Countdown to Election

Rural voters make up nearly one-fourth of the electorate voting body. Ag groups see the presidential election having a great impact on rural issues. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: Oct 20, 2004

The presidential race is expected to come down to a paper-thin margin. And the fate of the race rests in rural areas of this country.

Rural voters were one-fourth or 23% of the electorate vote in 2000. American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman says as independent businessmen and farmers, there's a lot at stake in this election.

AFBF conducted a Presidential Election Survey taken by President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry. Stallman says that although both support renewable fuels and farm programs, key differences exist within trade and tax policies.

While a whole list of issues determine the economic well-being of farmers, Stallman says the demand component is one of the most important. The administration is responsible for helping create opportunities to increase demand for U.S. crops through increasing market access, creating additional demand or increasing the use of new products.

Bush is very supportive of opening new markets, working both bilaterally and through the World Trade Organization (WTO) multilateral negotiations, Stallman says. Kerry on the other hand does not support the renewal of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), saying he wants to have a 120 review of all U.S. trade agreements and trade strategy. Stallman says the review could be difficult in creating credibility for future negotiations.

Kerry is also against the permanent repeal of the capital gains tax. Bush, on the other hand, has been a long-time advocate for ending what he sees as a hardship on families passing farms down to future generations. Stallman also says AFBF has some concerns with Kerry's record from a regulatory standpoint, saying he may be "less friendly in the regulatory environment."

There will be a budget reconciliation bill in 2005, despite who is elected. Stallman states in the past administrations haven't had near as much influence on spending, with Congress holding that prerogative pretty closely. The same will be true in 2005.

Cattlemen praise Bush's record

As a policy, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) does not endorse political candidates. However, for the first time ever the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) political action committee (PAC) endorsed a candidate-President Bush.

In a statement from Marden Wilber, California cattle producer and chairman of NCBA’s PAC, he outlined 5 reasons why cattle producers sided with President Bush.

NCBA believes Bush better understands the cattle industry with his leadership experience in Texas and the power of a healthy economic outlook depending on a healthy agricultural sector.

"Opposing candidate Sen. John Kerry has lived a highly urban existence, with minimal consideration given to the needs of agriculture. He said unequivocally that Congress should ’get rid‘ of the U.S. Department of Agriculture," Wilber says.

Wilber also expresses similar views as Stallman on tax and trade policies. In addition, Wilber points out that Kerry has voted against the president’s tax relief measures and has voted in favor of higher taxes 350 times. Kerry did not support permanent repeal of the Death Tax, voting at least 13 times against full repeal.

Cattlemen also see Bush as a supporter of ranching on private and public lands. Wilber's statement points out that Kerry was named an "Enemy of Private Property Rights" by the League of Private Property Voters. Kerry has plans to call for increased environmental and economic review for leasing public lands, increased bonding requirements for those who lease public lands, reinstatement of the protection of road less areas in our national forests, and phasing out of use of snowmobiles on public lands.

The candidates also differ on animal health issues. Kerry has called for legislation that curbs livestock antibiotic use. He has also questioned the food safety and inspection process in place to protect the U.S. consumers and animals against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Wilber says, "The Bush Administration is committed to working with producers and with our industry on efforts to better ensure the health of our cattle herd in the U.S. It is important to maintain the working relationship we have fostered."

To see NCBA's comparison chart, click HERE.