Inside Washington: Republican platform tackles ag policy

At Republican National Convention this week, party's platform looks to make many changes to agricultural policy as we know it.

While Republican leaders were at the Republican National Convention this week, they outlined some anticipated and also questionable policy statements when it comes to agriculture. Some of the platform will likely draw wild praise from farmers, while other components could significantly alter how farmers do business as well as the way the market provides a safety net to the industry.

Trade

The GOP platform made note of the important role agriculture plays in the economy as well as the ability to be a net exporter, stating that exports drive economic growth as each dollar of agricultural exports generates another $1.27 in business activity. The platform said it is committed to expanding trade opportunities.

“Under a Republican president, America’s trade negotiators will insist that our global trading partners adhere to science-based standards with regard to food and health regulations,” the platform stated. “We will not tolerate the use of bogus science and scare tactics to bar our products from foreign markets, nor will we allow insufficient health and safety standards for products imported for our consumption.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had strong words in his nomination acceptance speech Thursday night where he stated he will “turn our bad trade agreements into great ones.” He said he will renegotiate NAFTA and promised to make individual deals with individual countries.

He called the South Korea trade deal “job killing” and said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal “will not only destroy our manufacturing, but it will make America subject to the rulings of foreign governments.”

“No longer will we enter into these massive deals, with many countries, that are thousands of pages long – and which no one from our country even reads or understands. We are going to enforce all trade violations, including through the use of taxes and tariffs, against any country that cheats,” Trump said.

Livestock and dairy issues

The platform took issue with federal dairy policies in specific, noting that they were crafted during the Great Depression and are “increasingly an impediment to the ability of our dairy producers to meet the expected doubling in global demand coming by 2030.”

It also said it opposes “the policies pushed by special-interest groups seeking to stop or make more expensive our current system of safe, efficient and humane production of meat. Congress has repeatedly had to block the current Administration’s draconian rules concerning the marketing of poultry and livestock” — likely referring to the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration rule Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has tried to revive.

The platform praised the work farmers and ranchers have done on the land and encouraged continued preservation, not the restriction, on working lands, emphasizing that “ranching on public lands must be fostered, developed and encouraged.”

Over-regulation

The platform blamed the Democrat Administration’s “sustained additional regulation” as directly creating higher costs of production for food, saying: “This federal regulatory overreach has resulted and will continue to result in higher food prices for Americans.”

The platform referred to the Environmental Protection Agency’s waters of the U.S. rule as a “travesty” that “extends the government’s jurisdiction over navigable waters into the micro-management of puddles and ditches on farms, ranches and other privately held property.”

It concluded that federal agencies should never be allowed to seize control of waters, watersheds or groundwater, which should be the purview of the states.

The platform doesn’t ask for a full repeal of the Endangered Species Act but does assert that the sage grouse, lesser prairie chicken and grey wolf should be delisted.

Farm bill

The platform said lack of leadership from the current Administration and congressional Democrats led to the farm bill taking too long to enact. The new Grand Old Party (GOP) platform called for getting things done on time, including the next farm bill, which will be up for renewal in 2018.

The platform blamed Democrats for playing politics with farm security with their efforts to expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which now comprises more than 70% of all farm bill spending. It said it would “correct a mistake when the food stamp program was first created in 1964” by separating the administration of SNAP from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The result of such a decision would not be the undoing of the SNAP program but, rather, the end of the farm bill as we know it,” the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition warned in a blog on the platform, “GOP Platform on Agriculture Separates Instead of Unites.”

Crop insurance

The drafters of the Republican platform did try to emphasize the need for a fair and balanced crop insurance subsidy system. In recent years, crop insurance has been untouchable in any attempt to roll back spending, and this platform tries to open the door a crack to see if there is a better way to help manage risk without providing more than the government should.

“No segment of agriculture can expect treatment so favorable that it seriously disadvantages workers in other trades. Federal programs to assist farmers in managing risk must be as cost-effective as they are functional, offering tools that can improve producers’ ability to operate when times are tough while remaining affordable to the taxpayers,” the platform said.

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