Bush, Gore rarely discuss farm issues, profs say

Jacqui Becker

While several of the swing states in this year’s presidential election have farming roots, ISU professors said the candidates have rarely discussed issues facing the industry.

Neil Harl, distinguished professor in agricultural economics, said neither candidate has devoted a great deal of time to agricultural issues. He said they have instead used platforms that deal with more general rural issues instead.

William Edwards, professor of agricultural economics, said all of the candidates are in favor of a family farm because they know the position is “always a safe thing to say.”

“Nader’s campaign has devoted more time to agriculture,” Harl said. “Gore has devoted more than Bush. Overall, I think both of the major candidates wanted to avoid discussing issues that had strong opinions on both sides.”

Harl said a striking difference in the farm platform of each candidate can be found when examining what each individual will do with current policies.

“If Bush is elected, there will be a continuation of present policies, including the 1996 farm bill,” he said. “If Gore is elected we will see significant changes. Nader is talking in generalities, critical of concentration that has occurred, and it is not completely clear what he would do on the price front.”

In the past year farmers have received nearly $28 billion in federal aid, Harl said.

“Farmers are not as unhappy as they could have been,” he said. “Without payments this would have been a major issue in all of rural America.”

Kenneth Frey, distinguished professor of agronomy, said he’s been voting for the presidency since 1944. He has seen a significance drop in the total percent of people in the United States in the agricultural realm. “The ‘farm votes’ are not large,” Frey said. “Therefore, issues directly related with agriculture don’t get talked about. [The candidates] are looking for mass issues.”

David Williams, professor in agricultural education and studies, said he thinks the candidates have shifted their focus.

“I think they’re just down to a point where they’re trying to present values and themselves more so than the issues at this point in the election,” he said. “I think both candidates in Iowa this [past] week show that they’re concerned about mid-America and the importance of agriculture to mid-America.”

Farmers depend on their representatives to play an important role in the policies that will have the largest affect on them, Edwards said.

“In the end, Congressional races will have more influence on ag policy,” he said. “That’s where farm policies get made, in the ag committees.”