The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Romney issues ag policy paper in Iowa; Obama team issues response


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in Iowa Tuesday and released a 16-page paper on agricultural policy, but the Obama campaign quickly responded with its own news conference with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and former Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller.

On a campaign stop on a farm near Van Meter, Iowa, Romney briefly criticized President Barack Obama on agricultural policy, regulation and the estate tax, and then shifted to personal stories that he has been using in stump speeches for the last several days, according to a report in the Des Moines Register.

Romney said, “People have been waiting a long time for a farm bill. The president has to show the leadership to get the House and Senate together.”

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., quickly responded to the Romney attack on Obama, telling The Hill, “I think it's unfair and it shows a complete lack of understanding of what's going on. The problem is not between the House and the Senate, the problem is Majority Leader [Eric] Cantor [R-Va.] won't put the farm bill on the floor.”

In the 16-page paper released Tuesday, the Romney campaign says his “vision for a vibrant rural America” would include “reasonable taxes … expanding access to international markets … rational regulation and energy independence” including support for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The paper does not go into details on farm bill policies, but says that Romney would push for the bill’s completion.

Farmers’ “peace of mind has been wiped away by a Congress stuck in gridlock and a president unwilling to show leadership on the issue,” the paper says. “Mitt Romney understands that leadership is not an option for a president; the job demands it, and the American people deserve it. As president, Romney will ensure that a strong farm bill is passed in a timely manner to give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need for their operations and their livelihoods.”

The paper also maintains that Obama has gone slow on trade and that Romney would move faster on trade negotiations.

The paper includes a forward written by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a former House member who is considered a likely candidate for Agriculture secretary if Romney is elected.

“Supporting our rural communities requires much more than just a good farm bill,” Johanns and Putnam wrote. “It also involves a fair tax code, a rational regulatory environment, access to markets around the world, and an embrace of our domestic energy resources.”

“These are the main pillars of Mitt Romney’s agricultural policy,” the two wrote. “In stark contrast, President Obama has demonstrated time and again that he is out of touch with farmers, ranchers, and other rural Americans.”

The Obama campaign responded with a telephone conference call to the national press corps and the release of a document comparing the Romney and Obama positions and performance on issues affecting rural America.

In the call, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said that Romney “told a series of falsehoods about the president’s plan for rural America.”

“Rural Americans know that the Romney-Ryan budget’s draconian cuts to agriculture would shred the farm safety net and undermine the economic security of rural America,” LaBolt said. “And folks in Iowa especially know that Romney talks a big game on energy independence, but that he’d protect Big Oil with wasteful taxpayer subsidies while gutting clean energy investments – especially wind energy and biofuels and the tens of thousands of jobs that it supports.”

Harkin said he had “tuned in” to Romney’s visit to Iowa and added, “It’s almost like he’s saying — He’s sort of like saying, ‘I’d like to copy President Obama in what he’s done for agriculture.’”

Harkin noted that farm incomes are “the highest ever,” that exports are at record levels, and that Romney has refused to support the production tax credit for wind energy, an industry that keeps 6,000 to 7,000 Iowans employed.

He also said that Romney is threatening a trade war with China that could have negative consequences for U.S. agricultural exports.

Miller, who now works for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said, “Gov. Romney is not calling on the Republicans in Congress to pass new legislation, and maybe that’s because his running mate, Congressman [Paul] Ryan [R-Wisc.], and his other Republican allies in the House leadership are opposed to a new farm bill and are balking it.”

“Possibly they’re trying to just dodge the issue altogether, wait until next year in the hope that they can pass a farm bill patterned after the budget proposal that Congressman Ryan managed to push through the House of Representatives that would weaken the safety net,” Miller said. “It would literally gut our natural resource conservation programs that benefit, not just farmers and the environment, but wildlife and those that believe in outdoor recreation and that want clean air and clean water for their families.”