And what that means is that we have got to do everything
we can to break our dependence on fossil fuel, move to energy efficiency and
move to sustainable energy.” Sanders had
also been highly supportive of dairy – a particular