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Our choice: John McCain

Editorial, Capital Press 10/16/08

For most Americans, these are not the best of times. They are times fraught with uncertainty, with a struggling economy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unsettled.

These are times that beckon true leaders - like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan - who can assure the public and lead us to a stronger, more vibrant nation tempered by the challenges of today.

American farmers and ranchers know about struggle. The high prices of fuel, feed, financing and fertilizer combine with the roller coaster prices of crops and livestock to squeeze every producer and processor.

In particular, Western farmers know that to succeed they must have adequate water for crops, room to graze their livestock and ample opportunity to harvest timber. They need a president who understands the West and will listen to their concerns and who is not afraid to do the right thing even if it means some political discomfort.

Standing before voters in November's general election are two men, John McCain and Barack Obama.

McCain, the Republican nominee, is a maverick who doesn't look for his policies in polls or on a TelePrompTer, but who thinks for himself instead of being part of the go-along-to-get-along crowd in the Washington, D.C.

His decades of service in Congress representing Arizona amply illustrate that he is able to reach across the aisle to solve problems and work toward consensus.

Obama, the Democratic nominee, is an eager freshman senator from Illinois. A good man and a great campaigner, he has captured the hearts of a new generation with his calls for change.

Both candidates have health-care plans, foreign-policy plans, plans for this and plans for that. When it comes to agriculture, however, those plans can best be described as vague.

And there is more agreement between the two than disagreement.

One over-arching disagreement is over the 2008 Farm Bill. Neither candidate voted on the legislation, though Obama, in response to questions from the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he supports it. He backs a "robust safety net that targets assistance appropriately and provides farmers with risk-mitigation tools that protect them from weather and market conditions that are beyond their control."

McCain, meanwhile, is a vocal critic of the legislation. He wants to replace subsidies with a "market-based" crop insurance system that would protect farmers and ranchers against weather- and price-related disasters. With this new system, McCain believes the U.S. would end the objections of some other countries and open new international trade opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Both candidates propose immigration reform, an issue that has hurt farmers who depend on hand labor in their fields. McCain has been a leader of Senate efforts to reach a compromise on the issue, and he accuses Obama of blocking progress of his bill. McCain also would work to improve the federal H-2A guestworker program.

They also differ on ethanol production. Obama supports subsidies, but McCain blames them for raising the price of corn, which helps growers but has had a devastating effect on livestock and dairy producers.

In other areas, the differences are less pronounced. On the federal estate tax, McCain proposes a larger cut than Obama. They both support a cap-and-trade carbon market as a means of addressing global warming, but, according to a Farm Bureau analysis, McCain would "exempt farms from climate change regulations."

The hallmark of McCain's agricultural policy is a "21st Century Green Revolution," in which he calls for the USDA to launch a "comprehensive research agenda to develop more stress-resistant, higher-yielding crops to increase production per acre."

Obama's policy seems to be more rooted in promoting organic and sustainable agriculture and "strictly regulating" pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations.

However, the closer you look at Obama and the groups supporting him, the more he looks like a standard-issue liberal Democrat. His list of supporters calls into question whether his administration might have "changes" in mind that would ultimately hurt farmers and ranchers.

Obama supporters include the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. Also on the list is the Humane Society Legislative Fund, an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, which is leading the charge for Proposition 2 in California to ban battery cages for chickens.

Meanwhile, the list of organizations supporting McCain's candidacy includes nearly every ag group in the West.

There is no doubt that agriculture knows full well which presidency would be best for it, and for the nation.

We stand with them.

We endorse John McCain as our choice for the next president of the United States.


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