All presidential contests have drama. Between COVID-19 and a last-minute Supreme Court nomination, this one has more than most. But if you look beyond the drama to substance — the actual plans that the candidates lay out for restoring rural communities and our farm sector — the picture clears up instantly.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Two groups of state and private-sector leaders have identified top-level, critical priorities. And their priorities line up with Joe Biden’s priorities. Why should we care what these leaders think? For starters, they’ve committed their lives to the success of American agriculture.
State directors of agriculture (many of them Republican) are working day in and day out to ensure safe food and vibrant rural communities. They recently put forward a white paper entitled “Call to Action; Resilience for Rural America.”
Separately, the Ag CEO Council, comprised of senior farm leaders and allied business groups (also, many of them Republican), released a “Presidential Campaign Briefing.”
They want focus, not chaos, in responding to COVID-19. They know that lack of PPE exacerbated supply chain disruptions which forced farmers to depopulate herds and plow vegetables into the ground at a time when fellow citizens were (and still are) lining up at food banks.
They want predictable and growing access to foreign markets because they know that 95% of the world’s population lives beyond our borders and farm exports are key to growth. They know that coherent trade policy isn’t built around petulant tweets but, rather, strategic alliances, sound science and a rules-based trading system.
They know that farm production across the nation requires a reliable labor force. And while they may not use the word “immigration” for fear of political backlash, they know that each of the 2.4 million hired farm employees support two to three full-time jobs further down the value chain.
They know that health care and infrastructure, including access to broadband, are fundamental to vibrant rural communities.
They understand that climate change is real and that farmers care about soil health and long-term resilience. They also know that farmers, with so much at stake, can be an important part of market-based, incentive-driven solutions at scale that will make a difference.
In each of these cases and more, Joe Biden’s plans line up better with these seasoned agricultural leaders’ priorities. Read their policy papers and draw your own conclusions.
Many of these leaders will feel constrained from making political waves. Doing so is risky business in Donald Trump’s GOP. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what they’re thinking.
Joe Biden cares enough to plan for the future because he recognizes the dignity of farming and the importance of rural communities.
Phil Karsting is a Nebraska native who served on the staff of U.S. Sen. Jim Exon. He also served as administrator of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in the Obama-Biden administration and currently serves as senior policy adviser at a law firm in Washington, D.C.
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