It’s been a long election season all across the country, and as presidential candidates have answered questions from voters and media, very few of those questions have centered on the food supply. As the election nears, Penton Agriculture sought to engage the candidates in a discussion about agriculture, including their plans, potential farm bills, trade and more.
With all that in mind, we posed the following set of questions to both candidates, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Who will be your closest advisors in understanding more about the needs of rural America?
Clinton: As part of the policy development process, we have engaged a diverse group of people from across the country, including agricultural experts, farmers and ranchers, practitioners, and other leaders. I believe America’s rural communities lie at the heart of what makes this country great. My rural policy agenda was designed to tackle the challenges rural communities are facing across the country.
Trump: The Trump Administration will be a pro-agriculture administration. As president, I will fight for American farmers and their families. I am proud that Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana will be our nation’s next vice president. Mike will be a trusted source of counsel for me on many issues, including agriculture. I have also assembled an Agriculture Advisory Committee comprised of dozens of leaders who represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities. Many of these officials have been elected by their communities to solve the issues that impact our rural areas every day. I’m very proud to stand with these men and women, and look forward to serving with them in serving all Americans from the White House.
Agriculture has an estimated 2 million workers here illegally. How would you ensure the ag sector continues to remain viable and have access to needed workers? And what would be key components of your farm labor immigration policy?
Clinton: I know migrant farmworkers play a critical role in developing and supporting our agricultural economy. I have heard from farmers across the country who have expressed their frustrations about our broken immigration system.
That’s why as president, I will introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship within my first 100 days in office. It will treat every person with dignity, fix the family visa backlog, uphold the rule of law, protect our borders and national security, and bring millions of hardworking people into the formal economy. I understand that the agricultural industry needs comprehensive immigration reform to protect both farm owners and the workers they employ, and ensure American families are able to put affordable, fresh food on their tables.
Trump: I recognize the unique labor challenges facing the American farm community and will include farmers and ranchers in the process of determining the best possible immigration policies. To be clear, the Obama-Clinton system of open borders is wreaking havoc on our rural communities. Enormous stresses are being placed on state and local government services, while jobs for American citizens and wages for American workers are in decline.
Here are my three core principles of real immigration reform:
1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.
2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.
Agriculture is very concerned about current costs and negative impact of over-regulation. How would you resolve that concern?
Clinton: As president, I will always engage a wide range of stakeholders, including farmers and ranchers, to hear their concerns and ideas for how we can ensure our rural communities and our agriculture sector remains vibrant. If there are implementation challenges with a particular regulation, I will work with all stakeholders to address them.
Trump: Our nation’s regulatory system is completely broken. Terrible rules are written by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who often know nothing about the people they are regulating. The regulators have all of the power, and our nation’s farmers are often forced to endure costly, burdensome and unwise regulations that are bad for American farmers and consumers. In many instances, extreme environmental groups have more influence in setting the regulations than the farmers and ranchers who are directly impacted. Clinton will do the bidding of the radical environmentalists. Whether through excessive land-use restrictions that impact farmers and ranchers, environmental requirements that impose enormous costs on farmers, or over-reaching food product regulations, federal regulatory burdens have increased dramatically in recent years. This must change.
As president, I will work with Congress to reform our regulatory system. We will reduce the power of government bureaucrats, and increase the freedom of our nation’s farmers to be as productive as possible. We will increase transparency and accountability in the regulatory process. Rational cost-benefit tests will be used to ensure that any regulation is justified before it is adopted. Unjustified regulations that are bad for American farmers and consumers will be changed or repealed. There will be no more “sue and settle” deals with extreme environmentalists.
Do you support the current Waters of the U.S. rule proposed by the Obama Administration? How do you plan to pursue this going forward?
Clinton: I support the rule, but know we have to work with all stakeholders to ensure its common sense implementation. I was pleased the EPA worked hard to ensure the Clean Water Rule maintains longstanding exemptions for common farming practices, while clarifying the Clean Water Act and ensuring much needed certainty for all stakeholders so our families and businesses can rely on clean water.
Trump: No. I will eliminate the unconstitutional Waters of the U.S. rule, and will direct the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to no longer use this unlawful rule and related guidance documents in making jurisdictional determinations. This rule is so extreme that it gives federal agencies control over creeks, small streams, and even puddles or mostly dry areas on private property. I will also ensure that these agencies respect the valid exclusions under environmental statutes for agricultural practices. As importantly, I will appoint a pro-farmer administrator of EPA.
Related: The next president's ag policies
How would your tax plan benefit farmers?
Clinton: I believe we need an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But when it comes to taxes, too often the wealthiest and the largest corporations are playing by a different set of rules than hardworking families.
I will close tax loopholes like inversions that reward companies for shifting profits and jobs overseas. I will charge an “exit tax” for companies leaving the U.S. to settle up on their untaxed foreign earnings. I will close tax loopholes that let Wall Street money managers pay lower rates than some middle-class families. And I’ll reward businesses that invest in good-paying jobs here in the United States. I will also simplify and cut taxes for small businesses so they can hire and grow. The smallest businesses spend 150 hours and $1,100 per employee on federal tax compliance. That’s more than 20 times higher than the average for far larger firms. I believe we’ve got to fix that.
Trump: I have announced a comprehensive tax reform plan. Under my plan, we will:
•Simplify taxes for everyone and streamline deductions. Biggest tax reform since Reagan.
•Lower taxes for everyone, making raising a family more affordable for working families.
•Dramatically reduce the income tax.
•Simplify the income tax from 7 brackets to 3 brackets.
•Exclude childcare expenses from taxation.
•Limit taxation of business income to 15% for every business.
•Make our corporate tax globally competitive and the United States the most attractive place to invest in the world.
•End the death tax.
The U.S. Farm Bill will be written during the next presidency. What do you envision being its key components?
Clinton: I know the Farm Bill’s reauthorization presents an incredibly important opportunity to set both our agricultural and rural development policy priorities—which are central to our economy, energy, and food security.
I will work to ensure we provide a focused safety net for farmers and ranchers by continuing to make progress in targeting federal resources in commodity payment, crop insurance and disaster assistance programs—which is all the more important with current commodity market prices. I will also support the next generation of farmers by doubling funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program and strengthening USDA grant programs to make them less about bureaucratic buckets and more about funding flexibility, leveraging local resources, and measuring results. And to build a strong local and regional food system, I will fight to double funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program to expand food hubs, farmers markets, SNAP recipients' access to fresh food, and to encourage direct sales to local schools, hospitals, retailers and wholesalers.
The Farm Bill also provides the opportunity to improve and enhance our rural development programs that are so pivotal to raising the standard of living in many rural communities—including programs to enhance broadband access, improve soil health and manage wastewater, and expand access to credit for small businesses.
Trump: The Trump-Pence Administration will be an active participant in writing the next Farm Bill and delivering it on time! Our farmers deserve a good farm bill written by those who are thankful for our remarkable food system in this country. I support a strong safety net for our nation’s farmers.
U.S. agriculture heavily relies on trade. How would you protect agricultural trade while renegotiating trade deals?
Clinton: We can and must forge better trade deals for American workers, farmers, and other businesses. I will only pursue trade deals that create American jobs, raise wages and improve our national security. As president, I will also crack down on foreign countries who cheat the rules by appointing a new trade prosecutor to keep other countries honest, and will use all of our tools to ensure other countries treat our products fairly, including our anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws and pursuing taking cases at the WTO.
Trump: As president, I will be an aggressive proponent for defending the economic interests of American workers and farmers on the world stage. I will fight against unfair trade deals and foreign trade practices that disadvantage the United States. I strongly oppose TPP as drafted and will work hard to develop trade agreements that are in the national interest and benefit American workers, including our farmers.
Related: Trumped by corn
How do you anticipate encouraging policies that allow for protecting the environment while still protecting land owners’ rights and ability to use the land?
Clinton: I will partner with local communities to protect our lands, waters and wildlife, while also protecting the rights of landowners. For example, I believe we should fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides assistance to producers – including a set-aside for minorities and veterans – who are working to conserve and improve natural resources on their farms and ranches. I will also launch my Clean Energy Challenge to give states, cities and rural communities the tools, resources and flexibility they need to succeed. In doing so, I will achieve the twin goals of having more than half a billion solar panels installed in this country by the end of my first term and producing enough clean renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years of my taking office.
Trump: America is blessed with abundant natural resources and beautiful wildlife. Our nation has a proud tradition of conservation and stewardship. This is more true for farmers than anyone else. Farmers care more for the environment than the radical environmentalists. Regrettably, many of our federal environmental laws are being used to oppress farmers instead of actually helping the environment. For example, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has a poor track record of actually helping to recover animals at risk of extinction. In truth, the ESA has become a tool to block economic development, deny property rights to American landowners and enrich activist groups and lawyers, without actually helping those species that deserve protection. Instead of saving endangered species, the Obama-Clinton bureaucrats are endangering American workers with disastrous choices made at the whim of extreme activist groups.
As president, I will direct the Interior Department and Commerce Department to conduct a top-down review of all Obama Administration settlements, rules and executive actions under the Endangered Species Act and other similar laws, and we will change or rescind any of those actions that are unlawful, bad for American farmers and workers, or not in the national interest. I will also work closely with Congress to improve and modernize the Endangered Species Act—a law that is now more than 30 years old—so that it is more transparent, uses the best science, incentivizes species conservation, protects private property rights, and no longer imposes needless and unwarranted costs on American landowners.
With regard to property rights, it is also important to mention that I will appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will defend the constitutional rights and protections of all Americans.