The latest Romney campaign maneuvre is the formation of state-based Farmers for Romney groups. While understandable in crucial swing farm states like Iowa, they may not be so critical in states like Missouri which is probably securely in Romney’s pocket no matter what. Consequently, the Missouri Farmers for Romney group that Roy Blunt debuted this week seems somewhat like an afterthought. Nevertheless, Blunt is out doing what he needs to do to beef up rural Missouri’s red proclivities:
“Missouri has more than 100,000 individual farms – the second highest number of any state in the nation. Agriculture is a key economic driver in our state and nationwide, but unfortunately, the Obama administration’s reckless policies have created more uncertainty for farm families in Missouri and across America,” said Blunt. “Mitt Romney has a plan to help farmers and ranchers by eliminating burdensome regulations, repealing the death tax, and increasing America’s global competitiveness to strengthen our agriculture exports.”
I get it, Roy. You like the silly “uncertainity” meme. But did I hear you say “death taxes,” a.k.a. the estate tax? You know, that tax that would minimally affect most farmers even if it were allowed to return to its pre-Bush tax-cut levels? And that would be even more benign if the exemptions proposed by President Obama were enacted:
…The president favors returning instead to the 2009 structure, with a $3.5 million exemption for individuals and a 45 percent rate. At that level, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said, 99.7 percent of all estates would be exempted, and just 60 small farms and businesses in the entire country would be affected.
And what’s that about “global competiveness,” Roy Blunt? I hate to be the one to tell you, but President Obama already beat your guy to the punch. Or did you actually believe Mitt Romney’s whopper during the last presidential debate when he claimed out of whole cloth that the President had not signed any free trade agreements? In fact, he signed three such agreements, even though they were opposed by many members of his own party. And while those agreements may not sit well with progressives in all respects, it is undeniable that they have led to a thriving U.S. farm export market. According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in September of this year:
Exports of U.S. food and agricultural products are expected to reach $143.5 billion in fiscal 2013, well above the record set in 2011. At the same time, the forecast for fiscal 2012 is revised upward to a near-record $136.5 billion. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have made gains of 50 percent.
But we can’t really be too hard on Blunt here. He’s just regurgitating the party line, which since it is the work of serial liar Mitt Romney, doesn’t have to be factual. Blunt’s remarks closely echo in style and substance a recently issued white paper presenting Mitt Romney’s proposed agricultural policies.
Although the Romney White Paper is filled with down-homey references to family farms, Grist Magazine observes that it actually contains very little that even pertains to farms, but rather, “it uses agriculture as a lens on Romney’s preexisting tax, trade, regulation, and energy platforms. (For the record, that would be: less, more, less, and ethanol).” President Obama has been quick to respond and has issued a fact sheet that points out that:
Romney has laid out policies dependent on scare tactics instead of fact — dredging up myths about farm dust, airplane surveillance, child labor and water regulations that have been repeatedly debunked,” the fact sheet says. “Romney would roll back environmental safeguards that protect the health of our children and keep our air and water clean.”
That’s right. They’ve even stooped so low they’re trying to revive the fictional story about the EPA regulating dust. This strategy is not surprising if deregulation, which is very attractive to big agribusinesses, is the goal. Grist Magazine summarizes the agribusiness-friendly focus of the Romney regulatory stance:
On the regulation front, the paper zeroes in on what it calls “overzealous efforts” to extend the Clean Water Act, the recently defeated child labor rules (which the white paper claims “would bar teenagers from working on their family farms,” but, in fact, included a parental exemption and was actually aimed at keeping farmworkers under 18 away from dangerous chemicals and equipment), and the fight over the EPA’s thwarted effort to fly over concentrated animal feeding operations to document their impact on nearby waterways. In other words, the nation’s biggest agribusinesses should be able to pollute the landscape and treat their workers precisely as they wish.
Grist Magazine also notes that the Romney document shies away the farm bill stalled in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. In this year of massive droughts, it also skirts the issue of disaster relief while emphasizing energy policies that are likely to exacerbate climate-change related natural disasters.
The sad thing is that spreading disinformation and scaremongering while piously invoking “farm family values” may well be effective. I’m willing to bet that Roy Blunt’s efforts to spread Mitt Romney’s BS will be well received. Who needs facts when you’ve got ingrained prejudices about liberals, communists, and whatnot to work with. The Missouri Farm Bureau, after all, voted a second time to endorse Rep. Todd Akin, in spite of the fact that he’s one of the votes keeping the disaster relief in the stalled farm bill bottled up.
*Slightly edited for clarity.