Harvest Public Media
12:00 am
Thu December 22, 2011

Republicans on the farm

Whoever wins, the 2012 presidential election is sure to change the country, and the farm.

The eventual Republican nominee will have to address numerous farm-related issues. In this era of shrinking budgets, what will happen to crop insurance, agricultural subsidies and the farm bill? With a renewed national focus on the environment and foreign oil dependence, what role will ethanol play in the future? With high land prices, how will family farmers continue to pass their farms to the next generation? How will changes in immigration policy affect farmers?

With agricultural issues getting short-shrift on the campaign trail so far, our reporters sifted through blog posts and articles in order to research the Republican candidates’ positions on issues that will affect farms and farmers for years to come. We broke it down into five areas: the farm bill, biofuels, agriculture and the environment, the future of farming, and broader global issues that concern farmers.

Here’s what we found for each candidate, listed in alphabetical order:

 

Rep. Michele Bachmann

Farm Bill

Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, has long said the federal budget needs a complete overhaul and that agriculture subsides wouldn’t get an exception. Debating the 2008 Farm Bill, Bachmann said it was “loaded with unbelievably outrageous pork and subsidies for agricultural business and ethanol growers.” However, some criticized Bachmann as being hypocritical when it was revealed that a Wisconsin family farm she and her husband have a stake in received subsidies.

Biofuels

At a recent campaign event at Drake University in Des Moines, Bachmann said ethanol is no longer in its early stages and raised the idea of an $80 rebate for consumers  converting their car to E85 flex-fuel vehicles. She added that she supports all kinds of energy and believes that the U.S. could more effectively use its energy resources.

Agriculture and the environment

Bachmann has referred to climate change as manufactured science and questions the human role in the warming of the earth. She voted to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases in April 2011 and voted against enforcing limits on carbon-dioxide pollution in June of 2009.

Future of farming

A supporter of building a double fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, Bachmann told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that the U.S. government should remove all undocumented workers from the country.

Global concerns

Bachmann voted in favor of free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea in 2011. “These agreements will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs and spur economic growth across a wide span of industries, without cost to taxpayers,” Bachmann said.

-Clay Masters

____

Newt Gingrich

Farm Bill

Former Rep. and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich supports a safety net for farmers and believes the more recent, technical side of farming requires more money to operate so farmers should have ready access to emergency funds. Gingrich is the only candidate who received an "A" grade from the Iowa Corn Growers Association in the issue areas of EPA, transportation, energy, trade and farm programs.

Biofuels

Gingrich supports the Renewable Fuel Standard and believes the biofuel industry will be an energy leader in the future. The Iowa Soybean Association reports Gingrich would rather invest domestically and that he said “I would pick Iowa over Iran.” Gingrich supports flex-fuel vehicles and says he’d like to see all gas stations equipped with biofuel pumps. Gingrich tends to support biofuels more than other types of energy, but believes all sources of energy should be made domestically to relieve foreign imports.

Agriculture and the environment

An outspoken advocate of conservation, Gingrich has gone on record to say conservation efforts within the farm are “a useful way to support farmers while protecting the environment.” He was an environmental studies professor at a college in Georgia and was the chair of the West Georgia College Chapter of the Georgia Conservancy.

Gingrich has led many conservation projects including work with the Chattahoochee River Greenway, species protection initiatives to save the wild tigers of Asia, and the creation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary. He is co-author of the book “Contract With The Earth,” which includes his conservation philosophy.

Gingrich opposes the existence of the Environmental Protection Agency, and if elected, would eliminate the department and replace it with an “environmental solution agency” that he told the Iowa Soybean Association would show “cooperation and common sense.” Gingrich famously shared a couch with fellow former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a  television commercial supporting the existence of climate change and advocating taking action to address the issue.

Gingrich believes there is enough scientific proof that climate change exists and has seldom agreed with his party peers who argue the environmental event does not exist. He calls his position “green conservatism.” He believes the environment can be protected through private means and “entrepreneurial environmentalism is a superior approach to bureaucratic, litigious, unrestrained regulation.”

Future of farming

Gingrich fully supports integrating young people into working environments. "We teach our kids to work, but we teach them to do it safely," Gingrich said. He opposes estate taxes and refers to the practice as a “death tax” in interviews. He has instead proposed a 15 percent flat tax on income.

Global concerns

Gingrich is in favor of U.S. border control, a structure to inhibit immigration and making English the official national language. However, he believes business owners, including farmers, should have the right to grant sponsorship of non-residents for work in the U.S. Gingrich firmly believes in free trade within foreign markets and has presented 100 percent tax write-offs on all purchases of domestically made farm equipment.

-Jessica Naudziunas

____

Gov. Jon Huntsman

Farm Bill

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman skipped campaigning in Iowa because of his opposition to all farm subsides, including those “that prop up corn, soybeans and ethanol." But because of his absence there, it’s difficult to find details on his views on specific farm policies.

Biofuels

Huntsman blasted America’s “heroin-like addiction to foreign oil,” but his opposition to all subsidies includes those for ethanol, gas, oil, wind and solar power. Wants research into alternative energies andsupports fracking.  He’s an advocate for cap and trade and has taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Iowa he was accused by renewable energy supporters as having a “blind spot” on it because they have competed with products from his family’s chemical company.

Agriculture and the environment

Though Huntsman has called himself clear on this, his remarks are murky. Originally he tweeted: “To be clear: I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” But he later softened that, saying “there’s probably more debate yet to play out.”

  He supported grazing on public lands and diplomatically said water, a hot-button issue in the Western state he governed, was akin to achieving peace in the Mideast. He supported localization of wildlife management and said  federal regulation of “listing of threatened and endangered species creates prohibitions and land use issues that threaten the livelihood of farmers and ranchers.” He called for an end EPA's "regulatory reign of terror" and will fight its “job-destroying” imposition of regulations.  He supports the Keystone pipeline as a job creator that“moves us towards energy independence.”

Future of farming

Although he is the only one of the GOP candidates who refused to sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, Hunstman has been praised by the Wall Street Journal for his plans to cut income and corporate taxes.  While governor of Utah, he cut the state's food tax in half.  On keeping farmland in the family, Huntsman, while campaigning for governor in 2004  told the Utah Farm Bureau: “If we have barriers that stand in the way of passing on the family farm, we need to get rid of them.”

Global concerns

He opposes mass deportation of illegal immigrants, is “repulsed” by the idea of a border fence and supports an amnesty much like the one imposed by then-President Reagan in the mid-1980s. On child labor and human rights, he has said the U.S. needs to be “the light that radiates standards” to the world.As a trade representative under the George W. Bush Administration, Huntsman is pro-free trade. “Promoting open markets promotes democratic values in those markets and enhances opportunities for American farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, and families,” he said. He advocates for free trade pacts with more countries and has said NAFTA was a success.

-Peggy Lowe

____

Gov. Gary Johnson

Farm Bill

The farm bill hasn’t come up much in Gov. Gary Johnson’s appearances on the campaign trail. And because the longshot candidate – often polling at less than 1 percent -- was excluded from 15 out of 17 debates, sound bites are few and far between. Via a Twitter chat in April, the former governor of New Mexico said he believes farm subsidies need to be cut by at least 43 percent, and possibly abolished. It’s clear the libertarian favors slashing government spending; he says he would replace the federal tax code with a national consumption tax, which he calls the FairTax.

Biofuels

In a commentary this summer, Johnson said he supports abolishing ethanol tax subsidies: “To my knowledge, it takes more energy to produce ethanol than what it produces. And if that’s not the case, then it ought to be able to stand on its own two feet in a free market system…”

Agriculture and the environment

Johnson believes in global warming “and that it’s man-made,” but he doesn’t believe in regulatory schemes to reduce carbon emissions or greenhouse gases. He says that such policies would harm businesses while doing little to help the environment.

Future of farming

Johnson does not believe government funding will ensure a safe food supply, though he believes the government (in the form of the Food and Drug Administration) should be setting standards. “Government should be providing an oversight or enforcement for those companies that would be bad actors in this environment,” Johnson said. “But so much of what happens isn’t bad acting. It’s genuinely accidents that do occur. So the notion of adding more money is not going to do away with these problems in the future.”

Global concerns

A true libertarian, Johnson opposes tariffs and other government interventions. The former governor of New Mexico also calls for a simplification of U.S. immigration policy, and for the estimated 12 million undocumented workers currently residing in the United States to receive work visas—“not green cards or citizenship.” He opposes a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

-Donna Vestal

____

Rep. Ron Paul

Farm Bill

Rep. Ron Paul, a staunch libertarian, champions concepts such as constitutionally limited government, free markets and fiscal restraint. The representative from Texas is not a supporter of the 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,” Paul wrote in regard to the 2008 Farm Bill. “Subsidies for agribusiness should be stopped and the free market should be allowed to work.”

Biofuels

There’s no subtlety in Paul’s position when it comes to any government subsidy or mandated use – he’s against them. Here’s what he wrote about ethanol this summer:

 “Ethanol mandates often serve as corporate welfare for big agriculture ethanol producers. The marketplace should decide whether or not to use ethanol, and producers of ethanol have to discover if they can produce it at a price that makes good business sense. No industry should be allowed to use legislation to create a 'market' for its products.” Paul would encourage the purchase and production of alternative fuel technologies through tax credits, not government subsidies.

Agriculture and the environment

Paul wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and have polluters answer directly to property owners in court for the damages they create – not to Washington. The New York Times notes that Paul “generally favors a hands-off approach to federal regulation, although he has backed some tax incentives for clean energy development. He opposes tax breaks for oil and gas companies but supports Arctic drilling. He is skeptical about climate change but said in 2008 that there were unexplained anomalies in global temperatures.”

Future of farming

Paul would eliminate taxes on estates after an individual's death as well as the capital gains tax. In calling for an end to the estate tax, Paul wrote: “For smaller, family-owned farms and ranches, the estate tax is especially threatening. Such operations may be worth several million dollars when the value of land, livestock, buildings, and equipment are considered. Yet when the owner dies, his heirs often do not have liquid cash to pay a hefty tax bill. As a result, all or part of the family business may be sold to pay the IRS. This has accelerated the trend toward corporate ownership of American farms and ranches.“ Paul opposes all unfunded mandates and “unnecessary regulations on small businesses and entrepreneurs.” For example, on a recent campaign stop in Iowa, Paul made headlines for his support of raw milk. (Twenty states prohibit the sale of raw milk outright, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.) “I think you should make your own choice on whether you drink raw milk or not,” he said.

Global concerns

Immigration reform is a key issue for Paul. He advocates for establishing a system to allow current illegal immigrants in the U.S. a path to citizenship, but he does not want to provide amnesty for illegal immigrants. He would encourage legal immigration by “streamlining the entry process without rewarding lawbreakers.” Paul also calls for free trade and asserts it “helps farmers and consumers much more than this convoluted system of subsidies, surpluses and central planning. Newly opened markets would create increased demand for what we produce.”

-Donna Vestal

____

Gov. Rick Perry

Farm Bill

Gov. Rick Perry supports a safety net for farmers and will preserve the current framework for crop and revenue insurance. He grew up on a farm in Texas and said that his agriculture experience helps him understand the challenges that farmers face.  “When I’m the president of the United States, the American farmer will have a friend in the White House,” Perry told the Iowa Soybean Association. As a former farmer, Perry received more than $80,000 in federal farm payments between 1987 and 1998, including $9,624 in CRP payments on his 40-acre farm.

Biofuels

"I do not think it is the federal government’s business to be picking winners and losers, frankly in any of our energy sources," Perry said in an Iowa forum in November. Perry does support renewable energy incentives at the state level, citing Texas’s place as the top wind-producing state in the country. According to the Austin-American Statesman,  Perry previously supported ethanol in the early 1990s as Texas Agriculture Commissioner. He has proposed eliminating the Department of Energy.

Agriculture and the environment

Perry is a "skeptic" of man-made global warming, with its "science that isn't proven." He supports the Keystone XL pipeline and coal energy.  "We're standing on top of the next American economic boom,” Perry told the Associated Press. “It's the energy that's under this country.” Perry says he will immediately put a moratorium on new EPA regulations, audit current regulations and cut the EPA budget by 60 percent. “If it kills jobs, I’d get rid of it,” Perry told the Iowa Soybean Association.

Future of farming

The “death tax” is particularly difficult for farmers, Perry said, and it results in the loss of long-held family land. He plans to eliminate estate taxes, the tax on Social Security benefits, the tax on dividends and capital gains, and to create a flat income tax rate of 20 percent for both individuals and corporations. Perry believes that government shouldn’t manipulate land values, but rather let the market find its equilibrium.

Global concerns

Perry wants to expand access to and engage more foreign trade partners for farmers. He believes more foreign markets will protect farmers from the domestic economy. As governor of Texas, Perry says he has experience dealing with Mexico-U.S. border issues. “We can get the border shut down and secure in a 12-month period of time,” Perry told the Iowa Soybean Association. “Then we can have a conversation about immigration reform and how we need to get the workforce into the country.” Perry has extensive experience in disaster relief, dealing with the state’s droughts, wildfires and hurricanes.

-Eric Durban

____

Gov. Buddy Roemer

Farm Bill

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer

Farm Bill

One of the cornerstones of Gov. Buddy Roemer's campaign is reducing government spending by one percent each year for five years. In order to that, Roemer has called for the elimination of all energy subsidies, as a start, and has even mentioned cutting agricultural subsidies all together.

Biofuels

Roemer's energy policy would focus on reducing  U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but he would eliminate subsidies for ethanol in order to promote creative energy solutions across the board. Campaigning as a hard-nosed businessman, Roemer has said he will cut any program he deems ineffective and he would put ethanol subsidies on the chopping block.

Still, most of the Republican candidates aren’t as enthusiastic about renewable energy sources as  Roemer is. "Buddy believes that energy independence begins with balance, including renewable sources like wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal power," his campaign website proclaims.

Agriculture and the environment

Despite his stance on renewable energery sources, Roemer isn’t to be confused with an environmentalist, as he supports expanded drilling and energy exploration in the U.S.

Future of farming

One of Roemer’s primary campaign promises is to simplify the tax code and to do away with tax loopholes, particularly those relating to corporations.

Global concerns

With a nuanced policy on immigration, Roemer has staked out positions in the middle ground. He has said that immigration quotas should be flexible and depend on the labor market’s needs rather than on a set policy. Roemer has also stressed the enforcement of immigration laws, but advocates for a plan under which illegal aliens would be deported to their home countries but be allowed to apply for lawful entry to the U.S.

-Jeremy Bernfeld

____

Gov. Mitt Romney

Farm Bill

Gov. Mitt Romney has remained virtually silent on the farm bill. The Iowa Corn Growers Association's presidential candidates' report card shows Romney hasn't shown a position on crop insurance or conservation, two big issues on the forefront of farmers' concerns.  The group did give him a "C" when it comes to support of the ACRE program, which provides revenue insurance to commodity crops.

Biofuels

In May, in corn-growing Iowa, Romney said, “I support the subsidy of ethanol,” and “I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution for this country,” according to a Washington Post report.  But he later said that he doesn't necessarily support the subsidy being available indefinitely, but favored subsidies in the past to help get the industry on its feet.  An earlier 2007 Q&A with Romney  is equally vague. Romney says he does support developing domestic sources of energy, and supporting ethanol does get a mention:

"Ethanol is a good step, but its not a sufficient step. I believe we have to be developing more energy sources ourselves, which would include offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR, nuclear power, biodiesel, biofuels, cellulosic ethanol, probably liquefied coal...How are we going to develop those resources? Well, we need investments in technology. Probably subsidies as we do right now with ethanol."

Agriculture and the environment

In a December 2011 Fox News interview, Romney pledged to overturn existing EPA fuel economy standards that reduce global warming pollution.  "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," he said in the interview.

Future of farming

Romney tends to take a pro-business stance on most issues, and has expressed willingness to help pave the way for business success. However, he doesn't necessarily support all subsidies, as is shown by his somewhat conflicting statements on ethanol. While Romney hasn't specifically mentioned what he might do should the EPA put forth rules about farm dust or manure management,  he has made clear he doesn't like rules that he perceives as holding back businesses.

Global concerns

Romney has strived to walk a fine line when it comes to immigration policy -- as NPR reports, he has to appeal to the many anti-immigration Republicans, but also wants to woo the Hispanic vote in the general election.   Romney's position on immigration boils down to the fact that he has suggested programs that would help those here in the country illegally apply for permanent residency or citizenship, but later qualified his immigration views, saying illegal immigrants who apply for legal status should not be given any advantage over those who are following the law and waiting their turn.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association has given Romney an "A" for his pro-free trade agreement stance. Romney has also threatened to put tariffs on Chinese imports to make up for its artificially low currency, though it's unclear if he'd succeed - -and what impact that might have on Chinese imports of U.S. agriculture products.  China has been a buyer of U.S. corn, soybeans and pork.

-Kathleen Masterson

____

Sen. Rick Santorum

Farm Bill

Sen. Rick Santorum is in favor of creating a revenue assurance program for farmers. However, Santorum has said that he would examine the efficacy of the government’s crop insurance program and that it may need to be scaled back because of budgetary concerns.  Santorum has supported agricultural subsidies in the past, particularly the Milk Income Loss Contract, which provided subsidies for dairy farmers. Currently, though, Santorum opposes subsidies for ethanol.

Biofuels

Santorum has advocated for doing away with subsidies for ethanol production and for taking a more free-market approach to the energy industry. “I believe we have to get rid of all tax incentives to all energy industry,” Santorum said at a candidates’ forum in Iowa in November. Santorum would phase out the subsidies to the ethanol industry over five years.

Agriculture and the environment

Though he acknowledges that the earth has recently been warming, Santorum has dismissed the “junk science” of climate change as a liberal conspiracy. “It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life,” Santorum said on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in June. Santorum supports repealing EPA regulations enacted during the Obama administration and has indicated that he does not favor most land conservation programs.

Future of farming

Over the course of his career in both the House and the Senate, Santorum has often been a proponent of lowering taxes. As a senator, Santorum twice voted to permanently repeal estate taxes in 2006.

Global concerns

During his 2006 re-election campaign, Santorum was a vocal critic of U.S. immigration policy. He has campaigned against amnesty and social welfare programs for illegal immigrants and has said in the past that English should be the country’s national language. Santorum supports expanding free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

-Jeremy Bernfeld