This is a release from the Iowa Soybean Assciation. I thought it had some good information on how agriculturalists will vet presidential candidates:
Soybean farmers across Iowa participated in a telephone townhall meeting, speaking directly with Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Tuesday evening. It was the first of several opportunities planned by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) in an effort to focus attention on the critical topics of agricultural policy and trade issues impacting America’s farmers.
ISA has extended the invitation to all major Presidential candidates to participate in telephone calls with Iowa farmers. Former House Speaker Gingrich was the first candidate to accept the invitation.
The questions raised by ISA members during the call aligned closely with the issues that have emerged during the association’s recent District Policy Conferences.
In light of proposed budget reduction, several members expressed concern that cuts should not be aimed at agriculture disproportionately and, considering ag’s return on investment, the government should continue to invest in areas like research and infrastructure “that benefit ag and all of America.”
Gingrich responded, “As is the case in our personal lives, there is a big difference between the government’s investing money and just spending money.” Citing his years as House Speaker, when the budget was balanced and large national debts were paid off, he said he would strongly support investing in research, confident it will lead to increased production.
He also expressed understanding of the need to improve roads, adding he would favor onshore and offshore oil drilling to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and using the proceeds for infrastructure.
Foreign trade was the topic of several questions. Recognizing that half of Iowa soybeans are exported, with China as the number one customer, one farmer questioned U.S. leaders who are challenging China’s currency manipulation and expressed concern it could start a trade war. Gingrich said he would favor “being tough but in the right way. We have to roll up our sleeves in negotiations to open markets, not start trade wars.”
He believes the U.S. can have free trade and also keep jobs in America. One way would be by allowing the writeoff of 100 percent of farm equipment the first year to help keep and create manufacturing jobs.
Callers also asked about taxes, specifically estate taxes that make it difficult to pass the family farm to the next generation. Gingrich favors permanently abolishing “death taxes.”
He also proposes a “fair tax” on income, offering taxpayers the option to pay a simple 15 percent flat tax. Gingrich said, “We can’t replace the current system without a fair and complete understanding” of the repercussions, but he would support a commission to work for a year preparing a “fair tax” and then let taxpayers choose from options.
When farm bill issues were raised, callers indicated in a poll that a crop insurance subsidy is their top priority. Gingrich admitted farm policy is not an area where he is knowledgeable, but he would seek input from ag leaders like Senator Grassley and Congressman Latham.
He said he realizes farming is more technical, more sophisticated and costly than it used to be and requires protection. He also noted the conservation component of the farm bill is “a useful way to support farmers while protecting the environment.”
Callers expressed concern about the trend of increasing regulations, specifically mentioning Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. Gingrich said he would get rid of the EPA and replace it with an environmental solution agency that would show “cooperation and common sense.”
Regarding labor rules that would regulate kids’ helping on the farm, one caller said, “We teach our kids to work, but we teach them to do it safely.” Gingrich said he has actually proposed that more young people who don’t live on farms should learn to work for a living.
Gingrich said he supports RFS2 and biofuel tax credits and believes “we will see remarkable increases in the next years.” When it comes to investing dollars, he said, “I would pick Iowa over Iran,” adding that he wants to see the United States be independent of the disruption caused by concerns about attacks on oil supply.
A livestock grower who hires immigrants said, "They do work that U.S. citizens don't want to do and they pay taxes. We need them." Gingrich said, while he favors patrol, and possibly a fence, on the borders and English as the official language, he recognizes many "illegal immigrants" have been living and working, contributing to communities for years. He would propose having local review boards that would give "guest workers" who have a sponsor a certificate of residence, making them legal.
ISA plans to offer its members additional opportunities as other candidates accept the invitation to visit with them.
ISA does not endorse any candidate; the purpose of the telephone townhall meetings is to provide information to members and ensure that members’ concerns are conveyed to candidates. The townhall meetings are not funded by the soybean checkoff.