Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain spoke to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Council of Presidents meeting in Washington DC last week by teleconference, both pledging their continued support for American agriculture. However, they shared different ideas on how they would accomplish that.
Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.), first to speak, pledged to support trade agreements that will open markets to U.S. agriculture. “I believe the American agricultural worker is the most efficient and productive in the world and one of my jobs is to open every market in the world to your products,” McCain said.
Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) followed McCain and emphasized his support of the recently passed farm bill. “I would have liked to have seen some additional reforms in the bill, but on balance the bill did a lot more good than bad because it dramatically increased the funding to fight hunger, it increased funding for conservation, and it provided farmers with stability in an increasingly volatile market,” Obama said.
The candidates differed pretty radically on their views of the estate tax, with McCain saying the first $10 million of an estate should be exempt from the estate tax with anything above the $10 million level taxed at a 15- percent rate. “It’s outrageous that you can’t pass onto your children and grandchildren the hard-won fruits of your labor,” McCain said.
Obama said he would keep the estate tax exemption at the 2009 rate, $3.5 million for single filers and $7 million for married couples, but pledged to not raise it above that level. “The truth is a complete repeal of the estate tax would cost the government $1 trillion over the first 10 years at a time when our country has some huge priorities,” Obama said.
Both McCain and Obama emphasized the need for immigration reform to meet the current labor crisis facing agriculture and the importance of agriculture in meeting America’s energy needs.