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Opinion: Candidates’ rural policy stances beginning to crystallize

  

Now that the tickets for the Republican and Democratic candidates for president and vice president are presumably set, all eyes are on the 2020 general election. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will go head to head on the issues with former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris. Each candidate, whether a relative newcomer to the political scene or a longer-term figure, has developed a track record on rural and agricultural issues that will be in the spotlight.

Perhaps the most important ag-related policy issue this fall will be the candidates’ positions on foreign trade. Biden and Harris are likely to target Trump’s trade policies, claiming they were bad for rural America. Trump and Pence are expected to counter those arguments, citing their work on passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). This trade deal modernized and expanded free trade with our neighbors to the north and south. It was met with broad, bipartisan support in Congress. Harris was one of 10 senators who voted against the USMCA, citing mainly environmental and labor concerns.

Most of the candidates are on record opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multilateral trade deal. Trump withdrew the U.S. from it soon after taking office. It would seem multilateral trade deals face dim prospects over the next four years no matter the ticket chosen. Missouri Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation were both extremely supportive of the TPP. This massive deal would have opened Pacific rim countries to American agricultural products. These markets would have provided huge opportunities for U.S. farmers. Continued negotiations with our trading partners and opportunities for growth will likely be key points that the candidates highlight when making the rounds in rural America.

Other issues that will likely appeal to rural voters are items such as regulatory reform. Many farmers and ranchers fear additional regulations that could hurt their farming operations. Where each candidate stands on rolling back onerous, burdensome policies will play a big role in garnering rural support. With net farm income expected to decline once again this year, rural Americans cannot afford unnecessary mandates.

Rural infrastructure, including both transportation and broadband, is more important now than ever as we continue to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the candidates have highlighted the additional need for rural broadband funding and their desire to improve our roads and bridges. Details will be important, though, and candidates will be pressed for plans that include how the measures will be paid for. Renewable energy will likely garner attention as candidates address the future of ethanol and biodiesel in addition to power generated by wind and solar farms.

As Election Day grows closer, we hope to hear more about each candidate’s plans for rural citizens. The farm economy is in the throes of a multi-year slump, with a pandemic and recession thrown on top. The outcome of this November’s election could make a big difference in the lives of rural Missourians.