What Does Obama Win Mean for Iowa Agriculture?

Iowa farm organizations and ag spokesmen comment on 2008 election results.

With the results of the historic 2008 elections finalized, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is turning its attention to the future of our state and our country. "We congratulate President-elect Barack Obama and the congressional-elect members of the 111th Congress," says Craig Lang, Iowa Farm Bureau President. "Each candidate for president had his strengths, and our policies will direct how we work with the new President and his administration.

"Farm Bureau will work with new lawmakers immediately to provide information about why trade is a top priority for farmers and ranchers. Energy is also a crucial issue, and Farm Bureau has a strong comprehensive energy policy," says Lang. "However, because of the continuing challenges of high diesel and propane costs, farmers will need to intensify their lobbying efforts to ensure the U.S. adopts a solid energy strategy."

He adds, "We face many challenges, but there are many positives for agriculture, too. Hopefully, a new administration in Washington will also focus on repairing and building new infrastructure throughout the U.S. Good roads and bridges are a must for farm commerce. We will continue to support our policy, which calls for improvements to infrastructure, including rail and waterways. Our policy transcends politics, and we will work with all levels of government to make sure our members' needs, concerns and challenges are addressed."

What others involved in agriculture say

* Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, says the big question is who will be the people appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in the Obama administration. Those appointments will be just as important as who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Some folks are nervous about regulatory issues. Obama's support for ethanol, biodiesel and biofuels is encouraging. He actually supported increases in the Renewable Fuels Standard. That suggests more support for research dollars."

* Bruce Rastetter, chairman and CEO of Hawkeye Renewables, a major Iowa ethanol manufacturing firm, says, "With Obama in the White House, we'll have an administration that is friendly to biofuels. I expect bipartisan support for ethanol in Congress. Continued government support will be critical, especially as we try to get the federal Environmental Protection Agency to approve the use of 15% or 20% ethanol blends. Ethanol and biofuels are a new and developing industry and historically the government has helped new industries."

* David Swenson, an Iowa State University economist, doesn't see the Obama administration making significant changes in policies for rural Iowa. "There really isn't a lot about what the new administration has offered up so far that has a direct relationship to rural Iowa except for the promise of expanded biofuels production," he says. Swenson sees Obama maintaining the existing trade policy that is popular with Iowa's agribusiness interests. "Contrary to Republican claims, Obama is not a socialist. He's center-right in most economic areas."

* Monte Shaw, executive director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, says "President-elect Obama has spoken favorably of renewable fuels, and it will be good to have someone in the White House who understands biofuels. The key will be who is put in to head USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency. I think you'll see bipartisan support for ethanol. There have been various efforts to strip away the renewable fuel standards or the blenders credits and they have been defeated."

* Gary Edwards, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, expects ag policy to be similar to that of the Clinton Administration. "There will be more emphasis on environmental matters and that's fine with me. Farmers should always help take care of the environment. The entire Iowa Congressional delegation was returned to office and that will continue stability on farm programs. We need to make sure there are incentives in the farm bill for conservation programs and for the revenue assurance plan."

The Bush Administration is still working on rules to implement the 2008 Farm Bill and some of those rules are unlikely to be ready before Obama takes office.

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