Economist: Neither candidate addressing ag issues

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Voters across Middle America who consider agricultural policy and rural issues high priorities have been largely invisible in this year’s presidential campaigns, says Dr. David Flynn, chairman of the economics department at the University of North Dakota.

We’re hearing far too little about issues affecting agriculture and rural economies, Flynn said during an interview with AgriTalk Radio’s Mike Adams on Tuesday. These issues are of critical importance to the entire country, he says, but are overlooked as both campaigns focus on regions and demographics where they believe the most votes are up for grabs.

The candidates, he says, have an opportunity to make ag issues relevant to all voters by, for example, discussing them in the context of energy policy. Both campaigns discuss the energy sector as a job creator, but do not mention the role of agriculture in energy policy.

“They talk about Main Street, but Main Street where?” he says, adding that it seems the debate focuses on urban areas rather than small towns. When the candidates do show up to speak in small towns and state fairs in Middle America, they tend to resort to talking points regarding the importance of farming and rural life. But on the national stage, “it’s like they think rural America doesn’t watch television.”

Flynn says he isn’t a farmer, but if he were, he’d feel terribly insulted by the way the campaigns pay lip-service to rural issues when speaking to rural audiences, then leave those issues out of the national debate.

The failure of Congress to pass a farm bill is particularly frustrating to rural voters, Flynn says, and neither candidate is discussing it, either in their plans for cutting spending or for stimulating economic growth and employment. Campaign literature from both campaigns is dramatically lacking in policy statements regarding agriculture or rural issues.

Flynn acknowledges that the campaigns probably see the rural vote in some states as either locked up, a lost cause or largely irrelevant compared with urban populations in terms of winning a state’s electoral votes. But, he believes there are groups of independent, undecided voters for whom ag and rural issues are important, left unrepresented by either candidate.

This silent treatment occurs in spite of the contribution agriculture to the U.S. economy. Consistent, steady and stable growth in agricultural income has been outpacing growth in non-farm income for several years. The candidates, Flynn says, should be pointing to agriculture as a success story, and looking at how to replicate that performance in other sectors of the economy.

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Texas  |  October, 17, 2012 at 09:11 AM

Candidate responses to American Farm Bureau questions:

Ohio  |  October, 17, 2012 at 09:54 AM

It's as if the whole world has forgotten that farming in every form is the back bone of America. It is horrifyin to think were we would be with out any part of Farming in our country. People need to remember!

MT  |  October, 17, 2012 at 10:55 AM

What's the point? Food's abundant, just like the debt!

Southeast Kansas  |  October, 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM

I am voting for Willie Nelson he knows what its like to be broke, and puts on a concert to help agriculture!!!

Texas  |  October, 18, 2012 at 09:34 AM

Yes, abundant, thank God, but the cost of the debt and the cost of feed and our food is the issue. If the green policy and anti animal Ag policy agenda of the EPA isn't tackled and stopped, by those who represent us....."We haven't seen nothing yet"!

Robert Shumaker    
Palmer, AK  |  October, 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Dr. Flynn is misleading. The president has asked for the Farm Bill many times and it is an issue. Not all farmers are having the best years of their life, that darn ole weather, but the prices have never been better. What is the beef and what is the pork? AFB has responses, National Farmers Union is on the hill every day. Just call the office in D.C. Ask Chandler or Roger what is going on and get a straight answer. Or better yet, join either org and get involved. AG needs your voice and vote!

TX  |  October, 18, 2012 at 07:24 PM

Still havent figured out what the goverment is doing for the livestock business except shoving feed costs up my rear end. OH YA!! We have the livestock idemity, CUZ THATS the only disaster in the livestock business when something dies.

Minnesota  |  October, 19, 2012 at 02:13 PM

True. We have not had much discussion of specific ag issues. In today's inteeconnected world, however, all issues impact agriculture. The candidates views and potential success on jobs, deficits, energy policy, etc. will likely impact agriculture more over the next four years and beyond than their view on what we traditionally view as agricultural issues.

Carroll Wade    
Jasper, N Y  |  October, 20, 2012 at 05:47 AM

Perhaps the reason that ag issues are not being discussed on the National forum is that few people would understand what was being talked about . Many people are three or four generations removed from the farm community . The real issue in ag is price . If farmers are not paid at an adaquate level to cover their cost of production and have some left over for a profit , the rural economy will continue to suffer . We can explain all that we do and why we do it but if we are not made whole in oer transactions, we will fail .

SD  |  October, 24, 2012 at 06:13 PM

Experience has taught cattle producers, at least the rare ones who do not also raise grains or 'program' crops, that Farm Programs hurt us more often than the do anything beneficial for us. Until some of the Conservation Programs came along, anyway. And soon those were managed more by the Game and Fish people for hunting benefits, it seems. Anyway, is often seems that if they would just leave us alone, we would be better off. We will NEVER get any farm programs if we separage from the Food Programs for people who need and/or demand them, tho.

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