Romney Resonating with Rural Voters on Farm Issues

DC Dialogue

Side-by-side comparisons offer look at how presidential candidates stack up on farm bill, trade, RFS and other issues important to farmers.

Published on: October 25, 2012

Each candidate continues to make their case on rural issues, whether on the campaign trail or through responses to groups. Most of the responses are not big surprises, and for the most part, each say they support trade, small businesses, farm bill, renewable fuels and helping create an environment that allows farmers to prosper.

Leading agricultural groups have poised the same questions to each presidential camp with insights given to the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, and American Soybean Association. (Read a concise breakdown of the issues in related blog post.)

The biggest difference for the two candidates is how each would handle the economy in general and how farmers and agriculture in general fit within their approach. (To hear more about the how the candidates stack up, listen to an interview I did earlier this month.)

The latest poll from the Center for Rural Strategies showed a continued decline in President Barack Obama's confidence on key issues. Gov. Mitt Romney had a 30-point lead on the question of who would do the best job of "improving the economy," up from his 17-point lead last month.

Likely from the first debate influence, Romney surged ahead in his advantage of who rural voters thought would do a better job of saving Medicare and Social Security, with 62% of voters siding with Romney while just 15% favor Obama. In September, Romney had only a 9% advantage on this issue.

Romney was in Iowa Oct. 9 and shared key points from a new white paper released by his campaign that outlines his vision for a vibrant rural America.

Romney said he wants to lower the tax rate from 35% to 28%. Romney also said the death tax should be killed. "You paid for that farm once. You shouldn't have to pay for it again," he said.

statement from Obama noted that Romney‘s plan to repeal the estate tax would cost more than $150 billion over the next decade.

In a response to a survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation, Obama said his tax proposal would "return the top tax rate on estates to 45% and reinstate the $7 million per-couple estate tax exemption, which exempts all but the wealthiest 3 in 1,000 decedents from the tax, but still helps us reduce the deficit. Independent experts estimate that under this plan, only 60 small farm and business estates in the entire country would owe any estate tax in 2013," he said.

In his speech Romney took aim at Obama's trade accomplishments, noting that even as China and European nations have put together some 44 different agreements, Obama had done nothing new beyond what was ready for him when he came to office.

The white paper noted Romney plans to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership and pursue new agreements, focusing particularly on promising markets in Latin America. He will also form what he calls the Reagan Economic Zone, a broader coalition of nations impatient with the lack of progress at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and committed to moving ahead with free trade on their own. Romney also said he would devote time to getting trade promotion authority, which would allow the administration to better negotiate agreements.

Romney took aim at several of the regulations which have surfaced during the Obama administration ranging from the youth labor laws to EPA flyovers in his speech. "You have to have regulation. You need regulation for markets to work effectively. But I'm going to cut back on regulation. I'm going to put a cap on regulation, and any new major regulation will have to be approved by Congress," he said.

Ethanol groups also praised Romney's support for the Renewable Fuels Standard. Obama has also supported maintaining the RFS.

On the farm bill, Romney said "the president has to exert the kind of presidential leadership it takes to get the House and the Senate together and actually pass a farm bill. That's something I will devote my time to, to make sure that we get that bill passed so farmers know what they can expect."

Both candidates voiced support for biotechnology. "And the key to building upon America’s agriculture exports of more than $137 billion lies in developing even more innovative products," Obama said in responses to ASA. "That is why my administration is working to streamline the regulatory process, reducing costs and reducing the time for review for new inventions, while still ensuring that crops are fully reviewed to ensure health and environmental safety. And we are removing trade barriers so that more of our farmers’ products are being sold around the world."

On trade, Romney said he wants to make the pursuit of new bilateral and regional trade agreements a high priority and "will appoint a Secretary of Agriculture and a U.S Trade Representative who understand the importance of agricultural trade and will vigorously pursue trade expansion."

Both expressed a commitment for further ag research funding. Obama noted he has proposed a goal as a country to invest more than 3% of GDP in public and private research and development. Romney added his administration would "focus on high-priority agriculture research – the so-called seed corn for the future – in order to build upon past success and ensure future prosperity."

On transportation and infrastructure Obama said he knows it is in "need of attention" and said restoring America's infrastructure "is on top of my administration's efforts to improve safety across all forms of transportation and to make progress on transportation alternatives as we have done during the last three years."

Romney said his administration would "support much needed investment in critical infrastructure to help keep our U.S. agriculture transportation system the most efficient in the world."