President Obama: Good for agriculture?

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The Presidential election was the hot topic around the water cooler this morning, and no wonder — if ever we're living in historic times, this is it. Barack Obama came from nowhere and ran a flawless campaign topped off with incredible charisma and speechmaking that won over a nation. Sen. John McCain, a true American hero if ever there was one, had an uphill battle, especially in light of the poor popularity of the man still sitting in the White House. I don't think any Republican could have won this election.

So now the question here turns to policy. How will Obama handle policy issues that impact U.S. farmers? Does he even understand agriculture?

Greenhouse gases The answer to that last question is no, according to Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte, who adamantly opposes President-elect Barack Obama's newly revealed stance on greenhouse gases, calling it outrageous and irresponsible.  In an interview published in Time magazine before the election, Sen. Obama blamed American farmers for high food prices, high energy costs, high healthcare costs, and global warming. 

In the article, Obama said "our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs.•bCrLf

According to Goodlatte, "blaming the agriculture community for our nation's health and energy problems is nonsensical and irresponsible Our American farmers are some of the hardest working people in the U.S.  They're trying to make a living like all other Americans.  They do so by growing food, which enables us to provide for our families.  It's grossly unfair to blame them for rising healthcare and energy costs." 

President-elect Obama

supports implementation of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

"This market mechanism has worked before and will give all American consumers and businesses the incentives to use their ingenuity to develop economically effective solutions to climate change,•bCrLf he says. "I will use some of the revenue generated from this cap-and-trade permit auction to invest in climate-friendly energy development and deployment. This will transform the economy, especially in rural America, which is poised to produce more renewable energy than ever before, creating millions of new jobs across the country.•bCrLf

Trade worries U.S. agricultural interests are becoming more vocal with concerns over his positions regarding trade, the driving engine behind American agriculture's most recent success.

While Obama has stated he is "for free trade,•bCrLf other comments this fall suggest otherwise. He has openly criticized a proposed trade agreement with Colombia and seemed to be pandering to big U.S. labor unions, who worked furiously to help get him elected. He has stated he wants to •re-work•bCrLf NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), a 10-year-old pact between Mexico, U.S. and Canada.

Either that's just naïve or ignorant — you don't go back on agreements you've already made with your neighbors. Especially this one.

It's important to go back and listen to comments our new president made before the election.

"For too long, Washington has put the interests of free trade ahead of broader concerns about our economy and American workers,•bCrLf President Obama has said. "As president, I will ensure that our trade agreements include strong, enforceable labor and environmental provisions in the core of the agreements. And I will direct the U.S. Trade Representative to aggressively protect intellectual property rights, monitor our trading partners to ensure they are complying with the terms of agreements, and take action when violations are found.•bCrLf

You really have to hope that someone as smart as President-elect Obama understands that trade is what built this nation into a world power. It's what brings developing countries out of poverty. More importantly, trade adds to our wealth and does not cost taxpayer money. Soon enough he'll have to start telling the American people about the things we really can't afford to do because of our national debt. Trade can only add to our wealth as a nation.

Farm Bill On the other hand, President Obama voted in support of the new U.S. Farm Bill. In the past, he has worked to provide farmers and ranchers across the country with disaster assistance funding and supported the Permanent Disaster Program in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Obama also supports the many ethanol-friendly policies that helped build our fledgling U.S. biofuel industry. Corn-based ethanol, says Obama, has been an important transitional technology in helping make America more energy independent. "However, it has limitations and that's why I am committed to accelerating the transition to advanced biofuels,•bCrLf Obama said pre-election. "I support an array of policies to speed the transition away from corn and toward low-carbon, sustainable alternatives that do not rely on food crops. As president, I will work to phase in at least 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the national fuel supply by 2013.•bCrLf

What do you think? Will President Obama's policies help or hurt U.S. farmers? Write your comments below.








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