Ag Policy Blog

Ag Action in the Iowa Caucuses

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent

With Washington essentially closed down for the next few days due to the blizzard, the agricultural focus is shifting this week to the campaigning before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

The impact of the presidential candidates’ views on the Renewable Fuel Standard remains the top agricultural issue in Iowa, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have released papers on their broader views on agriculture.

? Bernie 2016 — On the Issues: Improving the Rural Economy…

? Hillary Clinton: A Champion for Rural America…

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, showed up at a Saturday campaign event for Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who is a supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The press highlighted that Grassley's move may reflect a willingness of establishment Republicans to embrace Trump, particularly if Trump's candidacy could protect the House and Senate GOP majorities. "In Surprise Showing, Iowa’s Senior Senator Appears at Donald Trump Rally"…

The Washington Post — "With subtle Chuck Grassley embrace, signs of growing cooperating between Trump and GOP establishment"…

The renewable fuels industry issued a statement thanking Republican Gov. Terry Branstad for urging voters not to support Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the strongest opponents of the RFS.

“America’s Renewable Future will continue to stand up for Iowa voters and hold presidential candidates responsible for their position on the RFS,” said America’s Renewable Future senior adviser Derek Eadon.

“Gov. Branstad joins Iowa farmers, renewable fuel leaders, and our elected officials in standing with us to ensure our presidential candidates know the benefits of and are committed to supporting the RFS. It’s a testament to the importance of this issue to Iowans.”

The statement followed a letter that the ethanol industry sent to Iowans urging them to attend the caucuses and vote for a pro-RFS candidate.

? America’s Renewable Future — Letter to Iowans on Renewable Fuel Standard…

Groups Seek to Push Different Ag-Food Agendas

At least two coalitions are trying to get the presidential candidates’ attention for their food and agricultural agendas before the caucuses.

AGree, the foundation-financed effort on long-term agricultural policy, has issued a “call to action” to try to convince the candidates to strengthen the agricultural sector.

“Many people don’t realize the degree to which food and agricultural policies shape our nation,” said Dan Glickman, the former Kansas House member and Agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, in a news release. Glickman is one of the four co-chairs of AGree.

“Farmers and ranchers and the food and agriculture supply chain from ‘farm to fork’ contribute roughly 5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employ more than 12 million people, yet they face challenges with market volatility, drought, floods, disease, food safety and a reliable labor supply. Policy changes are urgently needed to overcome these challenges,” Glickman said.

“Food and agriculture-related businesses contributed $878 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2013, and it’s critical to enact policy changes that will enable agriculture to continue to drive innovation, allow access to a stable workforce, protect the environment and empower future generations to provide safe, nutritious, affordable food,” said Jim Moseley, a former Agriculture deputy secretary in the George W. Bush administration who is also an AGree co-chair.

“Improving health and nutrition is a top priority for many American families and doing so can help reduce healthcare costs,” said Kathleen Merrigan, the first Agriculture deputy secretary in the Obama administration and another AGree co-chair.

“More than 35% of American adults are obese, costing between $147 billion to $210 billion in health care costs annually. Food and agricultural policy reform can help to address these challenges,” Merrigan said.

“AGree has forged unprecedented common ground between farmers and ranchers, companies, researchers, environmentalists, doctors and nutritionists and other experts who understand the interconnected nature of food and agriculture systems globally,” said Emmy Simmons, a former U.S. Agency for International Development assistant administrator who is the fourth AGree cochair.

“We are committed to finding solutions and stand ready to serve as a resource to candidates interested in spurring transformative change.”

AGree’s agenda includes increasing support for agricultural research, immigration reform, aid to beginning farmers, balancing conservation with risk management policies and production incentives, improving the health of Americans and addressing world hunger through government programs.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Mark Bittman, the former New York Times columnist now with the meal delivery service Purple Carrot, traveled to Des Moines last week to talk to the candidates’ staff about changing the U.S. agricultural system “so that every American has equal access to healthy, affordable food; the agricultural and food system is fair to workers; and farmers are incentivized to reduce harmful agricultural practices,” they said in a news release.

Salvador and Bittman said in a news release that in the first year of office a president could:

? “Commit to ensuring all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food.

? Stop companies from marketing junk food to kids and end subsidies that support processed junk food.

? Re-align agricultural subsidies to match the government’s fruit and vegetable recommendations, and expand incentives for sustainable farming practices.

? Immediately ban the practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals that are not sick, as this contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans.”

Salvador and Bittman said they represent “a growing coalition of community groups, farmers, parents and scientists.”


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Raymond Simpkins
1/26/2016 | 7:13 AM CST
Best thing to happen to this country in awhile! Having the government shut down I mean. No waste for a couple of days. Sounds like the people of AGree have a hippy mentality in their thinking of how gov. can help ag. What we need is less government help. AGree wants everyone to be skinny that means less demand for food.