Commentary: Teach presidential candidates to say the ‘a’ word

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Another presidential election year, another year of disappointments for the agriculture industry. Even with an expired Farm Bill casting its shadow over the campaign, little more than a passing mention was made of farmers, farming, food or finance as it relates to the future of agriculture. Can’t our leaders do better than this?

Voters in middle and rural America have largely been left out of this year’s presidential campaigns, David Flynn, University of North Dakota economist, told AgriTalk Radio. Unless you live in Ohio, you’re in flyover country.

“They talk about Main Street, but Main Street where?” he asks, noting that the responses during the recent debates have paid attention to urban areas at rural areas’ expense. “It’s like they think rural America doesn’t watch television.”

Flynn says that multiple standard campaign issues lend themselves well to discussions of ag policy. Energy policy is a particularly great chance to talk about ag, he says, adding that if he were a farmer, he’d feel insulted at the way candidates pay lip service to farming and rural issues on the campaign trail but drop them on the national stage. And all this is occurring while agriculture has been offering steady and stable income growth — growth that has outpaced non-farm income for several years. Ag should be heralded as a success story, not disregarded as an unfashionable country cousin.

That said, now that the lame duck session of Congress seems all but certain to be taken up completely by this fiscal cliff drama, Americans may very well see what happens on January 1 without support prices in place for dairy farmers. If milk soars above $38 per hundredweight, as some economists have predicted, perhaps that will shock retailers and consumers into giving dairy its due in political discourse.

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