2008 Candidates on Agriculture

| 1/11/2008 12:00:00 AM

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Now that the presidential primaries are finally underway, let's take a look at the Republican and Democratic frontrunners and their plans for strengthening rural America. Hilary Clinton has dominated headlines this week, so let's start with her:

Where does Hillary Clinton stand on the issue? Her promises to require 36 billion gallons of biofuels per year by 2022, including 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol, prompted high-fives among members of the National Corn Growers Association (read Clinton's responses to the association's questions here). The 36 billion gallons will be upped to 60 billion by the year 2030. Although Clinton's plan to address the energy and climate crisis states that advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other non-corn sources, should make up the lion's share of that amount as the technology becomes available, my concern is that by then the entire nation will already be plowed under.

But what about the big picture? What is her overall plan to encourage the health and success of small U.S. farms? Here's a press release that outlines her ideas (which confusingly and simultaneously expresses her support for the 2002 farm bill and takes aim at excessive subsidy payments to large agricultural corporations). Strong points are her pledges to implement mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on fruit, vegetables and meat; increase access to more nutritious food by improving assistance programs; and create more opportunities for beginning, minority and women farmers. Then again, she did appoint the former president of the National Pork Producers Council (a supporter of confined animal feeding operations) to her campaign staff.

Are you as confused as I am? Perhaps our friend Tom Philpott at Grist can help clear things up with his look at who's financing her campaign.

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