Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama backs cuts in 'big agribusiness' subsidies, more regulation of confined feeding operations

In an interview released today, Sen. Barack Obama said he supports reductions in federal subsidies to "big agribusiness operations that, frankly, just don't need help" and more regulation of confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. "I do support tough environmental regulations of CAFOs as well as increased funding for equipment," Obama told Agri-Pulse Senior Editor Stewart Doan. "We’ve probably been a little lax in terms of how we approach this problem."

Agri-Pulse is seeking an interview with Sen. John McCain. He and Obama have both supported limiting subsidy payments to $250,000 per farm. Obama commented on subsidies when asked how he would have changed the latest Farm Bill, which he supported and McCain opposed. "At a time when taxpayers are being squeezed we need to make sure it’s going to people, who really need it," Obama said, adding that conservation and nutrition programs in the bill need more money. Asked if the current economic turmoil will lead to cuts in programs, he noted McCain's proposed across-the-board cuts and said, "I don’t believe in taking a hatchet to a problem, I believe in taking a scalpel."

On CAFO regulation, Obama said called livestock "a critical industry" and "a major driver of rural economic development … but I do support tough environmental regulations of CAFOs as well as increased funding for equipment" that helps CAFO operators manage the waste from their operations. Doan said current regulation is incentive-based. Obama also answered questions about biofuels and trade. To hear the nine-minute interview, click here.

Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant said in an e-mail, “This is the first time that Sen. Obama has taken time out of his campaign to speak with any agricultural journalist about his views on the farm bill and agriculture in general.” The interview begins "Open Mic," a new weekly feature for the nonpartisan, Washington-based newsletter, which offers a free trial subscription.

Wyant wrote a column last week examining why McCain remains strong and enjoys growing favorability among rural voters though he opposed the Farm Bill and vows to eliminate the tax credit for ethanol. She suggested that one reason may be his choice of running mate Sarah Palin. To read the column, click here.

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