Presidential candidates respond to AFBF questionnaire

By Erin Voegele | September 24, 2012

During each presidential campaign season, the American Farm Bureau Federation asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address issues that concern the farming and ranching communities. On Sept. 24, the AFBF released results of its annual questionnaire, which details each candidate’s positions on agricultural issues.

Regarding energy, President Barack Obama said that rural communities, farmers and ranchers can increase U.S. energy independence and boost the transition to a clean energy economy. “U.S. biofuel production is at its highest level in history. Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years,” he said, adding that his administration is increasing the level of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline. He also noted that the renewable fuel standard (RFS) helped boost biodiesel production to nearly 1 billion gallons last year, and that the biodiesel industry supports approximately 39,000 jobs.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that an affordable, reliable supply of energy is crucial to America’s economic future, and that he has a vision for America as an energy superpower that rapidly increases our own production, and together with Canada and Mexico, achieves an energy independent continent by 2020. Romney also said that increased U.S. energy production will allow agricultural businesses and manufacturers to gain access to a more affordable and reliable supply of energy and feedstock. “America’s energy resources can be a long-term competitive advantage for American agriculture and their development is key to the success of the industry,” he said. “The increased production of biofuels plays an important part in my plan to achieve energy independence. In order to support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources, I am in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard. I also support eliminating regulatory barriers to a diversification of the electrical grid, fuel system, and vehicle fleet. My policies broadly aim to ensure that all of our energy industries can sustainably become competitive, innovative and efficient.”

When asked what policy and risk management tools he’d like to see in a new farm bill, Obama said that he understands the need for a strong farm safety net, and that his administration increased the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help more than 590,000 farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business following natural disasters and crop loss. “And I know that any farm bill passed this year—and there needs to be a farm bill passed this year—needs to have adequate protections for America’s farmers,” he continued. “That’s why I have called for maintaining a strong crop insurance program and an extended disaster assistance program. We can reduce the deficit without sacrificing rural American economic growth, as the Romney-Ryan budget would do. Instead of making farmer pay more for crop insurance, we will do it by cutting subsidies to crop insurance companies and better targeting conservation funding.”

Romney responded to the same question by noting that he supports the passage of a strong farm bill that provides appropriate risk management tools that will work for farmers and ranchers throughout the country. He also said that in the near term, priority should be given to enacting disaster relief for those not traditionally covered by crop insurance as this year’s drought has worsened. “On the broader question of farm programs, we must be cognizant that our agricultural producers are competing with other nations around the world,” he continued. “Other nations subsidize their farmers, so we must be careful not to unilaterally change our policies in a way that would disadvantage agriculture here in our country. In addition, we want to make sure that we don’t ever find ourselves in a circumstance where we depend on foreign nations for our food the way we do with energy. Ultimately, it is in everyone’s interest is achieve a level playing field on which American farmers can compete.”

The AFBF also asked each candidate why farmer and ranchers should for them. In his response, Obama  said that he is committed to building the foundation for a renewed rural economy, and that he is focused on reclaiming the security of the rural middle class by growing products that the rest of the world busy. “Farmers and rancher should vote for me because I am the only candidate that is committed to strengthening the farm safety net, strengthening rural economic growth, and supporting rural investments in clean energy,” he said. In addition, Obama noted that he is increasing funding for agricultural research and development and is working aggressively with our nation’s rural communities, farmers and ranchers to increase energy independence and boost the transition to a clean energy economy. “We are also partnering with over 13,000 farmers and ranchers to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that help save energy and improve their bottom line,” Obama said. “Unlike my opponent, I understand that clean energy can provide farmers with additional income and economic security, which is why I have called on Congress to extend tax incentives for wind energy, which Mitt Romney would let expire.”

In his response, Romney said that American agriculture needs relief from the Obama Administration’s crushing onslaught of unnecessary regulations, and a commonsense energy policy that develops our resources right here at home. “On day one of my administration, farmers and ranchers would have something they’ve lacked over the past several years--an advocate,” Romney said. “Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of America and play a critical role in ensuring Americans across the country have access to safe and affordable food. The fruit of your labor nourishes the world, and I admire your hard work in harvesting our country’s bountiful resources. I also admire our farmers and ranchers for the critical role you play in the health of our economy, employing millions of American.”

The AFBF’s questionnaire also addressed issues related to environmental policy, fiscal policy, labor, taxes and trade. A full transcript of each candidate’s responses can be downloaded from the AFBF website.