Rural America almost always votes reliably red. But many farmers say they’re growing uneasy with the Republican presidential ticket’s opposition to renewable-energy policies that have helped them economically — and that could hurt the GOP this year in traditionally friendly farm country.
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney opposes a wind-energy production tax credit that has helped farmers bring in thousands of dollars in extra income by leasing their land to wind producers. And Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., opposes a national mandate for ethanol production, a policy that’s driven up demand — and, some say, prices — for corn.
The ethanol mandate, part of the reformulated fuel standard established in a 2007 energy law, has come under increasing attack as the drought continues to send crop prices soaring, but farmers still say they need it and other renewable-energy policies to maintain economic growth.
While Romney stands by his support of the ethanol mandate, Ryan’s record of full-throated opposition to it rubs corn and crop farmers the wrong way. In addition, Ryan’s budget roadmap proposes deep cuts in renewable-energy and nutrition programs that help farmers.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been doing steady outreach in farm states for months, spearheaded by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, who has held a slew of events with farmers aimed at highlighting the administration’s support for farm-friendly renewable-energy policy. And on Monday, Obama for the first time brought farm policy to the center of his campaign, slamming Ryan and House Republicans for failing to move a sweeping farm bill this year.
“We’re delighted that the president is talking about the farm bill. This is the first time that I can recall presidential candidates debating farm legislation,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, which has not endorsed a presidential candidate. “We’ve been encouraging him to talk about it. Secretary Vilsack has been talking about it for a long time. If there’s anything that unites us in the agriculture sector, it’s the desire to have a farm bill passed by September.”
But Johnson said that Romney’s opposition to the wind PTC and Ryan’s record of opposition to the ethanol mandate “are a big problem for us. We support renewables…
Read more: Coral Davenport, National Journal