Energy, Trade Big for Agriculture in State of Union Address

DC Dialogue

President Obama’s State of the Union address touches on need for improved energy policy and improvements in trade and infrastructure.

Published on: January 27, 2012

President George. W. Bush created the first huge surge in biofuel markets with his mention in his 2006 State of the Union Address of the nation being “addicted to oil.” Last week in his yearly address to Congress and the nation, President Barack Obama’s mention of building a new energy future continued the White House support for clean energy as well as added the need to invest more in infrastructure and trade.

Obama touted his goal he made two years ago of doubling U.S. exports over 5 years. He said with the agreements signed into law with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, the nation is “on track to meet that goal – ahead of schedule.”

The American Soybean Association encouraged the administration and Congress to redouble its efforts to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of export markets for American agricultural products. According to USDA, every billion dollars in agricultural exports creates an additional 8,000 domestic jobs.

“ASA hopes that the administration will help continue this progress with the expedited conclusion of negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership, and the prompt inclusion of Japan in the TPP, which will expand opportunities for increased U.S. meat, dairy, and exports to this affluent market,” said ASA president Steve Wellman.

Obama also announced the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries such as China. National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson praised the move. “Trade is a necessity for U.S. agriculture, but we must all play by the same rules. This group will be critical to farmers and ranchers, ensuring that they have a level playing field in marketing their products,” he said.


National Corn Growers Association chairman Bart Schott, responded, “The corn ethanol industry has proven that good government policy sends signals to the market place for producers to increase production and efficiencies. As family corn farmers have risen to the challenge to meet our nation’s energy needs, we are hopeful the direction the President outlined offers similar opportunities for others to expand our energy independence.”

Although not specifying support specifically for biofuels, Obama did state that oil companies have been subsidized for a century and “that’s long enough.” In his speech he said, “It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”

Ethanol groups have long advocated that Congress eliminate oil tax subsidies and level the playing field for biofuels.

Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America, an enzyme maker for cellulosic companies, said. “Innovations like advanced biofuels can play a major role in the President’s vision but we need steady policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard – and we look forward to working Congress to preserve them.”


Obama also added that, “Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.”

Wellman welcomed the president’s acknowledgement of the need for repairs on America’s interstates and highways, stating it “is both necessary and admirable,” but urged the administration not to forget the nation’s waterways.

“An investment in increased dredging and updates to the locks and dams along the Mississippi River is a critical down payment on the agriculture industry’s ability to move its product to market more economically and efficiently,” Wellman said. A recent study found that reducing drafts to 38’ along the Lower Mississippi River could reduce exports by 12.4% and estimated the total loss to the U.S. economy of the reduced dredging to $859.25 million in lost production.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    There have been many negative reactions to the President's address. But regardless of your political affiliations or personal likes or dislikes of the president, there was a lot of common sense and even more common ground in this address. We shouldn't have to wait for another year or next election to act on it. Tax reform, energy, security, infrastructure and jobs matter to all of us. So do we just sit on the sidelines entrenched in our partisan politics? Do we continue acting like back seat drivers and armchair quarterbacks? This entity that we call America consists of all the people who live here. It was created to be for the people, governed and guided by the people. As 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. generation Americans I believe we have become complacent with our situation, our rights, our opportunities and our obligations. We seems to have become a people that expects the government or someone else to provide for us and take responsibility for our well being. • Maybe we should spend a little less time obsessed with our football, sitcoms and celebrity scandals. • Maybe become engaged in doing something that will benefit our country and ourselves. • Maybe we should seek opportunities to make a better life for ourselves. • Maybe become part of the solution instead of complaining about the problems. Then on the other hand maybe it is just easier to sit around whining, complaining and demonstrating just how self absorbed we have become. The choice is truly ours.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Will our real President please stand up. Thats all I could think when I watched his speach. I can't figure out if he is that confused about what he is doing or playing the country for fools for his benefit. I honestly hope it's the first because I can swallow incapable but I can't take a liar. Naturally almost all he said in his (campaign) speach made obvious sense but have we not learned yet that his actions are the opposite of his talk. The man has burned the bridge of any possible understanding numerous times and please! please! please! lets all do the right thing in November regardless of what political party you favor.