Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Tuesday 02/12/13

President Doesn't Touch on Agriculture, Rural America

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (DTN) -- As he has in the past, President Barack Obama used his fifth State of the Union speech Tuesday night to again propose an aggressive agenda, but there was almost no emphasis on rural America.

In Washington, the president laid out a liberal-oriented agenda that included proposing to raise the minimum wage, emphasizing the need to address climate change and promote clean energy. The president advocated spending on infrastructure and education and passing immigration reform. He also continued his push on gun control.

Some rural lawmakers had hoped Obama would reference the farm bill in his remarks, but that did not happen. In talking about immigration reform in his speech, the president also did not mention agriculture, a key sector advocating for immigration overhaul.

Citing the president's comments on climate change, a few farm and biofuel groups highlighted the potential of agriculture to help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The president noted early on that he and Congress have cut projected deficits by $2.5 trillion over the next decade and are $1.5 trillion from reaching a point in which deficits are stabilized. Still, the president criticized the $1.2 trillion in "sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts" known as sequestration cuts that could go into effect over the next few weeks. Obama said those cuts would hurt defense and health care.

Instead, the president proposed higher taxes on wealthy people by getting rid of "special interest tax breaks" for the "wealthy and well-connected." The president also called for simplifying the Tax Code and eliminating tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.

"Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit," he said.

In the Republican response, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida shot back at the president and his allies by arguing that preventing tax increases does not mean Republicans only support the rich. Rubio noted he grew up in a modest neighborhood where he still lives.

"So Mr. President, I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich," Rubio said. "I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors. Hard-working middle class Americans who don't need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class."

Rubio added, "Raising taxes won't create private sector jobs. And there's no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That's why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy."

On trade, the president did cite the need to continue boosting exports by completing negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as a new proposal for Europe.

"I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union -- because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs."

Obama did not reassert his proposal in the 2010 State of the Union to double exports by 2015.

The president stressed that the country should do more to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and focus more on renewable energy. He also challenged those who don't believe in climate science.

"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change," Obama said. "Yes, it's true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods -- all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it's too late."

With that, the president called on Congress to "pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change," such as legislation worked on by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., in 2007. But the president said if Congress doesn't act, he will push his cabinet to do more.

The president added he planned to accelerate work on natural gas, as well as speeding up permitting for new oil and gas production.

In an early response Tuesday, the National Farmers Union praised the president's speech, citing that "Farmers and ranchers are leading the way in the clean energy revolution, providing feedstocks to advanced biorefineries and harnessing the wind and sun to power the country as well as their own operations," NFU stated.

NFU added, "The president's call for Congress to pass a market-based solution to climate change is also very encouraging. Extreme weather events like the current drought are hurting America's farmers and ranchers' ability to provide the nation with food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Given the right incentives, agriculture can play a significant role in combating climate change by being a part of the solution."

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, also said the biodiesel industry can play a role lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

"Biodiesel is a practical, cost-effective and bipartisan solution that's here today to address this problem," Steckel said. "President Obama has already proven his strong support for American-made renewable fuels, and we think there is tremendous potential for increasing the role our industry can play."

The president also proposed an infrastructure fund, "Fix-It-First" that would focus on priority repairs such as highway bridges across the country.

The president also placed an emphasis on immigration reform that would include giving immigrants now in the country illegally an opportunity to earn citizenship. He called on Congress to pass a bill that also would reduce the bureaucracy for highly-skilled foreign workers to enter the country.

"As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts," he said. "Now let's get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away."

In perhaps a surprise, the president also called for raising the minimum wage for full-time workers to $9 an hour, as well as pegging increases for the minimum wage to the cost of living.

The president then rounded out his speech by focusing on gun control by highlighting recent victims of gun violence and demanding Congress bring many of his proposals up for a vote. He repeatedly advocated "they deserve a vote."

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 10:04PM CST 02/12/13 by Chris Clayton
Comments (2)
I guess he didn't have to say a whole lot since ag hasn't been this good in recorded history!? About all he could have said was we can save billions by doing away with unneeded farm subsidies? But yeah for the NFU which is probably the only group that stands for farmers and not corporations like the Farm Bureau and Soybean association! Has anyone here heard of Hugh Bowman? He is taking Monsanto to the Supreme Court over what Monsanto calls "unorthodox use of soybeans",,, aka using them as seeds! The Soybean association is behind Monsanto on this as I suspect many other so called farmer groups.
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 7:25AM CST 02/13/13
Quoting From Jon Rappaport's Comments: The droning of the laundry list is, of course, a reflection of the fact that big government has its paws and nose in every facet of our lives. I was waiting for Obama to talk about an adequate supply of toilet paper and paper towels in public-park restrooms, and the danger of pictures of guns brought to school. And how about those unsightly vegetable gardens growing on front lawns? Would be bring in the FBI and the ATF and DHS to solve that problem? Would he push for free sex-change operations for all college students? Radioactive body scanners in coffee shops? I think the system for assigning names to hurricanes and blizzards should be subjected to a task-force study. When tonight Obama said the only way to make progress was for us all to work together, he didn�t just mean the Congress. He meant the American people, aka the television audience. But I�ve never understood that idea. What are we all working together to accomplish? What�s the program? Giving away more of our income to the federal government? Agreeing to more surveillance of our movements? Supporting the invasion of more countries? Refraining from photographing the police making arrests? Restricting our Facebook posts to happy faces and rainbows? Are we all working together to surrender our guns in exchange for movie tickets and candy? Are we pretending to be overjoyed that the federal government wants to force everyone to get vaccinated and eat GMO food, and take SSRI antidepressants that demonstrably cause people to go crazy and kill others? Is that it? Are we somehow working together to print endless amounts of money? Are we working together to push the percentage of Americans collecting free government money from 40 percent to 60 percent? Is that the glorious goal? Are we working together to give money to alternative-energy companies so they can go broke and declare bankruptcy? Are we working together to protect and defend the World Trade Organization, so ravenous mega-corporations can export jobs to China and roam the global landscape, raping and pillaging resources and labor? Are we working together to accept Obamacare, which will steadily eliminate natural-health alternatives and enroll more people in a medical system that kills 225,000 people (actually a lot more) every year like clockwork? Is that the goal? Are we working together to pretend we have two very different major political parties in the country, instead of one party with two heads? Are we working to assure that no bankster is ever sent to prison for scamming the American people out of trillions of dollars? Are we working together to take guns away from people who would only use them to defend themselves and their families against criminals, while at the same we work to ignore gang violence stemming in part from the fact that Mexican drug cartels use these gangs as subcontractors, under the protection of the federal government? Are we working together to imagine that our troops are really fighting wars to protect and defend the nation? Are we working together to hide the fact that, although interest rates are artificially low, we�re spending more and more money every month to buy what we need to survive? Are we working together to hamstring every small business in America with red tape and taxes? Are we working together to ignore the absurd insanity called climate-change science, so the government can install carbon taxes and penalties and lop the top off of American industry? Are we all working together to frame attractive free incentive packages for unlimited numbers of immigrants who come to America, while untold numbers of Americans are going hungry every night, and people can�t find jobs anywhere? Is that the objective? Destabilization of society, under the cynical guise of humane gift-giving? Are we working to dream that when the president says he�s going to focus on jobs in his second term, this means he�s actually going to do more than squint at the sun? Are we working to find more foreign enemies we can invade, as our military advance teams pave the way for imperial corporations and continue to launch some sort of ridiculous �surround Russia� operation? Are we all working together to drown the Third World in �free� medical drugs and vaccines that destroy immune systems, rather than cleaning up contaminated water supplies and installing simple sanitation systems (at a millionth of the cost of the drugs)? Are we all working together just �to work together� and continue the fine tradition of destroying the nation from the inside? That�s what I thought. Yes, that�s what I thought. Hell of a speech, Mr. President. You and GW and Bill and Bush the Elder and Ronnie and Jimmy and Gerry and Nixon really know your laundry lists. You talk, and the government gets bigger. It�s magic. There�s always more to do and the government has to make it happen. Otherwise, what are you there for? I ask myself that question all the time. I�m still looking for an answer, other than, �We�re all in this together.� Who is this WE you keep taking about? And what is this TOGETHER? You mean we who are watching on television and you who are talking on television? You mean you who are slicing the Constitution into little pieces while ridiculing it as a Neanderthal document? You mean you who are covert agents of Globalism? You mean you who have been vetted to make sure you�re on board with the op to take American down into a planetary management system that will bring a thousand years of peace to people made over into androids? That�s what I thought. You talk and the government gets bigger. You bankroll education and students are brainwashed into �uplifting social themes,� and become more dumb. You talk and the state-corporate media strain themselves into hernias to praise your erudition or passion. You talk and thousands of lobbyists who have the inside track on your souls parse your words and plan their new strategies. You talk and the American people desperately try to imagine you�re making a grain of sense. You talk and the winds blow and the snow falls and Somebody Actually Important, at a much higher level of the Mob, pats you on your shoulder and folds you up like a puppet and drops you in his pocket and walks upstairs to the Residence and puts you to sleep. Asleep, you dream of a strange and alien thing: the freedom and power and independence of the individual. For you, it�s a nightmare. Yep, that about covers it.
Posted by Ric Ohge at 9:37AM CST 02/13/13
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