Saturday, December 8, 2007


We must be able to feed ourselves as part of our national security.
We must help our farmers lead the way to energy independence.
As a percentage of national income, we spend only half as much on food as people in other developed countries. Subsidies help keep our food costs low by keeping production levels high.
We need subsidies to help our farmers compete with heavily subsidized farmers in Europe and Asia and to insulate them from the effects of natural disasters.
We need a counter cyclical revenue program that makes payments based on low yields as well as low prices, and we need a fully-funded crop insurance program.
Our agricultural policies must encourage young people to enter and stay in farming.
As President, I will watch out for our farmers because our national well-being depends on theirs.
A nation must provide its citizens freedom and security. To accomplish this, a nation must be able to defend itself and feed itself. We have learned how disastrous it is to be dependent on other countries for our energy needs – we must never be dependent for our food needs. Being able to feed ourselves is not just sound economic and agricultural policy, it is wise national security policy. Besides growing our food, our farmers are growing our energy and leading the way to energy independence. We need more ethanol, including cellulose-based ethanol from sources such as switch grass and agricultural residues. We need more bio-fuels and bio-diesel from food processing wastes, such as fat from processing plants and used cooking oils. We need methane gas from livestock and dairy operations. These alternative fuels will not only make us independent, they will also provide additional markets for our farmers’ products and create more jobs in rural areas. We take for granted that our food is not only plentiful and diverse, but also inexpensive. As a percentage of income, we spend about half what people in other developed countries do, which gives us an enormous economic advantage. We have so much more money to spend on discretionary items. Part of the reason prices are low is that subsidies keep production at high levels, so keeping American farmers in business is not just good for them but for all of us. We must continue subsidies because our farmers compete with highly subsidized farmers in Europe and Asia, and they face fixed costs (land, equipment, seed, supplies) whether or not they produce a crop. Subsidies insulate farmers from natural disasters like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes, as well as from sudden spikes in the price of fuel, feed, and fertilizer. I also support a more flexible counter cyclical revenue program that makes payments based on low yields and/or low prices rather than the current program, which is based only on low prices. I support a fully-funded crop insurance program, so that Congress will not have to pass emergency assistance every time disaster strikes. We need agricultural policies that encourage our young people to enter and stay in farming. They face the high costs of starting and capitalizing a farm, plus the fears generated by onerous government regulations and rapid policy changes. We have to reduce their risks and increase their potential for profitability. We have to assure that they have outstanding rural schools, state-of-the-art health care, and first-rate infrastructure. As Governor of Arkansas, a state with about 47,000 farms growing 165 crops, I saw first hand how our farmers struggled to cope with the challenges of fluctuating prices, policies, and natural disasters, and I was constantly amazed that they would go back year after year. As President, I will always watch out for our farmers because our national well-being is inextricably interwoven with theirs.

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