The prospective GOP presidential candidates at today’s Iowa Ag Summit were pressed to express their opinions on everything from federal policies that have boosted ethanol production to expanded trade with Cuba. Each candidate answered a series of questions from event host Bruce Rastetter, an Iowa agribusiness man.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first candidate to take the stage this morning, criticized President Obama for failing to “execute” the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2014 and 2015.
“Certainly anybody who’s a competant president would get that done in their administration,” Christie said. “It should get done and I support it getting done.”
Rastetter interjected: “So if you were president, you would support that.”
Christie replied: “Absolutely. It’s what the law requires, Bruce, so let’s make sure we comply with the law. That should be the minimum.”
The Renewable Fuels Standard was established by congress in 2005 and designed to set a yearly floor for the amount of ethanol produced in the United States. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called the Renewable Fuels Standard “just one bit” of an overall strategy of making the U.S. energy independent and energy secure.
“Making sure that ultimately the decisions are made not just frankly for what’s best for Iowa…You can’t make a decision and say:”It’s good for Iowa. Gee, they’re the Caucus state. We’d better suck up to them,'” Huckabee said. “We’d better make decisions that are good for every consumer at the end level..so that America is never at a point where we’re going to be once again held hostage whether it’s by the Saudis or Iranians, the Russians or anyone else in the marketplace.”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told the crowd that “if you believe in markets working,” the federal incentives for ethanol and wind power production should eventually end. A few moments later, Bush drew a strong response when he talked about reigning in government regulations.
“The first thing you do is you change presidents,” Bush said, to cheers and applause. “You put people in the ‘alphabet soup’ of government that have practical experience in the fields that they are regulating…Immediately you say: ‘That’s a conflict.’ No, actually practical common sense might be useful.”
The Environmental Protection Agency was a frequent punching bag as the candidates criticized the agency’s proposed “Clean Water” regulations. The Iowa Farm Bureau argues the rules will regulate water in “ditches” and irrigation systems.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry said it was the “right decision” for him to support his state’s livestock industry and speak out against the Renewable Fuels Standard five years ago. Perry suggested expanding ag exports was the ultimate answer.
“That needs to be the real effort,” Perry said. “And I will suggest to you if we do that, then all the subsidies and mandates and all that will become substantially secondary.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said the RFS should be eliminated in the long-term, but he supports the ethanol production standard in the near term to ensure the corn-baed fuel gets access to the market.
“And so it’s something I’m willing to go forward on, continuing the Renewable Fuels Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure that there’s certainty in terms of the levels set. Thanks,” Walker said and the crowded applauded, then he continued, “so that going forward farmers know when they’re making decisions about how to plant crops.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a supporter of the Renewable Fuels, suggested the ethanol industry is one bright spot in an otherwise bleak rural economy.
“Still 60 percent of Americans believe we’re in a recession,” Santorum said. “We have to make sure that we strengthen the vital middle of America.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz said it would have been the “easy thing” to say he supported the RFS.
“But I’ll tell you people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians that tell one group one thing and tell another group another thing — and then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything that they said they would do,” Cruz said.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said he supports an “all of the above” energy strategy.
“Every gallon of ethanol you can produce here in Iowa is one less gallon you have to buy from people who hate your guts, so keep it up,” Graham said at the very start of his appearance, smiling and laughing as the crowd applauded.
Former New York Governor George Pataki stressed his childhood on a farm in the Hudson River valley.
“First of all, I’m a great believer in renewable fuels and did a great deal when I was governor,” Pataki said. “But I honestly don’t think the federal government should require anybody in America to buy anything, whether it’s renewable fuels or ObamaCare.”