President Obama Sets Energy, Climate Goals

Farm groups reflect on Tuesday's State of the Union address

Published on: Feb 13, 2013

Farm groups took note of President Barack Obama's Tuesday State of the Union address, gathering insight to the President's goals on education, energy, climate change and trade.

With a lead-off on the elephant in the room – the national budget – Obama pledged tax reform and spending reductions, leading farm groups to recall last year's failed Farm Bill plan.

"Soybean farmers remain committed, along with the entire agriculture community, to bearing our share of the budgetary responsibility, provided that cuts to agricultural programs are proportionate to those programs benefiting other industries," American Soybean Association President Danny Murphy said in a statement following the address.

President Barack Obama speaks at a Chicago rally early last year. (Maxhphoto/
President Barack Obama speaks at a Chicago rally early last year. (Maxhphoto/

"We remind the president that the agriculture community came together to propose more than $23 billion in voluntary cuts within a comprehensive, five-year farm bill, which was passed by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees as well as the full Senate, yet did not see an opportunity for a vote on the House floor," Murphy said.

Energy, climate change

Connecting energy reform to climate change and building on a recent USDA awareness push, the President multiple times spoke of a nation less-dependent on foreign oil, pointing to U.S. grown and developed energy sources. Farm and energy groups welcomed the President's commitment, noting that framework for renewable fuel production is already in place.

"The biofuels industry is already working for the American people, and with a renewed emphasis on sustainable biofuels, our industry will continue to create good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced," said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, echoing the sentiments of the National Biodiesel Board and other farm groups. "[The industry will] revitalize our economy, drive cutting edge research and investment, as well as provide consumers with a choice and savings at the pump."

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson pointed out that many farmers are strong contributors to the renewables movement, growing feedstocks for biorefineries and harnessing wind and sun for use on their operations.

Obama's plan for renewable energy, including biodiesel from soy, the American Soybean Association says, is supplemented with his "Fix-It-First" plan, an effort to improve transportation infrastructure.

Trade, education also targeted for reform

Obama also addressed new plans for trade and education improvement, receiving support from the ASA and NFU, respectively.

The newest plans for trade include support of continuing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a launch of talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership with the EU.

ASA welcomed TPP talks and the possibility of an EU agreement, noting optimism that the talks will "take into account the unique nature of agricultural trade and provide solutions to many of the barriers that soybeans and other American agricultural exports face in the European marketplace."

The President Tuesday night highlighted another reform plan -- this one for education, focusing on high school curriculum concentrated in technology, science and engineering. Additionally, he highlighted a model already finding success in New York – a high school that marries secondary education with an associate's degree from a local college.

National Farmers Union praised the effort, bringing rural schools into the equation.

"No one is more in need of 'high-tech schools' and 'high-speed Internet' than our rural students and communities. Any solution that tackles our education and technology challenges must address the needs of rural America."

Overall, farm groups were supportive of the President's goals as presented Tuesday, but ASA was disappointed that agriculture wasn't directly mentioned.

"We believe that an opportunity was missed to recognize the contributions of the agriculture community to so many of these issues," ASA's Murphy said. "Our farmers contribute to innovative renewable energy solutions, expanded and robust trade partnership and more than 23 million jobs in a time when they are sorely needed."