The Presidential Candidates and Agriculture

I’m not going to delve into this completely until Thursday; this week’s column deals specifically with the stark contrast between Senator John S. McCain and Senator Barrack H. Obama on the issue of agriculture subsidization. That being said, there are two items I wanted to point out:


1. John McCain commits another unforced error in the arena of agriculture and rural America. As I’ll point out in depth in Thursday’s column, Senator McCain is taking on battles he need not fight until after a hypothetical inauguration. Federal Farm Policy is not typically a high priority for voters in November, and McCain clearly has a leg-up in rural America to start with. If it ain’t broke, as they say, leave it the heck alone! Jerry Hagstrom at National Journal provides the relevant background here and here. As Fred Yoder pointed out last month, McCain can’t take agriculture and rural America for granted.


2. Senator McCain may not be taking agriculture for granted moving forward. He announced this week (and we got a preview last week) his Farm & Ranch Team. President Bush was miles ahead of the game on this issue in 2004, and if recall, 2000. Better late than never, I suppose. The Senator has literally dozens of of agricultural heavyweights serving on the Team or as Co-Chairs, most notably:

– Charlie Kruse, a fourth-generation farmer from Missouri long rumored a candidate for USDA Secretary

– Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture John Block, Illinois

– U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, Kansas

– U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, Georgia

– U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, Virginia

– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina

– U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa

– Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels

– U.S. Representative Bob Latta, Ohio

The rest of the National Steering Committee run the gamut from Farm Bureau Presidents to State Secretaries of Agriculture to additional Congressmen and Senators. Gathering a steering committee doesn’t offset a call for the abolition of federal farm support, but surrounding himself with a distinguished group of agricultural supporters and experts isn’t a bad move at all.