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Presidential candidate preview: Republicans on RFS, immigration

Presidential candidate preview: Republicans on RFS, immigration
Republican presidential candidates have different views on how to handle RFS and immigration reform.

GOP members again prepare for another square off debate on Sept. 15 and the crowded Republican field has made some changes over the last few weeks.

Earlier this summer a Farm Futures survey showed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a statistical dead heat with Donald Trump (20% to 19.6% respectively), according to those farmers surveyed. Jeb Bush had a strong showing as well with 11% of all farmers choosing him as their first choice for a Republican candidate.

The Politico Caucus said that Walker was the “biggest loser of the summer” in the Republican field, with 56% of insiders in Iowa saying the governor had lost the summer. Walker was once considered a front-runner, but has struggled with articulating his positions on immigration and abortion.

The Farm Futures farmers surveyed agreed on the biggest issue in the 2016 election. More than 30% of respondents picked "the way the government in Washington operates" as their top concern. But after that, the parties were divided by ideological differences. For those backing a Democrat the second top issue was "income and wealth inequality." Republicans, by contrast, picked the "federal budget deficit" as their second most important issue.


Republican candidates have had mixed views on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Jeb Bush: “The law that was passed in 2007 has worked, look at the increase in production. It has been a benefit to us as we’ve reduced our dependency on foreign sources of oil.”  

Yet he also said at the Iowa State Fair in August that, “Over time, the biofuels industry here is being increasingly competitive, just as wind is. Ultimately, you move away from mandates, because it will have huge benefits. That was the original idea and it seems to be working.”

Scott Walker: “It’s an access issue, and so it's something I’m willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure there's certainty in terms of the blend levels set.” In an August 2015 interview, he said he believes the ethanol mandate could be wound down over “a two-year period.”

Mike Huckabee: “RFS is just one bit the components of energy security”;

Chris Christie: “The law requires the president to establish RFS, and he should.”

John Kasich: “It’s a very important program for Iowa because there’s a lot of people working here.”  Repeal is “not a good solution” because “the direct impact of it would probably be to throw a lot of people out of work.” 

Marco Rubio: He told a reporter that he “supports a mandate for renewable fuels like the federal Renewable Fuel Standard” but a campaign spokesman made comments earlier this year on behalf of Rubio that RFS “cannot be permanent policy.”

Ben Carson:  “I would probably be in favor of taking that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations’ for 30% ethanol blends.”

For more on candidate’s views, click a breakdown of all the candidates here. The America’s Renewable Future coalition has also put together a 2016 Candidate Tracker to outline where candidates stand on RFS support.


Most of the Republican candidates have spoken out against “amnesty” or granting a pathway to citizenship to the billions of unauthorized workers in the U.S. For many agricultural operations, those workers are the bloodline of being able to products to market.

Donald Trump: He has made it a centerpiece of his campaign that he will deport all illegal immigrants, end birthright citizenship and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jeb Bush: He opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

Marco Rubio: He was one of the main sponsors of a Senate compromise package on comprehensive immigration reform which did include a path for citizenship. He did however vote to block the President’s executive actions on immigration.

Scott Walker: He opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

Chris Christie: Opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of leading Republican candidates from National Journal and USA Today and an extensive overview of comments and votes on immigration from

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