|Where do John McCain and Barack Obama stand on agricultural issues?|
I have been following the presidential debates pretty closely but haven't heard much about food or farming. Where do McCain and Obama stand on agricultural issues?
You're absolutely right! Mention of food and farm policy has certainly been limited if not absent in the recent debates. Often in presidential campaigns, farm issues are quietly swept under the rug once the Iowa caucuses are history. The logic, perhaps, that only Midwesterners care about farms, is obviously faulty – but I don't doubt there are many political strategists and advisors out there who rank economic bailouts and foreign dependence on oil as far sexier topics for garnering public attention and swaying more votes than farming and food. When it comes down to it, though, we don't have to farm to be concerned about farm policy. We all eat. We all depend on quality, fresh food for good nutrition and health; and on family farmers to steward our natural resource base and produce goods and jobs that support and stimulate our local economies and communities. With massive floods in the Midwest and two major hurricanes in the South devastating farmland and farm livelihoods this past summer, record-high production costs, volatility in grain and oilseed markets, and food and fuel prices soaring in the United States and abroad – supporting a viable, stable and sustainable farm base should be a clear component of any federal policy agenda, let alone presidential debate.
But is it?
While agricultural topics haven't been so popular on the stump, both McCain and Obama have rural positions posted on their websites. Figuring out how to whittle down these documents into some sort of organized comparison was admittedly daunting. On issues such as biofuels and the 2008 Farm Bill, the candidates' positions couldn't be clearer (and more polar!) On other issues, however, it felt a bit more like comparing apples to oranges (or kumquats for that matter), as the candidate's websites bring up different concerns altogether – highlighting their divergent views on the role of federal government in agriculture as well as the sort of farming future they envision for America.
To help you sort through the deluge of eye-blurring rhetoric, I decided it best to make a table comparing apples to apples. In addition to scouring the candidates' websites, I sifted through news articles and blogs from both sides of the political spectrum, contacted rural advocates in DC and the Midwest, and did my best to cut to the chase.
Before I proceed: a quick but important reminder that Farm Aid is a non-partisan organization. While we certainly have opinions about the sort of federal policies that are best suited to build and strengthen a vibrant network of family farmed agriculture in the United States, we in no way intend to tell anyone how to vote. We just want you to vote.
Back to those apples:
So, now that you have a basket full of fruit to consider, we leave the rest up to you!
Please exercise your democratic right and responsibility to vote by hitting the polls on November 4th; and for every other day of the year, take comfort in your power as consumers and citizens to vote with your forks, wallets and actions. After all, as democracy advocate and author Frances Moore Lappé puts it so beautifully: "Every aspect of our lives is, in a sense, a vote for the kind of world we want to live in."
Until next time...
Now that you've got all this information, go take our poll: " Which presidential candidate do you think would be better for family farmers if elected? "
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