During today’s Iowa caucuses, Republican candidates will vie for top positions in the polls hoping to emerge as a leading candidate for a Presidential nomination from their party. Iowans will take into account each candidate’s stance on major issues, including one very close to the hearts of farmers — farm subsidies.
The New Year brings with it the possibility of a new farm bill, which would determine legislation about issues like farm subsidies (direct payments to farmers), conservation, biofuels and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. The Republicans have to prove their worth to Iowa farmers on the key issues of the farm bill or risk alienating a valuable voting group. To make voting easier for Iowa’s farmers, the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) evaluated the Republican candidates with a report card that gives each hopeful a letter grade based on their support of farm-related issues on an ICGA survey they were asked to complete.
Below is a short guide to the candidates’ views on farm subsidies and their overall farm support “grades” as determined by the Iowa Corn Grower’s Association:
Michele Bachmann is one of the most outspoken and most controversial candidates on farm bill issues. Paul Bachmann, Michele’s late father-in-law, received almost $260,000 in federal money from corn and dairy subsidies between 1995 and 2008 for his Wisconsin farm (which Michele and her husband also profited from).
But in 2008 Michele Bachmann voted against the farm bill, stating that it was, “loaded with unbelievably outrageous ‘pork’ and subsidies for agricultural business and ethanol growers.” According to the Los Angeles Times, she then turned around and praised the USDA a year later for propping up pork and dairy prices through direct commodity purchases.
Bachmann’s Overall ICGA Score: D+
Jon Huntsman Jr.
Unlike Bachmann, Huntsman does not have a subsidy-generating family farm nor has he been particularly forthcoming about his take on the farm bill, however, opposingviews.com points out that his aversion to “corporate welfare” extends to farm subsidies, which he is against.
Huntsman’s Overall ICGA Score: N/A
Newt Gingrich advocated for phasing out farm subsidies while in Congress, but his real interest lies in his support for ethanol. He has said, “If I have to choose between the next billion dollars (for energy) going to Iraq or Iowa, I prefer Iowa.” Is it any wonder that Gingrich was the only candidate to receive a glowing “A” from the Iowa Corn Growers Association?
Gingrich’s Overall ICGA Score: A
In an interview with ABC Ron Paul discussed his distaste for farm subsidies, saying, “If there’s a subsidy, it means the taxpayer was taxed to pay the subsidy … [and] it usually goes to a huge corporate farmer. So the taxpayer pays one time … and then when you go to the store, you pay higher prices for your food. It hasn’t helped the people.”
Paul’s Overall ICGA Score: D
Like Bachmann, Rick Perry also has personal farm ties, having grown up on a farm in Texas. Between 1987 and 1998 Perry’s 40-acre farm received $9,624 in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Payments (i.e. he was paid not to farm the land).
Perry, a fiscal conservative, has been critical of government expenditure, and many find his history of receiving subsidies hypocritical. However, in 1995 Perry did urge the government to phase out direct subsidies in the farm bill. So far this year, he has only stated that he is against using corn and grain for ethanol production, citing the resulting increase in corn prices.
Perry’s Overall ICGA Score: C-
Santorum hasn’t been too vocal about his view on farm subsidies other than indicating that they should be scaled back. However, he has supported dairy subsidies in the past. His A- on the ICGA survey makes him the second highest rated candidate on farm issues.
Santorum’s Overall ICGA Score: A-
Romney made a strong statement about his support for farm subsidies, calling them a “national-security issue.” Romney insists that subsidies are needed to safeguard the nation’s food supply.
Romney’s Overall ICGA Score: B