(Des Moines, IA) Citing a “harvest of heartache in the Heartland,” Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan on Monday laid out a series of proposals he called a “Bill of Rights” to protect family farms.
“I think the crisis here is going to endure unless we change our policies and every family farm in America, I believe, is genuinely threatened,” Buchanan said as he opened a 20-minute policy address before an audience of insurance executives in Des Moines.
Buchanan suggested a series of reforms, including some he’s sought for years.
*Trade reform: abolition of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the International Monetary Fund; a review of all U.S. food embargoes; a shutdown of competing imports whenever prices for a farm commodity slip below the cost of production.
*Tax reform: elimination of the inheritance and capital gains taxes on family farm transfers.
*Regulatory reform: require price disclosure on livestock contracts; enforce anti-trust laws to prevent mega-mergers which threaten to monopolize the agriculture industry; exempt family farms from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; rewrite the Endangered Species Act; end government seizure of farmland without just compensation.
Buchanan also expressed support for the tax benefits now given to the ethanol industry. Ethanol is a fuel additive, which is corn-based.
Buchanan said the “specter of depression haunts the farmlands of America.” Prices for agricultural commodities like corn, soybeans and pork have all reached historic lows, with a bumper crop this fall, which will further depress prices. Iowa State University economists predict half of Iowa hog farmers are in weak to vulnerable financial positions, which could soon bring about foreclosure.
“Washington and Wall Street may believe it is inevitable that the family farm, too, shall pass away. But as a conservative, I believe that family farms and rural towns must be conserved,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan, sounding populist themes, decried the consolidation, which now sees five corporations controlling 89 percent of all U.S. beef processing.
“Say it ain’t so. Farms turned into factories, controlled by far-away investors, with farmers as assembly-line workers,” he said. “Is this what the first American farmers envisioned?”
The other Republican contestants for the GOP’s presidential nomination are addressing the farm crisis, too, as they campaign in Iowa, a farm state which hosts an important test of campaign organizational strength this Saturday. The Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll is a fundraiser for the party. Each “ballot” costs $25.