Romney to Push Ag Trade Agenda


A Mitt Romney presidency would better support production agriculture by pushing for trade promotion authority, permanently eliminating estate taxes and reducing regulatory demands on producers, a prominent member of Romney’s farm and ranch team said Friday.

Former USDA acting Secretary Chuck Conner, now president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, is one of five national chairmen of the Farmers and Ranchers for Romney coalition. Conner spent time this week campaigning for Romney at a Pennsylvania farm show.

The contrasts between the Democratic Obama administration’s and Romney’s Republican stances on agriculture will focus on three major areas: trade, taxes and regulatory relief, Conner said.

Romney has said he will push early in his term for Congress to give him trade promotion authority, known as fast track. That would require Congress to vote on approving a trade deal without amendments or filibusters. President Barack Obama has never sought trade promotion authority for negotiating new agreements.

“Gov. Romney has said the future success of American agriculture is going to rely on our ability to break down foreign trade barriers and enable our producers to continue growing those export markets,” Conner said.

While President Obama got deals completed with Congress on Colombia, Panama and South Korea, those deals were largely negotiated during the Bush administration. Obama’s trade team has not completed any new trade deals but continues negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership between at least 11 countries. Obama’s trade officials have said they would need fast-track authority to complete those talks.

On taxes, there are clear differences on several issues. One particular example is the estate tax, Conner said. Romney favors elimination of the estate tax. Obama favors returning to the 2009 levels of a $3.5 million exemption and a 45{6b02cb02835b82b7f756ddf6717aaab7139b350de274ea97f5b53eb230607107} maximum tax rate.

“For Gov. Romney and the ag team he has assembled, this just doesn’t even approach any kind of common-sense test whatsoever,” Conner said.

Regulatory reform has been a major complaint of agricultural and business groups throughout the Obama administration. Conner said Romney has proposed a regulatory offset plan. That effectively means if an agency puts forward a new regulatory requirement, the agency has to eliminate another regulatory requirement of comparable industry costs.

“The regulatory reform agenda is designed to roll back much of what the Obama administration has put into place in terms of new regulatory requirements on producers,” Conner said. “For every regulatory requirement that burdens agriculture in some way, they have got to find an offsetting requirement associated with that.”

When asked whether Congress should delay the farm bill until the beginning of the next administration, Conner said there is a general acknowledgement it’s time to get the farm bill done. Conner said Romney supports getting a farm bill done by the end of this year.

“Gov. Romney’s position, if you will, encourages these guys getting it done by the end of the year, certainly,” Conner said.

While Romney’s team highlights core differences, the Obama administration counters with the overall strength of the farm economy over the past three years despite tough economic times throughout the larger economy. Farmers have earned record income, record export value, a resurgence of rural manufacturing and record land prices for producers.

The list of more than 80 advisory committee members makes up a list of who’s who in production agriculture. “This is a team that is going to ensure Gov. Romney is hearing from those people who are heavily, heavily involved in production agriculture today.”

Source: DTN

Posted by Russell Nemetz

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