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Trump vs. Biden: Comparing Ag Platforms

Agricultural Labor, Conservation, Food Regulations and Policy

Trump vs. Biden: Comparing Ag Platforms

The Dirt

Election Day is almost here. So where do Trump and Biden stand on American food and agriculture? We compare the candidates' views on the major issues affecting farmers and ranchers today.

Everyone agrees it will be an important event for all Americans – a momentary pause, if not an end, to the endless argument about the future direction of the country. On November 3rd, we will select our President, our entire House of Representatives, and a third of our Senate.

When it comes to food and agriculture, what makes one presidential candidate different from the other? The significant farm issues are the economy, international trade relationships, China as a strong component but other countries as well; the Renewable Fuel Standard; rural broadband access; the regulatory environment, and COVID. What will be the key goals and objectives they set? What big ideas will drive their actions over the next four years? What is likely to change and what will stay the same?

Don’t expect any great epiphanies from reading party platforms. Such documents are great at grand philosophical statements, but light on the specifics that might risk offending some potential voter. But there are insights in there anyway, especially when combined with the public statements and media coverage that have emerged in this campaign.

Candidates’ Philosophies

We took a look at comparing the policies that would most affect food and agriculture from each of the candidates. We focused on trade, the economy, climate change, and immigration.

Biden/Harris:

America is in trouble, due largely to the missteps of the current administration. America must return to many of the approaches of the previous Democratic administrations, including:

  • a stronger focus on building consensus, stepping up government support and engagement in things that build a fairer society

  • governmental programs to protect individual rights, reduce anti-competitive practices among agricultural businesses, reform our criminal justice system, and expand access to health care, broadband, and other social services

  • more aggressive governmental regulations to climate change, and in the process spur a broad effort to generate new jobs, protect our environment and revive the economy with innovative environmental products and technologies

  • revive a spirit of international cooperation to boost trade

Trump/Pence:

America is on the right track, so let’s stick with what we have started:

 

  • take the tough steps needed to compete in a global marketplace, while shielding U.S. citizens, with subsidies, from the immediate adverse effects of such actions

  • keep current policies and programs and continue to reduce the governmental barriers that hold back enterprise and initiative

  • support worthwhile government programs but still rely on private enterprise and voluntary effort as the primary engines of progress in protecting the environment and managing financial risk

  • stand up for American interests first in the international arena, especially on matters of trade

Both platforms share some commonalities around the ideas of conservation. Their differing philosophies are on the role of the government as it pertains to conservation, trade, taxes, regulations, and immigration.

Plans for Trade

Biden/Harris:

  • seek international consensus: multilateral and bilateral before negotiating trade agreements

  • restore more traditional negotiating style and posturing with trade partners

  • revitalize focus on boosting ag exports; concerned about Brazil and Argentina taking place of U.S.

  • expand focus on workers’ rights and interests in trade negotiations

Trump/Pence:

  • take the tough steps needed to compete in a global marketplace, while shielding U.S. citizens, with subsidies, from the immediate adverse effects of such actions

  • maintain efforts to implement improved trade deals with China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Britain, and E.U.

  • enforce tougher negotiating philosophy with focus on exports and long-term opportunities

  • continue direct aid to farmers while negotiating trade deals, currently at $32 billion

 Trump favors the aggressive use of higher tariffs as a tool for negotiating better trade deals. Biden prefers a more traditional approach of focusing on progressive tariff reductions.

Addressing Farm & Rural Economies

Biden/Harris:

  • raise taxes: income, capital gains, corporate tax rate; end stepped-up basis

  • provide more financial support for rural economy via initiatives and infrastructure modernization, including direct farm support, rural health care, broadband

  • support local trade between farmers and schools and hospitals

  • preserve and protect smaller operators from unfair, anti-competitive forces with a higher focus on FTC antitrust regulations such as the Clayton Act, Dodd-Frank, etc., trickling down to farm economy

  • enhance labor rights and protections; support union workers

  • provide more financial support for younger, beginning farmers/ranchers, and smaller farms

  • support Farm Bill and SNAP

Trump/Pence:

  • continue 2017’s tax plan that enables farmers to pass their farms to their next-generation farmers

  • preserve lower-tax environment

  • continue efforts to identify and remove regulatory and other barriers to support private initiative and innovation

  • support broadband throughout rural America

  • continue financial relief through direct payments to affected producers, as needed

  • maintain financial discipline in existing government programs

  • support Farm Bill and SNAP, but close loopholes that allow ‘able-bodied working-age adults’ collecting food stamps to move into a work environment to create a sense of fiscal independence

Trump offers a strategy to continue the ‘America First’ initiative, providing increased business opportunities by limiting regulatory barriers, while providing relief to those in need. Biden proposes tax increases to overhaul current systems in rural America, such as broadband access and healthcare. He also plans to strengthen antitrust enforcement.

Climate Change & Sustainability Affecting Ag

Biden/Harris:

  • Green New Deal is ‘a crucial framework’ for climate challenges

  • make American ag first in the world to achieve net-zero carbon emissions

  • increase research funding focused on zero-carbon and productivity-increase goals

  • support renewable fuels and ethanol mandates

  • expand financial incentives for programs that reduce greenhouse gases – conservation reserves, reduced tillage, ‘blue sink’ programs, regenerative ag

  • expand USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program

  • promote development of new, innovative products and technologies related to environmental protection, reduced carbon footprint

Trump/Pence:

  • against Green New Deal due to added costs and reduced income for farmers and added regulations

  • maintain existing conservation programs, including Conservation Stewardship Program, based on voluntary participation

  • encourage regenerative ag, soil and farm technology, and clean water

  • continue to support Renewable Fuel Standard program, including ethanol

Both parties maintain conservation efforts as a priority and state that ’sound science’ is highly important in addressing food and ag issues, but neither is anxious to define exactly what ’sound science’ is, other than a broad philosophic concept.

While Biden looks to increase funding on its zero-carbon emission goal, Trump focuses its funding on renewable energy sources and fuel alternatives.

Immigration

Biden/Harris:

  • take immediate action to undo policies regarding wall construction on U.S. and Mexico border

  • reassert a commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees and investigate the root cause of irregular immigration

  • reexamine relationships in Central American nations as part of plan to deter violence causing influx of refugees

  • create doorway for seasonal farm labor and migrant workers

  • address path to citizenship for undocumented workers

Trump/Pence:

  • continue funding for construction of a wall to differentiate nation’s border with Mexico

  • close legal loopholes that enable illegal immigration

  • end chain migration and eliminate visa lottery program

  • continue work on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and move to a more merit-based immigration plan

Biden would work to reverse the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico wall construction and instead focus on refugees and irregular migration from the southern border. Trump would maintain a strong process for legalizing immigrants, including the continuation of his work on DACA. In a continued effort to deter illegal immigration, construction would resume on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Summing it all up…

Biden & Harris’ platform proposes a larger and more aggressive role for the federal government in guiding the system through wide-ranging policies and programs that overlap with wider social, environmental, and other policy objectives.

Trump & Pence maintain a more traditional role for the government in creating an environment that rewards individual initiative and competitiveness in pursuing many of the same ultimate goals — economic growth, environmental protection and sustainability, adaptation to changing societal needs, and expectations of our modern food system.

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The Bottom Line

This election offers two starkly contrasting views of the issues and priorities for American agriculture made evident by the details surrounding their food and ag platforms.

D2D-illustration Bottom Line