Candidates differ on ag subsidies

 

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Less than two weeks are left before Election Day. Both Republican nominee Sen. John McCain and Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama have a long learning curve when it comes to agriculture.

McCain has never before voted in favor of a farm bill and wants to reform the crop insurance program and countercyclical and direct payments. He supports disaster programs and risk management measures.

But on his threats of actually changing farm programs, McCain's chances are slim. Reopening the farm bill could be detrimental, and hardly fought by agricultural groups. In addition, it would be difficult for him to be able to pass anything through a Democrat-controlled Congress. Just look at how successful President Bush was in instituting change in this year's farm bill.

Part of McCain's call for changing Washington is ending all earmarks and agriculture gets its share of earmarks.

Obama on the other hand leans more towards greater government intervention and oversight. He supports traditional farm programs, crop insurance and disaster assistance.

Focus On AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES

McCain: McCain says he supports a risk management program for farmers. However, he does not support the current model of legislating target prices for counter-cyclical payments because it "does little to help farmers in a marketplace where the cost of inputs exceed the target price schedules." He also opposes "subsidies that distort markets, artificially raise prices for consumers, and interfere with America's ability to negotiate with our international trading partners to the detriment of the entire agriculture community."

Obama: Obama supports "a robust safety net that targets assistance appropriately and provides farmers with risk mitigation tools that protect them from weather and market conditions that are beyond their control. This includes traditional farm programs, crop insurance, and disaster assistance."

Bottom line: McCain has consistently voted against the farm bill, stating it is the wrong way to provide a safety net for today's farmers. He wants to encourage the market to do the work, while moving away from direct payments and the current crop insurance program. Obama on the other hand said he was "proud to support the 2008 Farm Bill" and both the permanent disaster program and ad hoc disaster assistance farmers have needed. The farm bill is written, but as shown by the Bush administration, it can have significant influence on how the law is implemented.

For more on McCain's plan for agriculture, click here.

For more on Obama's plan for agriculture, click here.

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