ag groups back McCain
opposition to farm bill, GOP candidate nets farm support, cash
On a sunny day
in May, Republican presidential candidate John McCain walked into
one of the nation's leading agricultural counties and attacked the
federal farm bill.
McCain blasted the legislation during a Stockton, Calif., rally,
saying: "This bill deserves your condemnation. The president's
vetoing it and to its everlasting shame, the Congress of the
United States - Republican and Democrat - will override the
McCain said afterwards at a news conference that he would not
shrink from his opposition.
"I'll do what I believe is best for this country and say what I
think is best for this country and take those positions," McCain
said. "I believe that people will respect me for it and eventually
support my candidacy."
With less than a month before the Nov. 4 election, farming and
ranching groups around the West are lining up behind the Arizona
senator - despite his opposition to key elements of the Farm Bill
- to support his candidacy over that of Democrat Barack Obama, the
senator representing the traditional farm state of Illinois.
Both the California and Oregon Farm Bureau federations are backing
McCain, as is Western Growers, the nation's largest fruit and
steadfastly promoted free markets, sensible fiscal policies,
repairs of our immigration laws and knows how important to our
economy are the fruit, vegetable and nut producers in the
West," said Western Growers President Tom Nassif.
California Farm Bureau Federation Doug Mosebar cited McCain's
experience with water issues as well as his support for free
trade as prime reasons to endorse the Arizona senator.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama greets
supporters at the Maumee Bay Resort in Oregon, Ohio, Tuesday,
a fellow Westerner, John McCain understands the particular
issues facing California farmers and ranchers," Mosebar said.
"He knows that sustainable farms and ranches depend on
reliable water supplies."
While the National Cattlemen's Beef Association has not
officially endorsed McCain, a July survey of cattle ranchers
done for the group showed that its members preferred McCain to
Obama by 87 percent to 10 percent.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain waves to
supporters during a rally at Montgomery County Community
College in Blue Bell, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Of the nation's
major agricultural groups, only the American Corn Growers
Association has endorsed Obama, who has historically been
sympathetic to ethanol producers. McCain has opposed ethanol
subsidies throughout his career.
"While John McCain is a great man and a true hero, he has built a
very pronounced and consistent record on agriculture and ethanol
during his 22 years as a U.S. senator, and it is perhaps the
single most negative record of any senator," said Keith Bolin,
president of American Corn Growers Association.
Even though the bulk of the farming and ranching community are
supporting his opponent, Obama is still reaping an unprecedented
harvest of campaign cash from agribusiness groups, according to
the watchdog group the Center for Responsive Politics.
No Democratic presidential challenger has raised more than Obama's
$1.3 million from the industry. Obama has collected nearly twice
what 2004 candidate John Kerry did.
Still, McCain is handily outraising Obama among farmers and
ranchers, raising nearly $2.4 million, according to the center's
President George W. Bush raised $4.9 million from agribusiness in
Some big-name McCain contributors in the West include Oregon's
Joseph Gonyea of Timber Products Co., John Harris from the
California beef producer Harris Ranch and Barbara Grimm of the
Bakersfield-based vegetable grower Grimmway Farms. Former
California GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Jones of Fresno,
chairman of Pacific Ethanol, has also contributed to McCain's
But none of the major farming and ranching political action
committees have done so - Western United Dairymen, Western
Growers, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National
Grain & Feed Association and none of the state Farm Bureau groups
have given to McCain's campaign.
Obama is not accepting PAC money.
Farm policy issues
Neither candidate has made farming and ranching a major part of
their political careers; neither sits on the Agriculture Committee
in the Senate and neither comes from an agricultural background.
Part of agriculture's tepid support of McCain stems from his
long-standing opposition to the federal farm bill. McCain
sponsored a measure in 2006 that would have eliminated a $74
million proposal to encourage schools to provide more fresh fruits
and veggies - a measure sought after by the nation's $50 billion
specialty crop sector.
His attempt failed and Obama was among those who helped defeat it.
McCain has also opposed ethanol subsidies to the extent that he
skipped the Iowa caucuses in the 2000 election and barely bothered
to campaign there during this primary season. He finished fourth
in this year's caucuses.
McCain now says that ethanol deserves to be part of his
"all-of-the-above" approach to weaning America off foreign oil.
His platform would tap all domestic energy sources save the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. He dodged a question about oil and
natural gas exploration on the Front Range of the Rockies when
asked about it by the magazine Field & Stream; that region is
vital to elk and deer populations and much of it is used as
grazing land by ranchers.
Obama says he favors some increase in oil drilling, but he is a
newcomer to the idea - opposing it until this year. Obama's focus
has primarily been on renewable energy, including biofuels such as
Both candidates say they support the Conservation Reserve Program
and both candidates say they support capping direct subsidies for
growers of program crops to those households earning no more than
Trade and taxes
McCain has historically been stronger than Obama in terms of
opening new free trade agreements - a key step toward expanding
American agriculture's reach in the world marketplace.
McCain's tax proposals would also help more farmers and ranchers.
Both candidates want to change the inheritance tax code, but
McCain would exempt all estates worth less than $10 million and
would reduce the tax rate imposed on those estates still affected.
Obama would exempt all estates worth $7 million or less and would
preserve the current 42 percent tax rate for anything worth more
than $7 million.
McCain would keep President Bush's capital gains tax cuts in
place. Obama would too, but only for those households earning less
than $250,000 a year. He would restore the pre-tax cut rate of 20
percent for those households earning more.
On climate change, McCain would also exempt farmers from
strictures under his proposed cap-and-trade system on greenhouse
gas emissions, but would give agriculture the opportunity to sell
credits for the trees they plant or crops they grow.
Obama also wants to create a cap-and-trade program, but would not
exempt agriculture from strictures. He would allow farmers to sell
Hank Shaw is the California editor based in Sacramento.
McCain’s ag team
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona
announced his "Farm & Ranch Team" last week. These officials
will act as advisers to the campaign's rural initiatives.
Several Republicans from Oregon, California, Washington and
Idaho are among McCain's group, including:
Washington Farm Bureau President
Steve Appel, president of Washington Farm Bureau
Barry Bushue, vice president of American Farm Bureau
Federation, president of Oregon Farm Bureau
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho
John C. Harris of Harris Ranch beef, California
Bill Jones, chairman of Pacific Ethanol, California
A.G. Kawamura, California Secretary of Agriculture
Doug Mosebar, president of California Farm Bureau, Western
region director American Farm Bureau
Thomas Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers