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Agriculture Barely Mentioned in GOP Debate, But Energy and Climate Were Key Topics

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Farmers were mentioned just twice in Wednesday night's GOP debate, both times by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Republican candidates did talk about their plans for the economy, which focused heavily on increasing fossil fuel production. (DTN image from video screenshot)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers came up just two times in the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, both times mentioned by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

When talking about energy security, Burgum pointed out China is importing oil from Russia and said, "Every farmer in this country would like to buy diesel 20% off just like they are buying in China."

Burgum was making the point, "Russia has become China's gas station."

Later in the debate in talking about crime, Burgum brought up small towns and said, "If a farmer gets sick, everybody helps them; (they) get together to get the crop out."


Referring to "Bidenomics," Fox News showed clips of people criticizing inflation and higher interest rates. Republicans say 65% of the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, "Our country is in decline. This decline is not inevitable. It's a choice. We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline."

Lower gas prices - "We're going to open up all energy production. We're going to be dominant for energy production in this country."

Yet, U.S. crude oil production is on pace to average a record 12.76 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration, topping 2019's record output of 12.3 million barrels per day.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said inflation under Biden has cut American's average spending value by $10,000. Yet the Fox hosts pointed out Scott also helped pass huge spending bills under the Trump administration to deal with COVID-19.

"We've seen inflation explode, which led to 12 Federal Reserve increases that's devastating homebuyers today," Scott said.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley criticized her GOP colleagues on the spending front, saying they aren't telling the American people that they did this as well, pointing to the COVID spending bills that added $7.8 trillion to the national debt.

"Our Republicans did this to us too," she said, adding "They need to stop the spending, they need to stop the borrowing."

All voted to raise the debt -- Donald Trump added $8 trillion to the debt. "Our kids are never going to forgive us for that."

That left former Vice President Mike Pence to defend the spending in the Trump administration, saying they "rebuilt the military, revived the economy, and appointed three conservatives" to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I think unquestionably, I'm the best prepared, the most tested, the most qualified and proven conservative in this race," Pence said.


Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old newcomer who is rising in the GOP polls, said he would "drill, frack, burn coal and embrace nuclear" as president. He said, "toxic regulations" on energy are "acting like a wet blanket on this economy."

Ramaswamy drew fire from Pence, Haley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over his inexperience and his opposition to supporting Ukraine in the war against Russia. Pence said, "Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don't need to bring in a rookie. We don't need to bring in people without any experience."

Fox moderators pointed out devastating national disasters and asked the eight GOP candidates to raise their hands if human behavior is causing climate change. None raised their hands. DeSantis chimed in. "We're not schoolchildren. Let's have the debate."

DeSantis criticized Biden saying he "Was on the beach while those people were suffering" in Hawaii. He said a leader immediately activates federal resources during a disaster.

Ramaswamy then said, "The climate change agenda is a hoax, and we have to declare that it is."

He again added, "The anti-carbon agenda is a wet blanket on our economy."

Christie then compared Vivak to artificial intelligence responses on "Chat GPT," and called Ramaswamy "the same type of amateur as Barack Obama."

Haley said Republicans care about clean air and clean water, but added, "We need to start telling China and India they have to lower their emissions," Haley said.

Republicans agreed it did not make sense for the U.S. to rely on China for the minerals needed to make batteries for electric vehicles.

Scott added the U.S. has cut its carbon footprint while China and India have increased theirs. "Why would we put ourselves at a disadvantage, devastating our own economy? Let's bring our jobs home," Scott said.


The issues of exports and labor shortages were not mentioned, but candidates continually said that they would get tough on control of the Southern border and on the U.S. relationship with China.

Former President Donald Trump, who leads all the other Republican candidates in the polls, did not participate in the debate. The other candidates, who sparred over abortion and education issues, generally tried to avoid criticizing him.

Christie said that someone has to stop "normalizing" Trump's behavior. "The conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States."

Christie, Pence and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson drew boos when they each criticized Trump's actions over the 2020 election.


While not at the debate, Trump also is making news by planning for a 10% tariff on all imports coming into the U.S. The Washington Post said Trump described it as creating "a ring around the U.S. economy." Trump's advisors have been discussing the rate level that he would impose.

On Fox Business, Trump said he would set a 10% tariff for all countries. "When companies come in and dump their products in the United States, they should pay, automatically, let's say a 10% tax ... I do like the 10% for everybody."

That issue did not come up in Wednesday's debate.

DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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