DES MOINES – Summaries of the remarks made by the nine potential presidential candidates – and the lone Democrat, who is not a candidate – who spoke Saturday at the Iowa Ag Summit at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
The New Jersey governor reminded the audience his state is the Garden State, “so it’s not like I come out here not knowing any of this.” He called for more collaboration and fewer mandates like the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. Act, which he said is “nothing more than a power grab from Washington, D.C.”
“Farmers and folks in this state and others want to protect the environment,” he said in response to a question about nutrient runoff and other environmental concerns. “Who has a greater need for the environment more than farmers who rely upon on that healthy environment for their success?”
The former governor of Arkansas said he supports the federal Renewable Fuel Standard because he considers it a national security issue, saying a nation must first and foremost “feed itself, fuel itself and fight for itself.” Huckabee demurred on the wind energy production tax credit, saying “it should be debated” and that no government program should have “eternal life.”
“RFS is just one bit of the components of the bigger picture of energy independence and energy security and making sure that ultimately the decisions are made not just, frankly, for what’s best for Iowa. That’s not the rationale. You can’t make the decisions saying, ‘It’s good for Iowa. Gee, they’re the caucus state. We better suck up to them.’ We better make decisions that are good for every consumer at the end level,” Huckabee said.
“The first thing you do is change presidents,” said the former governor of Florida, who called the Waters of the U.S. Act “outrageous.” Bush said that would achieve a less adversarial relationship between federal regulators and the states and farmers.
Bush called for a “completely engaged relationship” with China because the “greatest trade opportunities that American agriculture has with any country in the world is likely to be China for the next generation.”
Noting its importance to agricultural producers, Bush outlined an immigration plan that gives the public confidence that legal immigration is easier than illegal immigration. It should provide a pathway to legal status for immigrants who pay fines, learn English, have jobs and are not on public assistance.
A Democratic farmer who served in the Iowa Legislature, as secretary of agriculture and lieutenant governor, Judge was sure she would “disagree with just almost everyone that you will see on this stage today on almost every issue.”
“However, I certainly hope that we do agree on the importance of maintaining the RFS and keeping Iowa leading our nation forward in the development of renewable fuels,” she said.
Judge said the benefits of the RFS are “tens of thousands of jobs,” higher farm income, savings at the gas pump, “and it gives us an opportunity to end our reliance on foreign oil.”
The former governor of Texas said he does not support federal tax credits for wind energy production or requirements for ethanol production. Perry said he believes those programs should be left to the states, not the federal government. He did state support of the federal crop insurance program. Perry also reiterated his stance on immigration reform, prioritizing a secure border.
“I just fundamentally have a philosophical disagreement that Washington, D.C., needs to be in power, whether it’s educating our kids or delivering health care. With all that said, it’s important for us to (have) policies in place that are an insurance for these agricultural producers,” Perry said.
The U.S. senator joined his fellow Texan, Perry, in stating opposition to federal subsidies for ethanol or wind energy production. Cruz said he believes ethanol could compete in the fuel market without government assistance.
“Look, I recognize that this is a gallery with a lot of folks who, the answer you’d like me to give is, ‘I’m for the RFS, darn it.’ That would be the easy thing to do. But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians that run around and tell one group one thing, tell another group another thing, and then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything they said they were going to,” Cruz said.
The U.S. senator from South Carolina tied national security to renewable energy, saying, “Every gallon of ethanol you produce here in Iowa is one less we have to buy from people who hate your guts.”
He also supported trade agreements – as long as they address currency manipulation. Graham called for a $20 billion fund to ease the movement of goods to and from American ports and through inland waterways, such as the Mississippi River, which should be dredged “continuously.”
Turning to the environment, Graham said a “clean environment should be the goal of every American,” but much of what’s coming out of Washington “is not to protect the environment but to control the economy.”
The former governor of New York opposed federal subsidies for wind energy and ethanol. He said he believes the former is ready to compete on its own in the market, and the latter could be aided by other means. On immigration, he said he favors a realistic approach to the 11 million people living in the country illegally.
“Ethanol is a good thing for America and for the world. It is clean. It is renewable. It is American-made. We should push it, but not by forcing people to buy it,” Pataki said.
The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania touted his support for the Renewable Fuel Standard for “a whole laundry list of reasons,” including that it helps reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
On immigration, Santorum expressed support for skilled worker programs but said the numbers should be reduced and the workers should not be replacing Americans.
He also said government decisions on how to deal with the questions of greenhouse gases and GMO labeling should be based on “actual science” and not “political science.”
“What you see, whether it’s on the planet side, whether it’s on the GMO side, whether it’s on a lot of other different issues, you see these issues coming up as an opportunity for people in Washington to run your life, to tell you how to do things, and to control different options and choices for you, and I think that should be based on science not politics,” Santorum said.
The Wisconsin governor said while he is philosophically opposed to government intrusion in free markets, he would be willing to support the Renewable Fuel Standard because of ethanol’s lack of access to the market. Walker said he would support a phaseout of the wind energy tax credit. On immigration, Walker said he does not support “amnesty” and that the federal program for temporary immigrant agricultural workers “is a bureaucratic mess.”
“Some of the things that we’ve done are things that could be done parallel around the country. We’ve invested in our rural schools. We’ve put new incentives in to help their transportation costs, which are exceptional challenges in our rural schools. We’ve put a renewed focus this past semester into our technical colleges,” Walker said when asked about rural issues.
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