As they do every four years, the political parties have released their platforms on agriculture. And as those of us with an interest in farming and landownership do every four years, we scour these papers to see if there is anything that might impact how we do business. Below is the most recent synopsis on how those in Washington plan on helping us in the future. Feel free to smile, smirk, or grimace as you read along!
Democratic Plank: Investing in Rural America
We will work to build a stronger rural and agricultural economy. Democrats will increase funding to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers, with particular attention given to promoting environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. We will encourage programs to protect and enhance family farms, a cherished way of life for millions of Americans. We will expand local food markets and regional food systems and provide a focused safety net to assist family operations that need support during challenging times. And we will promote clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship of our natural resources, while expanding opportunities in rural communities across America. While the EPA’s new Agricultural Worker Protection Standard goes a long way to protect farm workers from harmful pesticides and herbicides, we recognize there is a lot more we can do. The Democratic Party supports stronger agricultural worker protections including regulation of work hours, elimination of child labor, ensuring adequate housing for migrant workers, and sanitary facilities in the field.
Democrats will spur investment to power the rural economy. We support strengthening rural water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure to make rural businesses more competitive. We will expand access to equity capital for businesses and expand the New Markets Tax Credit to better serve rural small businesses. We will promote collaborative stewardship of our natural resources, while developing clean fuels that will grow our economy, lower our energy bills, combat climate change, and make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. We will provide assistance to producers who conserve and improve natural resources on their farms and double loan guarantees that support the bio-based economy’s dynamic growth.
The Republican Agricultural Platform
Agricultural production and exports are central to the Republican agenda for jobs, growth, expanded trade, and prosperity. Because our farmers and ranchers care for the land, the United States does not depend on foreign imports for sustenance. Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any other nation. On average, one American farm produces enough food to feed 155 people. No other nation has been as generous with food aid to the needy. We have good reason to celebrate our domestic security in food.
Under a Republican president, America’s trade negotiators will insist that our global trading partners adhere to science-based standards with regard to food and health regulations.
We must also ensure that domestic policies do not compromise our global competitiveness through overregulation and undue interference in the marketplace. There is growing recognition that federal dairy policies, crafted during the Great Depression, are increasingly an impediment to the ability of our dairy producers to meet the expected doubling in global demand coming by 2030.
We oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, which has proven to be safe, healthy, and a literal life-saver for millions in the developing world.
Farmers and ranchers are among this country’s leading conservationists. Modern farm practices and technologies, supported by programs from the Department of Agriculture, have led to reduced erosion, improved water and air quality, increased wildlife habitat, all the while maintaining improved agricultural yields. This stewardship of the land benefits everyone, and we remain committed to conservation policies based on the preservation, not the restriction, of working lands. For this reason, ranching on public lands must be fostered, developed, and encouraged. This includes providing for an abundant water supply for America’s farmers, ranchers, and their communities.
Farming and ranching remain high-risk endeavors, and they cannot be isolated from market forces. No segment of agriculture can expect treatment so favorable that it seriously disadvantages workers in other trades. Federal programs to assist farmers in managing risk must be as cost-effective as they are functional, offering tools that can improve producers’ ability to operate when times are tough while remaining affordable to the taxpayers.
Republicans are dedicated to leading this country forward, which includes getting things done on time, including the next Farm Bill.
The Democrats play politics with farm security. Much of the Democrats’ delay had nothing to do with the vital role of American agriculture. It concerned their efforts to expand welfare through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which now comprises more than 70 percent of all farm bill spending. During the last eight years of a Democratic Administration, nearly all the work requirements for able-bodied adults, instituted by our landmark welfare reform of 1996, have been removed. We will restore those provisions and, to correct a mistake made when the Food Stamp program was first created in 1964, separate the administration of SNAP from the Department of Agriculture.