Thursday, January 28, 2016

Candidates ignore most farm, rural issues in Iowa; if not discussed there, where will they be?

While ethanol has been a hot topic among some presidential candidates leading up to the Iowa caucuses, the rest of state's agricultural needs—Iowa relies on agriculture for one-third of its economy—have been mostly ignored, Amy Mayer reports for Iowa Public Radio. The problem is that most Iowa voters live in cities and suburbs, which "makes it difficult to get candidates talking about food system issues from school lunches, to crop supports, to water quality. Yet these all fall under the federal agriculture department. If candidates aren't talking about them in Iowa, it's possible they'll be left out of the campaigns entirely."

Iowa State University political scientist Mack Shelley told Mayer that the closest most candidates get to talking about food in Iowa is when they make sure to be photographed sampling it at fairs: "Sometimes they go to pig races, and they hang around on hay bales and farms and, not that that's necessarily typical of Iowa, but to attract support within the state you kind of have to start there and build out from that point."

Several candidates have published items about food, agriculture and rural issues but have been largely mum on the subjects in public appearances, unless it concerns ethanol, Mayer writes. While Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the only candidate to oppose the Renewable Fuels Standard that supports ethanol, "That doesn't necessarily mean they're paying attention to other concerns farmers have. After all, there's a lot more to our food system than renewable fuels," like the farm safety net, trade and conservation, issues that have been largely ignored, Mayer reports. The caucuses are Monday night.

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