Your democracy, your vote, your responsibility
A commentary by Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Tuesday, Nov. 6, is a very important day. Not because a Democrat may be reelected as the U.S. President or because a Republican may ascend to the office.
Tuesday Nov. 6 is significant because on that day we will all have a say in the future direction of our government as we cast our votes at ballot boxes across America.
Because many brave Americans have fought to ensure this inalienable right, it is all of our responsibility as citizens to uphold it by engaging in the political process. This is crucial to a functioning democracy.
George Bernard Shaw best stated this sentiment when he said, "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."
Road to the
At the top of the political rung this election are two qualified candidates seeking the presidency.
And while the American Farm Bureau remains bipartisan and does not support one candidate over the other, we are most definitely politically active. We encourage Farm Bureau members to study the issues and assess how each of these two candidates would treat U.S. agriculture and our rural communities.
Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney recently took time to answer an AFBF questionnaire on important agricultural issues and how their administrations would work with farmers and ranchers.
From the past four years, we know where President Obama has stood on many Farm Bureau priority issues.
For example, he has shown his support for AFBF-supported trade agreements, home-grown energy sources and passage of the farm bill. But, he has also overseen the Environmental Protection Agency's power grab on environmental issues impacting farmers.
In his responses, Pres. Obama said a farm bill must be passed this year that maintains a strong crop insurance program and an extended disaster assistance program.
He also said he will increase funding for agricultural research and development by more than 20 percent and extend tax incentives for wind energy and other clean energies that would help farm income.
According to Gov. Romney's responses, he supports many of the same tax incentives as Farm Bureau members, like eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, as well eliminating the capital gains tax for lower income Americans.
He also supports making environmental regulations more rational and cost-effective. On labor issues, he supports allowing kids to work on family farms.
Differing from Farm Bureau, Romney supported his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI), vote on the House disaster bill, an alternative to pushing for congressional agreement on the long-term farm bill that is much needed.
All Politics is Local
Just as important to agriculture and rural America are the ballot initiatives taking place around the country. Often the agriculture industry is far more impacted by local referenda than what happens in Washington.
For example, the North Dakota Farming and Ranching Amendment, also known as Measure 3, sponsored by the North Dakota Farm Bureau, would forever guarantee modern agricultural practices in the state.
Specifically, the measure calls for a constitutional amendment that would block any law, 'which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices."
In California, many farmers are fighting Prop 37, a ballot initiative that, if passed, would make California the first state to require labeling of foods produced with biotechnology.
According to opponents of Prop 37, like the California Farm Bureau, the measure would raise food costs, hurt small businesses and farmers and create frivolous lawsuits. Further, farmers feel that labeling wrongly implies that biotech foods are unsafe and misleads many consumers.
So, as Tuesday, Nov. 6 approaches, take the opportunity to read up on the candidates and issues that could impact your lives and livelihoods.
Once you get past all the campaign rhetoric, you may be surprised at what's really at the heart of the issues. It's your democracy - get involved.