Saturday, 11 October 2008

Obama vs McCain On Their Plans For Agriculture

Farm Progress, a Rural Press/Fairfax Media subsidiary in the United States, posed a series of agricultural policy questions to the Obama and McCain camps. This is an extract of what the two men vying for the most powerful job in the world had to say about farming, fertiliser and fuel for American farmers.

What are your views on the food vs. fuel debate?

* Barrack Obama: "Corn-based ethanol 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. 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. There are many flavours of ethanol - different feed stocks, different production approaches, different carbon footprints. In contrast, there is only one flavor of oil - expensive, polluting and largely imported. As president, I will work to phase in at least 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the national fuel supply by 2013."

* John McCain: No response

What steps might you take as president to stabilise fertiliser prices, which have doubled and tripled?

* Obama: "A major key to stabilising fertiliser prices is addressing the skyrocketing costs of natural gas. Through my policies for continued domestic production combined with investments in efficiency, we will take some of the pressure off the resource and increase supply, bringing costs down."

* McCain: "I believe in promoting and expanding the use of our domestic supplies of natural gas. When people are hurting, and struggling to afford gasoline, food, and other necessities, common sense requires that we draw upon America's own vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Within the United States we have tremendous reserves of natural gas."

As we author trade agreements, are there ways to level the playing field in regard to individual countries' regulations, such as employee conditions and chemical use?

* Obama: "For too long, Washington has put the interests of free trade ahead of broader concerns about our economy and American workers. I will break from the failed trade policies of the last eight years. As president, I will ensure that our trade agreements include strong, enforceable labour and environmental provisions in the core of the agreements."

* McCain: "I believe that globalisation is an opportunity for American workers today and in the future. Ninety-five percent of the world's customers lie outside our borders, and we need to be at the table when the rules for access to those markets are written. To do so, the U.S. should engage in multilateral, regional and bilateral efforts to reduce barriers to trade, level the global playing field and build effective enforcement of global trading rules."

What would be your policy concerning greenhouse gases? How would it affect farmers? Would you pursue approving the Kyoto Treaty?

* Obama: "As a result of climate changeā€¦ I support implementation of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 per cent 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. 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. I will also develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, creating new opportunities for rural America to help solve the climate crises."

* McCain: "I will propose a cap-and-trade system that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging the development of low-cost compliance options. A climate cap-and-trade mechanism would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow entities to buy and sell rights to emit, similar to the successful acid rain trading program of the early 1990s. The key feature of this mechanism is that it allows the market to decide and encourage the lowest-cost compliance options."

If you're elected president, the most recent farm bill won't expire in your term. Would you do anything in the next four years to address any problems you see with the current legislation?

* Obama: "It's important to implement the 2008 Farm Bill in keeping with the intent of Congress. As president, I will work to ensure that the protections in the bill against gaming the system are properly enforced, and I will work with Congress to push for greater reform to ensure that payments are targeted appropriately."

* McCain: "I support a risk management program for farmers. When a farmer suffers from a natural disaster such as droughts or floods, we should assist them - this is a commitment we have made to our farmers, and I will honor it. As president, I will fight on behalf of family farmers to enact reasonable reforms to our crop insurance program and our system of countercyclical and direct payments."

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