Romney’s Farm Policy Restates Republican Positions, Analysts Say

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s agriculture policy relies on the party’s platform that calls for fewer regulations, lower taxes and more trade, which may appeal to farm voters, analysts said.

Romney released a 14-page position paper yesterday as he praised farmers in an Iowa speech, and didn’t take sides in the debate on financial support for food stamps and farm subsidies, said Mark McMinimy, an analyst at Guggenheim Washington Research Group in Washington.

“What’s not so clear is his position on specifics,” he said in an interview. “Many of the broad objectives -- lower taxes, less environmental regulatory pressure, more trading, lower energy prices -- those are likely to be well received by farmers and ranchers.”

U.S. farmers, facing the worst drought in more than five decades, are forecast to earn a record $122.2 billion as lower output drives prices higher this year, the Department of Agriculture said in August. Exports are predicted to reach an all-time high of $143.5 billion in the year that ends Sept. 30, according to the USDA.

Romney said President Barack Obama hasn’t done enough to support agriculture and encourage growth.

“I will do everything in my power to strengthen once again the American farm,” Romney said in a speech on a farm about 20 miles west of Des Moines. Obama “has no plan for rural America, no plan for agriculture, no plan for getting people back to work, and I do.”

‘Dodging’ Issue

Jim Miller, a former Agriculture undersecretary for Obama who spoke for the campaign in a conference call after Romney’s speech, said the Republican is “dodging the issue” on the farm bill and other issues.

The plan is “looking at reducing economic security in rural America” through cuts to farm programs and food stamps identified in last year’s House budget sponsored by vice- presidential nominee Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. That plan would cut $33 billion over 10 years from the USDA’s biggest expense, compared with a $16 billion reduction proposed in the House Agriculture plan and $4 billion in the Senate.

Bolstering his case, the campaign released a document on the agriculture agenda, including tax cuts, free-trade agreements, less regulation and energy independence. He said he supported the Renewable Fuels Standard, which requires production of 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol by 2015.

Dueling Bills

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, urged swift passage of a farm-policy bill, to replace a law that expired Sept. 30, without committing to support the plan passed by the Democratic-led Senate in June or a Republican-backed proposal approved by a House of Representatives committee in July. Both bills won bipartisan support while differing on cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, and farm subsidies. Candidates prefer to avoid controversies unless they have to deal with them, McMinimy said.

“The Oval Office is a great place to start taking detailed positions” after a campaign, he said.

Still, any attention to agricultural issues is followed in farm country, said Tim Marema, spokesman for the Center for Rural Strategies based in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Romney is seeking to show voters who depend on agriculture -- and a larger group who identify with farming -- that he’s aware of and concerned about topics that don’t dominate the national debate, Marema said.

“The national perception of rural is that it’s small family farms, plaid shirts and old red tractors,” he said. “In a state like Iowa, it’s an important bloc of voters.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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