Romney, Obama show rural issue differences

Questionnaires and other sources provide a glimpse into what President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney think about rural issues, since they seldom discuss the topic on the campaign trail.

Questionnaires and other sources provide a glimpse into what President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney think about rural issues, since they seldom discuss the topic on the campaign trail.

In short, a Romney surrogate said the Republican presidential candidate's plan for rural America is to promote foreign trade, get government off the backs of rural residents, lower taxes and "develop a more sensible approach to regulation." Republican U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. agriculture secretary, made the comments in a rare forum about rural presidential politics in Des Moines, Iowa.

Countering Johanns in the forum was former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, who also was that state's agriculture secretary for several years. She said Democrat Obama has done well in expanding farm export markets and he has "made incredible progress boosting a strong farm economy."

Here is a look at some of the issues:



The two candidates appear to have more agreement than disagreement on a proposed farm bill that would shift away from giving farmers more subsidies to establishing a more robust crop insurance program to better protect farmers during disasters.

Obama said in answering a Farm Bureau questionnaire that a farm bill should be passed this year to provide farmers protection.

Romney said he supports a "strong farm bill that provides the appropriate risk management tools..."


The estate tax, which Republicans like to call the "death tax," would be nearly eliminated in a new Obama administration, the president told the Farm Bureau.

Obama said his proposal to charge no tax on $7 million of estate value would mean just 60 small farms and business estates in the country would owe an estate tax next year.

Romney pledged to eliminate the estate tax, which he said would allow more farms and ranches to remain in the family.




In general, Romney calls for fewer and less restrictive federal environmental rules while Obama more often supports existing policy.

To the Farm Bureau questions, Obama said he will not apply new standards "to waters that have not been historically protected. And all existing exemptions for agricultural discharges and waters are going to stay in place."

Romney said that laws and rules written to protect health and environment "have, instead, been seized on by environmentalists as tools to disrupt economic activity and the enjoyment of our nation's environment altogether."


The candidates agree there is a need to speed immigrant worker visas so tourism and agriculture businesses can get the seasonal workers they need.

Obama said a new system must be designed, one that protects American workers' wages and working conditions.

Romney said that he would order faster visa approvals. "Indeed, in 2006 and 2007, 43 percent of all applications for temporary agricultural workers were not processed on time."



While Obama appointed a person to head efforts to block the advance of Asian carp, local officials have been frustrated by what they see as lack of action.

Romney said in answering a Keep America Fishing questionnaire that he would speed up the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study and act quickly.

Obama countered that his administration has "launched multiple efforts to encourage state, local and federal authorities to coordinate in their efforts to mitigate the spread of Asian carp..."


Recreational fishing is burdened by too many regulations, Romney said. He pledged to "put focus back on common sense regulations that can protect and rebuild fisheries when necessary, but will also allow anglers greater access to healthy marine resources."

Obama said that his administration has created many public recreational areas and will continue to work on encouraging conservation of lands and waters.



In one of the few rural issues they discuss while campaigning, Obama and Romney show a definite split on energy policy.

Both campaigns say their candidates support the federal renewable fuel standard, which encourages the use of fuels such as corn-based ethanol. Obama is far more vocal about it, but in their first debate, Romney also said he supports renewable fuel sources.

While Obama emphasizes renewables, observers have seen his stance change and his website proclaims he supports "all of the above."

Expanding production in places like western North Dakota's oil patch likely would be easier under Romney, who prefers less federal regulation on drilling, mining and farming. Obama backs more environmental rules.

Obama centers his energy policy on tax credits that support development of sources such as ethanol (mostly made from corn), biodiesel (usually coming from soybeans), wind power and solar power.

Instead of Obama's tax credits, Romney favors speeding up government permitting of wind farms, as well as other energy production efforts.

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