2012: Where the Parties Stand

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The party platform provides a clear view into the thinking of those who have selected the candidates for President. At its best and its worst, the party platform is the base on which the candidate runs.

Party platforms are the end result of hundreds of hours of discussion and negotiations among earnest and dedicated activists and their various interest groups within the party, including representatives of the candidate himself. How closely the candidate hews to the platform says something about both the candidate and the party that has nominated him.

The following is a summary review of planks from the Republican and Democratic Party platforms as they relate to the business of agriculture. It includes elements of taxes, transportation, energy policy, resource use and conservation and the environment.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM AND AGRICULTURE

Mitt Romney The first specific plank in the agriculture section called for eliminating the estate tax as a way to reduce the uncertainty threatening the nation's farm families and for eliminating taxes on capital gains for lower and middle-income taxpayers. 

The second plank addressed the importance of supporting risk management tools to offset volatility in weather and markets. It acknowledged the need for cuts to farm bills, including an end to Direct Payment programs as one way of seeking deficit reduction. It also called for continued support for the role of the USDA in agricultural research and food safety, urging Congress to ensure adequate resources for those purposes.

The third plank called for limits to judicial action on environmental management and supported producers and growers defending their water rights from the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers expansion of jurisdiction over waters, including non-navigable waters.

The fourth plank called for streamlining of international food aid efforts by the USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development by combining them under a single agency.

The fifth plank under agriculture's section of the platform dealt with the food stamp program, which accounts for 80 percent of the entire USDA budget. It called for Congress to consider block granting that program to the states, along with domestic nutrition programs, as a way to fight fraud and abuse.

Other sections of the platform with direct impact on agriculture included taxes, transportation and the environment.

TAXES:

Corporate taxes would be reduced to "keep U.S. corporations competitive internationally." A permanent research and development tax credit would be put in place, the corporate minimum tax would be repealed and a "territorial system of corporate taxation" would be put in place allowing profits earned and taxed abroad to be repatriated (for job-creating investment) domestically without penalty.

TRANSPORTATION:

This plank recognized the need for major investment in the nation's infrastructure—roads, bridges, airports, ports and water systems—and for reform to speed approval of infrastructure projects. At the same time, it recognized that "securing sufficient funding for the Highway Trust Fund remains a challenge given the debt and deficits and need to reduce spending."

INTERNATIONAL TRADE:

Of special interest to agriculture was a call for the restoration of presidential Trade Promotion Authority, ensuring up or down votes in Congress on any new trade agreement. It also endorsed completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other multi-lateral agreements.

ENERGY:

This plank called for tapping all cost-effective energy resources on-shore and off, traditional and alternative, and completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

ENVIRONMENT, CONSERVATION AND THE EPA:

These planks called for full transparency in development of data and modeling for environmental regulations, science-based cost and benefit analysis and restoring the authority of the states in environmental protection. They also call for review of public land holdings for possible privatization.

A separate plank called for reform and restrictions on the EPA and its involvement in court actions to expand EPA's regulatory activities, full transparency and notification of affected parties in advance of litigation, an end to "unwarranted revocation of existing permits" and prohibition on development of greenhouse gas regulations.

DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM AND AGRICULTURE

Barack Obama The Democratic attention to agriculture was much more condensed than that of the Republicans. As befits the incumbent party, much time and space was spent reviewing efforts of the past four years. Looking ahead, this section called for strengthening the rural water, sewer and broadband infrastructure as well as the ag safety net by renewing crop disaster relief, strengthening crop insurance and creating a permanent disaster relief program. It also endorsed a call for increased funding of research and development to improve agricultural productivity and global food security.

Other sections of the platform, which addressed issues of interest to farmers and rural America, included the following:

TAXES:

This platform plank called for extending tax cuts for the first $250,000 in income with expiration of Bush tax cuts for incomes above that amount, reforming the tax code to expire and close loopholes and deductions for the "largest corporations and highest earning taxpayers." The plank called for reform to the corporate tax code to lower tax rates for companies in the U.S., with added relief for those creating domestic jobs in manufacturing, research and development, while reducing incentives for corporations to shift jobs overseas.

ENERGY:

The platform called for developing all possible domestic energy resources, including conventional and alternative sources. It supported the domestic invention, production and marketing of clean energy technologies, advanced vehicles, fuel economy standards and greater use of natural gas for transportation. It also called for infrastructure investment to speed the transition to cleaner fuels in transportation, expediting the approval process for oil and gas pipelines and new exploration and production. At the same time, the party called for preserving sensitive public lands from exploration and reducing tax subsidies to "Big Oil."

INFRASTRUCTURE:

The platform called for long-term investments in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, rail, public transit, airports, ports and sewers and endorsed the current administration's efforts to reform and better leverage how dollars are spent.

TRADE:

The platform endorsed recently signed trade agreements and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement under negotiation, while emphasizing the need for workers' rights and environmental protection as well as fighting unfair trade practices. 

ENVIRONMENT:

This plank affirmed the science of climate change and committed to significantly reducing the pollution that causes it. It endorsed fuel standards that limit greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, investments in clean energy and carbon pollution limits for fossil fuel fired power plants. The platform endorsed working with local communities to conserve publicly-owned lands; expanding funding for conserving and restoring forests, grasslands and wetlands; protection of National Parks; and restoring rivers, oceans, coasts and watersheds. It promised to preserve landscapes, ecosystems and open more lands and waters for hunting, fishing and recreation.

For more information on both political party platforms, visit their respective websites:

http://assets.dstatic.org/dnc-platform/2012-National-Platform.pdf

http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform_home


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