Where do the Republican front-running prez brigade stand on food policy? What do the Democratic presidential candidates say when it comes to important food issues?
More than most other issues, food remains foundational to the wider platforms of the GOP & Democratic 2016 primary candidates. It’s reach relates to the deeper economic, environmental, foreign policy, health and labour platforms on offer.
For all the debates, media hype and fact checking, there’s been little to no discussion of food issues, let alone wider food policy. Here in Canada, it took outside advocacy groups to push for food policy in the run-up to the election.
The Eat, Think Vote campaign urged citizens to eat with their MPs to get them to pledge to tabling national food policy. Luckily, it seems the tactic worked, as the eventual majority party made good on their promise to follow through on the national food policy mandate, not to mention what we see now in mainstream press running renewed calls for this policy.
US food advocacy groups have had a harder time tabling such issues, yet Food Tank put out this great list of questions for presidential candidates which I lauded last month with other similar calls. Recently, some others have joined in, most recently celeb foodie Michael Pollan (in Esquire, of course) and celeb chef Tom Collichio.
It can be hard to find what morsels of food-related policy the front-running GOP or Democratic candidates have publicly put out in their platforms.
So we’ve done the work for you. See below for the food policy snippets form their policies, starting with the Republicans. Or, if you’re interested in the Dems, skip down to our summary the 2016 Democratic candidates.
The GOP Primary Front-Runners on Food Policy
For small businesses, when it comes to food, Senator Ted Cruz promises to:
- End EPA regulations like the Waters of the U.S. rule and the Clean Power Plan that “burden small businesses and farmers.”
- Pass the REINS Act, “holding Congress accountable to vote on any major cost-inducing regulation.”
His platform promises to rein in the Fed, which he promises will help farmers and ranchers:
- “When the dollar is high as it is today,” says Cruz, “prices tend to fall, which is good for consumers, but farmers, ranchers, and the energy industry get hurt, as do American exporters. America needs a more stable dollar.”
For income of farmers and food workers, Cruz’ flat tax policy would promise to free up income to get the economy flowing so to speak
Rubio dedicates one entire policy platform to farms. His main premise is to “get government out of the way of farmers” via curbing overregulation, cutting taxes and opening up new markets.
This includes platform to:
- Repeal regulations on farmers and ranchers. This includes undoing the EPA ‘Waters of the U.S. Rule’ which Senator Rubio pledges will “dramatically expand federal control over ponds, ditches and streams.” Other regulatory repealing includes cutting carbon mandates, to open up what he calls “swathes of productive land off-limits for agriculture or other beneficial development.”
- Cut the punitive “death tax” on farmers. This is part of his larger tax plan. This will free up cashflow for farmers and ranchers, e.g. “to immediately write off the cost of new machinery and equipment.”
- Oppose new taxes on energy. Senator Rubio promises to fight cap-and-trade in order to decrease costs for farmers. This falls under his wider energy plan.
- Open new markets for farmers and ranchers. This would be supporting pushing for “timely completion of trade agreements to boost exports for US farmers and ranchers”
Donald J. Trump
Donald Trump does not explicitly state food policy platforms, though vague connections might be found in his trade proposals.
Democratic Presidential Candidates Policy on Food Issues
Democratic 2016 presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has the most lengthy public platform relating to food. In several sections of his platform, he touches food issues. In particular, food policy is explicitly mentioned in the platform he calls “fighting for the rural economy.”
Broadly speaking, Bernie Sanders supports:
- Farm policies that foster the new generations of owner-operators.
- Upholding land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all.
Sanders promises the following outcomes from the platform of his farming and food policies:
- Make sure that family farmers and rural economies thrive;
- Expand support for young and beginning farmers; 3
- Produce an abundant and nutritious food supply;
- Establish an on-going regeneration of our soils;
- Enlist farmers as partners in promoting conservation and stewardship to keep our air and water clean and to combat climate change.
Specific food issues and food policy fit into Senator Bernie Sanders’ rural communities, farm agriculture, & renewable energy platforms. Here are the top lines:
Supports to agriculture
Senator Bernie Sanders promises to “fight for America’s small and mid-sized farms.” In particular, he pledges platform policy to:
- Expand services of the D for new and underserved farmers. Says Sanders, this department should “live up to the name” it was given by Lincoln, who called it the “People’s Department”
- Encourage growth of regional food systems. Senator Sanders pledges to invest into local farmers who sell “directly to local consumers, institutions, and restaurants.”
- Reverse trade policies, e.g. NAFTA that he says “have flooded the American market with agricultural goods produced in countries with less stringent environmental, labor, and safety regulations.”
- Enforce US antitrust laws against large agribusiness and food corporations. Senator Sanders pledges to “stand up to corporations” to make the prices that farmers receive more fair. He wants to prevent “few large companies” that “dominate many agricultural industries, allowing them to force unfair prices on farmers.”
Renewable energy investment
Several energy policies impact farmers, ranchers and small food businesses, not to mention food to plate distribution. Senator Sanders is particularly firm on this matter. His platform says it will:
- Increase investments in wind energy to “substantial” degree
- Make the Wind Production Tax Credit permanent.
- Invest into biofuels, e.g. ethanol. Sanders calls these an “economic lifeline to rural and farm communities in Iowa and throughout the Midwest, supporting over 850 000 workers, all while keeping our energy dollars here at home instead of going into the pockets of oil barons.”
- Support the Renewable Fuels Standard
Though not directly related, Sanders speaks fully on rural US improvements, which has huge impact on farmers, ranchers and the future of food quality & distribution. Senator Sanders pledges to:
- Improve the electric grid. “We desperately need to improve our aging rural electrical grid, which consists of a patchwork system of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s,” says Bernie Sanders.
- Invest in high-speed Internet services for rural folk to improve infrastructure, e.g. for farmers.
- Improve dams, most of which facilities exist in rural areas. His Rebuild America Act will invest $12 billion per year to repair “high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across rural America; and the flood levees that protect our farms and our towns and cities.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her US presidential candidacy for the Democratic party, does not specifically offer food policy improvements. Certain issues for food production, distribution, farmers & ranchers crop up in her other platforms.
She does have a platform on renewable energies, some of which touches directly farmers and food production. Secretary Clinton promises to:
- Reform leasing on public lands. This includes to “reform fossil fuel leasing and significantly expand clean energy production on public lands, from wind in Wyoming to solar in Nevada.”
- Promote clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship.
- Fully fund programs to provide help to “producers who conserve and improve natural resources on their farms, strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard, and double loan guarantees that support the bio-based economy’s dynamic growth.”
Her labour and minimum wage policy touches food workers, in particular. These fast food workers started the minimum wage campaigns which Secretary Clinton pushes:
- Raise the minimum wage and strengthen overtime rules.
- Support raising the federal minimum wage to $12
- Support to raise further than the federal minimum through state and local efforts
- Support workers organizing and bargaining for higher wages, “such as the Fight for 15 and recent efforts in Los Angeles and New York to raise their minimum wage to $15.”
- Support the Obama expansion of overtime rules “to millions more workers.”
Clinton promises broadly in her rural policy to raise agricultural “production and profitability for family farms.” Vaguely, she mentions that:
Farmers and ranchers supply food for America’s dinner tables, invest in farm machinery and supplies, and provide domestic energy resources that fuel small businesses. The agriculture economy also drives America’s larger economic success—accounting for about $800 billion in economic activity each year.
Yet her policies do not go into specifics, except to:
- Increase funding to support farm succession. This support would supposedly include “the next generation of farmers and ranchers, invest in expanding local food markets and regional food systems, and provide a focused safety net to assist family operations that truly need support during challenging times.”