President Barack Obama kicked off the legislative year with a State of the Union address largely focusing on the economy, taxes and foreign affairs, but also incorporating key ag policy priorities including trade and renewable energy.
As in years past, the speech was wide ranging, ambitious and, of course, political, offering far more extensive proposals than are likely to be seriously considered in a divisive political climate and an election year.
In a section on trade priorities, the President said U.S. businesses were tracking ahead of his goal to double U.S. exports in five years and praised recently-passed free trade agreements, though it look more than four years for them to be approved. He also pledged to “go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products” and announced a new “trade enforcement unit” to investigate unfair trading practices.
Addressing the power of small businesses and start-ups, he urged Congress to “tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow.” Later, he said “there’s no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary or too costly,” using as an example proposed requirements for dairy farmers to have Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans for spilled milk.
Obama talked extensively about the need for domestic energy production, adopting a mantra more typical of Republicans by saying the U.S. needs “an all-out, all-of-the-above” approach to domestic energy development.
He called for Congress to set a “clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation” and announced plans to create enough clean energy on public land to power 3 million homes. For energy and other areas, he touted the power of “basic research,” citing examples in the health care and technical areas, though not in agriculture.
Importantly to farmers, Obama addressed the need for infrastructure improvements, urging funding for construction projects, roads and bridges, modernization of the power grid and, in one of few direct mentions of rural needs, rural broadband.
Text of the full State of the Union address is at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/24/remarks-president-state-union-address.