by: Wes Ishmael

Anyone could be forgiven for entertaining the notion that this year's presidential election makes no difference. Partisan politics within the democratic process has created such a binding of gears that it's hard to see what could make them move again short of blowing things up and starting over.

As H.L. Mencken, a famed American journalist, editor and social critic reportedly explained, “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

This reality may help explain why so many commentators gushed over the substantive nature of this year's first presidential debate though it consisted primarily of each candidate explaining where the other was wrong. Those assertions were supported by a litany of facts, that each viewer was well advised to verify for themselves.

Given the morass of democracy and so many moving parts, the person elected president may in fact matter little. But the policies supported and fostered by the president, the leadership proffered by him, matters incalculably.

As Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association pointed out in a recent edition of Beltway Audio, this election, “will define what will happen in the lame duck session of Congress and will frame priorities for the new Congress that begins in January.”

Pick a subject and you can find critical legislation in need of action. There's the new Farm Bill that has yet to be decided. There is a long list of tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year which remains in limbo. There are health care, trade agreements, foreign policy and the list goes on. Then there is the regulatory arena where more folks seem to be looking to enact laws in effect.

Where the Candidates Stand

Every four years, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address the issues that concern farmers and ranchers most. Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama spelled out their agriculture positions for AFBF in a questionnaire in September. You can find the questions and responses in their entirety at php?action=legislative.2012presidentialQuestionnaire

Here's a sampling.

In response to EPA water regulations increasingly encroaching on state authority…

Obama: “…there is a lot of misinformation out there about changes to clean water standards. We are not going to be applying standards to waters that have not been historically protected. And all existing exemptions for agricultural discharges and waters are going to stay in place. I believe that we can work together to safeguard the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and those that support farming and economic growth…”

Romney: “…Laws should promote a rational approach to regulation that takes cost into account. Regulations should be carefully crafted to support rather than impede development. Repetitive reviews and strategic lawsuits should not be allowed to endlessly delay progress or force the government into imposing rules behind closed doors that it would not approve in public…”

Describing the policy and risk management tools they would use to ensure that agriculture is a profitable, competitive and viable industry…

Obama: “…I understand the need for a strong farm safety net. That's why I increased the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help over 590,000 farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business after natural disasters and crop loss. My administration expanded farm credit to help more than 100,000 farmers struggling during the financial crisis to keep their family farms and provide for their families…”

Romney: “…On the broader question of farm programs, we must be cognizant that our agricultural producers are competing with other nations around the world. Other nations subsidize their farmers, so we must be careful not to unilaterally change our policies in a way that would disadvantage agriculture here in our country. In addition, we want to make sure that we don't ever find ourselves in a circumstance where we depend on foreign nations for our food the way we do with energy. Ultimately, it is in everyone's interest to achieve a level playing field on which American farmers can compete…”

Responding to priorities for reforming the tax code…

Obama: “…The tax code has become increasingly complicated and unfair. While many tax incentives serve important purposes, taken together the tax expenditures in the law are inefficient, unfair, duplicative, or even unnecessary. That's why I'm calling for comprehensive tax reform…”

Romney: “…We must pass fundamental tax reform that lowers tax rates, broadens the base, achieves revenue neutrality, and maintains the progressivity of the tax code…”

On why farmers and ranchers should choose them as the next president…

Obama: “…I am committed to building the foundation for a renewed rural economy so that future generations can enjoy the way of life in rural America. I am building a rural economy built to last – one focused on reclaiming the security of the rural middle class by growing products that the rest of the world buys, and restoring the basic values of hard work and fair play that made our country great. Farmers and ranchers should vote for me because I am the only candidate that is committed to strengthening the farm safety net, strengthening rural economic growth, and supporting rural investments in clean energy…”

Romney: “…As the breadth of your questions indicate here, American agriculture needs relief from the Obama Administration's crushing onslaught of unnecessary regulations; a commonsense energy policy that develops our resources right here at home; a renewed focus on opening new markets; and a pro-growth tax policy that encourages investment and recognizes that death should not be a taxable event. On day one of my administration, farmers and ranchers would have something they've lacked over the past several years – an advocate…

“…Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of America and play a critical role in ensuring Americans across the country have access to safe and affordable food. The fruit of your labor nourishes the world, and I admire your hard work in harvesting our country's bountiful resources. I also admire our farmers and ranchers for the critical role you play in the health of our economy, employing millions of Americans…”

Romney issued a white paper October 9, Agricultural Prosperity, Mitt Romney's Vision for a Vibrant Rural America. In it, he offers a four-point agenda: “Implement effective tax policies to support family farms and strong agribusiness; pursue trade policies that expand upon the success of the agriculture sector, not limit it; create a regulatory environment that is commonsense and cost-effective; and achieve energy independence on this continent by 2020.”

“We already ask our farmers and ranchers to cope with natural disasters,” Romney says. “They should not also have to battle a man-made disaster of taxes and regulations from Washington. Our economic recovery must also be a rural recovery, and my plan for a stronger middle class will ensure that our agricultural sector grows and thrives.”

I looked for a white paper from the Obama campaign and couldn't find one.

Vote November 6

My Uncle Tom came through the Great Depression and saw both World Wars. That may be why he believed so adamantly that you never criticized the president of the United States, no matter how much or how little you agreed with him.

That might also help explain why Uncle Tom never applied for crop subsidies in all the years he farmed and ran cattle in Kansas. He was a grand old gentleman who believed you worked hard, helped those less fortunate and went about your business.

Unfortunately, the only way democracy truly works is when everyone affected sees it as their business and becomes part of the process.

Vote November 6. As important, remain part of the process after the election.

Don't forget to BOOKMARK  
Cattle Today Online!