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Judge, Johanns present ag positions for Obama, Romney

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 10/22/2012 3:01 PM

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DES MOINES —Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge and U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska have worked together on agricultural issues, but at last week's Presidential Forum on Agriculture at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines they did their best to differentiate their parties' candidates.

Judge, a Democrat and former Iowa secretary of agriculture, spoke on behalf of President Barack Obama. Johanns, former U.S. secretary of agriculture, outlined Republican challenger Mitt Romney's positions.

The forum was sponsored by the Farm Foundation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which met in Des Moines last week. Mike Pearson, host of Iowa Public Television's Market to Market, was moderator.

"We face a real choice in this election, and one that should be very clear for farmers and rural America," Judge said. "President Obama is building an economy that's meant to last, especially in rural America. He is building a strong safety net and American farmers are seeing record income and exports because of it."

Johanns, who grew up on a farm in Mitchell County, said Romney is a man he knows and respects.

"I don't use this terminology lightly, but President Obama has been anti-agriculture," Johanns said.

Obama wants to return the estate tax to its 2009 level, a 45 percent rate on inheritances over $3.5 million or $7 million per couple, Johanns said.

"Romney says, 'We've taxed you your entire life, and it doesn't make a bit of sense to tax you at your death,' " Johanns said. "Romney proposes elimination of the death tax."

Romney supports getting rid of unnecessary regulations, "which have become a wet blanket on the economy," Johanns said.

He cited EPA's regulating farm dust and treating milk spills like oil spills, and the farm labor laws, which would have kept him from working on his uncle's farm when he was a child.

"The insult of all insults was when producers told me about airplanes flying over feedlots to spy on producers," Johanns said.

Romney would take a time out on regulations requiring a cost benefit analysis for each new rule, Johanns said.

Judge said she wanted to clear up some things.

"Lets put the farm dust issue to rest," Judge said. "There are no pending regulations by EPA to regulate farm dust, period. The planes are not drones, they are four-seaters that do surveillance not particularly of family farms but more of streams and waterways, something that started during the Bush administration."

She said it was Obama who stopped the farm labor regulations when he found out about them.

Obama is weak on trade policy, Johanns said. There have been no bilateral trade negotiations or WTO engagement.

"We asked President Obama over and over to bring the Panama, Colombia and Korean free trade agreements to the floor, but they languished on his desk for three years," Johanns said. "Mitt Romney wants trade promotion authority so that he can negotiate country to country. President Obama will never ask for TPA because the unions don't want it."

Judge said the president supports passing a five-year farm bill giving farmers the certainty of a safety net and reinstating expired disaster programs.

"Mitt Romney supports a farm bill, but he says to get it done right," Johanns said, adding that Romney favors a one-year extension and taking it up in the new Congress.

"Mitt Romney supports giving tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 to 2 percent of people in this country," Judge said. "I lived through the 1980s on a small farm in southern Iowa, and trickle down economics does not work."