Ag Policy Blog

Some Agricultural Views from Some Democratic Presidential Candidates

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talks to a group of more than 100 family farm activists on Saturday about the way government supports large corporations over average people and small businesses such as farms. Warren later took part in a forum on rural issues at Buena Vista University.

Five candidates at one political event just might be too much sometimes.

As each of five Democrats running for president spoke on stage Saturday at Buena Vista University, another candidate would be holding a press gaggle. So it was difficult to catch everything each candidate had to say in the forum because you were also standing in the hallway with another candidate listening to him or her take questions.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan all took questions at the Heartland Forum in consecutive order on stage. These candidates, like at least 11 others running in the Democratic primary, are all looking for air time.

Castro, also former mayor of San Antonio, asked a CNN reporter a couple of times during a press gaggle when might he get a town-hall forum to talk to the CNN audience. Other candidates were asked by reporters about their views about former Vice President Joe Biden kissing a woman in 2014, who now claims the kiss was uncomfortable. Castro and Warren were asked how they compete with the campaign buzz of former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke.

And it was supposed to be a forum about rural issues.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, also Iowa's former governor, told the crowd beforehand he was looking for a candidate who "can passionately express a vision for rural America that is hopeful," noting rural America is a critically important place for growing our food and our energy.

At the end of it, Vilsack said candidates had largely failed. Candidates largely talked about programs that require congressional action for the most part. They didn't talk a vision that would be articulated from the White House to every cabinet and through the federal government, he said.

"That creates the political climate and political support for getting policies that you need to advance your vision through the process," Vilsack said.

He added, "You have got to create an economy that values the natural resource advantages that we have in rural America."

Partially because the forum was co-sponsored by the Open Markets Institute, there was a lot of focus from candidates about tougher, reformed antitrust actions, including antitrust actions against "Big Agriculture." Warren, for instance, said she would break up the Bayer-Monsanto merger.

"Break up the agribusinesses so they are wiping out competition," Warren said. "Also break up so they don't have that political power. We have a Washington that kowtows to companies with power and influence."

Warren added, "It's about who government works for. We're dealing with concentration such as big agriculture."

When asked about foreign ownership of farm land, Warren said she would block that from happening. Not only is it a threat to farmers, "It creates a threat to the safety and defense of the United States of America,"

Warren also touched on her "wealth tax." Under her plan, the top 1% of American would pay a 2% tax on wealth they have in excess of $50 million. That tax would fund universal child care and still have $2 trillion level over for other funding measures.

"For far too long we have not gotten out and made the case in not investing in the top, but investing in the rest of rural America," Warren said.

DTN asked Warren what makes her the best candidate for American farmers. "Because I know what's broken and what we need to do to fix it and I have the courage to do it," she said. "(There's) way too much concentration in agribusiness and they have sucked out the profits from farming and left all the risks with farmers. The consequence of that is competition has broken down throughout the industry."

The U.S. has strong antitrust laws, Warren said, but does not have the courage to enforce them. She then reiterated the Bayer-Monsanto merger was disastrous for farmers.

On disaster aid for farmers, Warren said, "We have to treat this crisis seriously. That means we have got to be able to offer help that is meaningful now." Warren added, "Farmers are not going to be able to plant their fields because the land is just too soaked."

But she noted there is a conflict in the disaster bill over more funding for Puerto Rico. Warren said, "We have got to stand with all of our citizens in a disaster."

Klobuchar told reporters she has an advantage talking to Iowans being from the Midwest. During the forum, she joked she could see Iowa from her back door. Klobuchar noted to the press that she was a lead on a vaccine bank for livestock in the 2018 farm bill. "People here in Iowa know what happened with avian flu an H1N1," she said. "And we got some big money started to get a vaccine bank so we're better prepared for the next animal disease that could really hit our farmers."

Klobuchar added it's helpful she can talk about biofuels, though no questions about biofuels were raised at the forum. "Biofuels are now 10% of our fuel supply. They are big in Minnesota, they are big in Iowa, and that's the Renewable Fuels Standard." She said the Trump Administration has tried to dismantle the RFS through refinery exemptions that started under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Klobuchar said she took on that issue with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

"So when I look at the issues I can talk about with people in Iowa, I can go to a pretty granular basis," Klobuchar said.

On climate change, Klobuchar said she would get back into the Paris Climate Agreement and bring back the Obama Administration's Clean Power rules, as well as reestablish higher fuel mileage standards. She also stressed she would "keep the conservation provisions in that farm bill strong."

DTN asked Klobuchar how do Democrats get farmers to listen to them on climate when all they hear or see is a freshman congresswoman from New York City trying to explain how we feed cattle.

"I think you get their attention when their farm that's two-and-a-half miles away from a river gets flooded, you get their attention," she said. "When you have got wildfires that are raging in the northern part of this country, or in places like Arizona and firefighters get killed, you get their attention. And I think it's really important to have a voice on climate change that is about the entire country."

Klobuchar said one of the ways people haven't been talking about climate change is economics. "How about this, a 50% increase in homeowners insurance nationally. That's a big economic hit. Farmers losing their crops. That's a big economic hit. Tornadoes and weird weather events hitting, and the military predicting this. Airbases getting torn up, these things are going to matter to people."

Klobuchar also pointed to her Chapter 12 bankruptcy bill, saying she put provisions in in the bankruptcy bill "that allow you to keep your farm when you are in bankruptcy."

Get help to farm country. "We have to treat this crisis seriously. That means we have got to be able to offer help that is meaningful now."

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN Five candidates at one political event just might be too much sometimes.
As each of five Democrats running for president spoke on stage Saturday at Buena Vista University, another candidate would be holding a press gaggle. So it was difficult to catch everything each candidate had to say in the forum because you were also standing in the hallway with another candidate listening to him or her take questions.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan all took questions at the Heartland Forum in consecutive order on stage. These candidates, like at least 11 others running in the Democratic primary, are all looking for air time.
Castro, also former mayor of San Antonio, asked a CNN reporter a couple of times during a press gaggle when might he get a town-hall forum to talk to the CNN audience. Other candidates were asked by reporters about their views about former Vice President Joe Biden kissing a woman in 2014, who now claims the kiss was uncomfortable. Castro and Warren were asked how they compete with the campaign buzz of former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke.
And it was supposed to be a forum about rural issues.
Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, also Iowa's former governor, told the crowd beforehand he was looking for a candidate who "can passionately express a vision for rural America that is hopeful," noting rural America is a critically important place for growing our food and our energy.
At the end of it, Vilsack said candidates had largely failed. Candidates largely talked about programs that require congressional action for the most part. They didn't talk a vision that would be articulated from the White House to every cabinet and through the federal government, he said.
"That creates the political climate and political support for getting policies that you need to advance your vision through the process," Vilsack said.
He added, "You have got to create an economy that values the natural resource advantages that we have in rural America."
Partially because the forum was co-sponsored by the Open Markets Institute, there was a lot of focus from candidates about tougher, reformed antitrust actions, including antitrust actions against "Big Agriculture." Warren, for instance, said she would break up the Bayer-Monsanto merger.
"Break up the agribusinesses so they are wiping out competition," Warren said. "Also break up so they don't have that political power. We have a Washington that kowtows to companies with power and influence."
Warren added, "It's about who government works for. We're dealing with concentration such as big agriculture."
When asked about foreign ownership of farm land, Warren said she would block that from happening. Not only is it a threat to farmers, "It creates a threat to the safety and defense of the United States of America,"
Warren also touched on her "wealth tax." Under her plan, the top 1% of American would pay a 2% tax on wealth they have in excess of $50 million. That tax would fund universal child care and still have $2 trillion level over for other funding measures.
"For far too long we have not gotten out and made the case in not investing in the top, but investing in the rest of rural America," Warren said.
DTN asked Warren what makes her the best candidate for American farmers. "Because I know what's broken and what we need to do to fix it and I have the courage to do it," she said. "(There's) way too much concentration in agribusiness and they have sucked out the profits from farming and left all the risks with farmers. The consequence of that is competition has broken down throughout the industry."
The U.S. has strong antitrust laws, Warren said, but does not have the courage to enforce them. She then reiterated the Bayer-Monsanto merger was disastrous for farmers.
On disaster aid for farmers, Warren said, "We have to treat this crisis seriously. That means we have got to be able to offer help that is meaningful now." Warren added, "Farmers are not going to be able to plant their fields because the land is just too soaked."
But she noted there is a conflict in the disaster bill over more funding for Puerto Rico. Warren said, "We have got to stand with all of our citizens in a disaster."
Klobuchar told reporters she has an advantage talking to Iowans being from the Midwest. During the forum, she joked she could see Iowa from her back door. Klobuchar noted to the press that she was a lead on a vaccine bank for livestock in the 2018 farm bill. "People here in Iowa know what happened with avian flu an H1N1," she said. "And we got some big money started to get a vaccine bank so we're better prepared for the next animal disease that could really hit our farmers."
Klobuchar added it's helpful she can talk about biofuels, though no questions about biofuels were raised at the forum. "Biofuels are now 10% of our fuel supply. They are big in Minnesota, they are big in Iowa, and that's the Renewable Fuels Standard." She said the Trump Administration has tried to dismantle the RFS through refinery exemptions that started under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Klobuchar said she took on that issue with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
"So when I look at the issues I can talk about with people in Iowa, I can go to a pretty granular basis," Klobuchar said.
On climate change, Klobuchar said she would get back into the Paris Climate Agreement and bring back the Obama Administration's Clean Power rules, as well as reestablish higher fuel mileage standards. She also stressed she would "keep the conservation provisions in that farm bill strong."
DTN asked Klobuchar how do Democrats get farmers to listen to them on climate when all they hear or see is a freshman congresswoman from New York City trying to explain how we feed cattle.
"I think you get their attention when their farm that's two-and-a-half miles away from a river gets flooded, you get their attention," she said. "When you have got wildfires that are raging in the northern part of this country, or in places like Arizona and firefighters get killed, you get their attention. And I think it's really important to have a voice on climate change that is about the entire country."
Klobuchar said one of the ways people haven't been talking about climate change is economics. "How about this, a 50% increase in homeowners insurance nationally. That's a big economic hit. Farmers losing their crops. That's a big economic hit. Tornadoes and weird weather events hitting, and the military predicting this. Airbases getting torn up, these things are going to matter to people."
Klobuchar also pointed to her Chapter 12 bankruptcy bill, saying she put provisions in in the bankruptcy bill "that allow you to keep your farm when you are in bankruptcy."
Get help to farm country. "We have to treat this crisis seriously. That means we have got to be able to offer help that is meaningful now."

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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