For the past 40 years, Farm Bureau has asked every presidential candidate to provide responses to issues likely to impact and affect farmers and rural communities in the next four years. Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have provided their answers. The responses below have been edited for space and clarity.
- As president, what investments and/or policies would you support to ensure the resiliency of our food system?
Biden: The Biden-Harris Plan to build modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future plans features an investment in sustainable agriculture and conservation. Our family farmers and ranchers were already fighting an uphill battle because of Trump’s irresponsible trade policies and consistent siding with oil lobbyists over American growers, but COVID-19 has placed new pressures on that sector and the rural economies it sustains. We will bring back America’s advantage in agriculture, create jobs and build a bright future for rural communities by investing in the next generation of agriculture and conservation; providing opportunities to new farmers and ranchers, including returning veterans and minorities, to enter the economy; and making it easier to pass farms and ranches onto the next generation.
We will also help farmers leverage new technologies, techniques and equipment to increase productivity and profit – including by providing low-cost finance for the transition to new equipment and methods, funding research and development in precision agriculture and new crops, and establishing a new voluntary carbon farming market that rewards farmers for the carbon they sequester on their land and the greenhouse gas emission reductions, including from methane, that they secure. Instead of making things harder for farmers, we will stand with them as they fight against the threats of climate change, droughts, flooding and extreme weather, while partnering with them to make American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions.
We will strengthen antitrust enforcement, including in the farm and food production industry. Americans are hurt by increasing market concentration in the food industry. The Biden-Harris Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Trump: From the beginning of the pandemic the Trump/Pence Administration worked to ensure we protected our nation’s food supply, the critical infrastructure and the workers who support the entire supply chain.
On March 19, the administration released its list of designated critical infrastructure that exempted the entire food and agriculture production system from any quarantine or stay at home requirements. Without this guidance, farmers most likely would not have gotten the products they needed for spring planting.
On April 17, the administration announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, committing up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers impacted by market disruptions and an additional $3 billion for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Over 50 million boxes have been distributed – moving excess product, stabilizing the market and getting food to those most in need.
On April 28, an executive order deployed the Defense Production Act for our meat packing industry. Meatpacking plants that met OSHA and CDC guidelines remained open. It was critical we kept meat in grocery stores during this national crisis, and it was critical for our farmers that these facilities remained opened to process animals ready for market.
Another critical aspect of our food supply system is our nation’s public feeding programs. Throughout the pandemic the administration worked to ensure maximum flexibility to states administering these programs. From the School Meal program to SNAP benefits, we ensured those most vulnerable continued to have access to the food they need.
The strength of the value chain was bent in ways it never had before, but it never broke. It’s been the privilege of the administration to leverage government resources and coordination capabilities to ensure our private sector was able to continue meeting the food needs of all Americans.
- How would you be a proponent for enhancing farm policy programs to bring certainty to farm families through crop insurance, improved risk management programs and support for beginning farmers while also bringing much-needed funding to trade development and agricultural research?
Biden: Crop insurance and risk management tools are incredibly important to farmers, especially in light of the most recent wind storm in Iowa, the fires out west, the drought in the Midwest and Hurricane Laura in Texas and Louisiana.
We will strengthen our agricultural sector by pursuing a trade policy that works for American farmers. More than 20% of all crops grown and products raised in the U.S. are exported … but America’s farmers and rural communities have paid a heavy price for President Trump’s tariffs. We will work with our allies to negotiate from the strongest possible position.
America tries to make it easy to start a business, but unless you inherit the land, it’s much more difficult to start a farm. We will expand the microloan program for new and beginning farmers, doubling the maximum loan amount to $100,000. We’ll increase funding for the USDA’s farm ownership and operating loans that typically serve beginning farmers who need low-cost capital to add to their family’s operation to support another household.
We will reinvest in land grant universities’ ag research so the public, not private companies, owns patents to agricultural advances. We’ll reinvest in ag research by bolstering funding for the SARE Program and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Our farmers need new technologies to compete in world markets while protecting our soil and water.
Trump: The Trump Administration implemented several new programs in the 2018 Farm Bill which have supported our farmers. This includes the Dairy Margin Coverage program which has helped dairies across our country withstand difficult market conditions. The administration has worked on regulations that will support the burgeoning hemp industry. They’ve also implemented provisions to ensure the health of our nation’s livestock sector. Through new Farm Bill tools, we’re working to ensure we keep [foreign] diseases out of the U.S. and develop vaccines to protect our domestic industry. The pandemic highlighted the need for Farm Bill programs that will help farmers prepare for the threats of tomorrow while maximizing productivity today.
A new farm bill must be generous to our farmers and do a better job of sustaining them through tough times. It cannot impose new regulatory or climate requirements on already struggling farmers. The smallest farmers will be the hardest hurt by new and unfunded mandates.
Our domestic farm policy should include a strong crop insurance system, voluntary conservation programs and increased ag research.
The administration has worked to ensure farmers have adequate protection from the Market Facilitation Program responding to unjustified trade retaliation; to disaster programs that have aided those facing drought, fire, flood and snow; to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
- What provisions would you support to help farmers remain on the land and producing food, fuel and fiber?
Biden: We are committed to a set of fiscal policies that encourage American prosperity and benefit American businesses across the economy. We will work with Congress to implement a fair, permanent tax code that provides certainty to plan for the future while abolishing incentives that reward companies for offshoring production or avoiding taxes by using tax havens. In addition, we will raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, rolling back the Republicans’ massive $1.3 trillion giveaway to corporations and putting small businesses on equal footing with large corporations. This additional revenue will be used to make investments in households and businesses around the country, including those that will help farmers and ranchers boost their productivity and better compete in world agricultural markets.
Trump: One of the most important achievements of my first term was passing the most significant tax reform in our nation’s history. Corporate, individual and capital gains taxes were significantly reduced and the death tax burden, which directly hits family farms across the U.S., were significantly reduced by raising the exemption level and addressing the stepped-up basis. These tax cuts allowed farmers to have certainty about future generations and invest more of their revenue back into their businesses and communities.
We already know a Biden Administration will work to raise taxes from day 1. Because of the capital-intensive nature of farming, these tax increases could have an even greater negative impact on farmers if they’re unable to make investments in land, equipment and inputs necessary to generate abundant results.
- What would you do to reform and resolve the critical labor shortage many farmers face each year? How would you address the issue of undocumented workers who are already working on farms across America, as well as the need for a reformed H-2A program that would help provide a long-term ag workforce?
Biden: Farm workers have always been essential to working our farms and feeding our country. A Biden-Harris Administration will provide a path to legalization for agricultural workers who have worked for years on U.S. farms and continue to work in agriculture. Securing adequate, seasonal help in the ag sector can be inefficient and difficult to navigate, causing people to avoid or exploit the system, even when jobs remain unfilled. We support compromise legislation between farmworkers and the ag sector that will provide legal status based on prior agricultural work history, and a faster-track to a green card and ultimately citizenship. And we will ensure farm workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, regardless of immigration status and ensure labor and safety rules, including overtime, humane living conditions and protection from pesticide and heat exposure, are enforced with respect to these particularly vulnerable working people.
Trump: The Trump/Pence Administration understands the labor shortages facing agriculture and the unique challenges our farmers face. A strong agricultural labor system depends on being able to know who is coming to our country. The administration has taken steps to streamline the current H-2A program, including ensuring agriculture can continue to get the farmworkers they need during the pandemic. Common sense flexibilities were deployed to allow H-2A workers to continue working on farms.
The Obama-Biden Administration had eight years and failed to fix our immigration system. Immigration reform must secure our borders and also ensure our system works for our economy, including making sure farmers have access to the labor they need. The Trump/Pence Administration is eager to work with Congress to finally deal with all these issues, and we think there will be opportunity to do just that in a second term.
For complete answers to these questions and more, visit fb.org/land/presidential-candidate-questionnaire.