Are Earmarks Really Dead? (via Roll Call)

The biennial fight over earmarks came and went this year with barely a peep. While the issue has not been permanently put to rest, the informal ban on congressionally directed funding appears to have staying power.

House and Senate Republicans adopted internal prohibitions on earmarks this month, and while Senate Democrats have yet to make it official, they’ll likely follow suit if for no other reason than the GOP’s position would make any Democratic-sponsored earmarks dead on arrival in the House.

“Having heard nothing to the contrary, we are presuming that the current moratorium on earmarks will stay in place in the next Congress,” a Senate Democratic aide said.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, who authored the Senate GOP’s most recent ban, said the earmark moratorium has persisted because so many Republican lawmakers now support it.

“Right now in the current composition in the Republican Conference in the Senate, there is a pretty substantial majority that believes that we should continue this moratorium,” the Pennsylvania lawmaker said.

At their organizational meeting earlier this month, Senate Republicans approved by secret ballot a Toomey proposal to extend the current earmark ban to the next congressional two-year session, which begins January. Earmarks are provisions in legislation that direct funding to members’ home-state projects.

The Senate GOP vote came as House Republicans, who hold a majority in the chamber, also extended the current ban to the next Congress at their organizational meeting.

With both chambers’ Republicans in sync, Senate Democrats have little room to maneuver on the issue. They faced a similar situation in 2010, when they determined that reconciling spending bills with the House would be too difficult if they included earmarks. It hasn’t helped the Democrats’ position that President Barack Obama has also argued against the practice.

Toomey said he hopes Democrats officially follow the Republicans’ lead.

“They did the right thing the last time, and it saved the taxpayers a very substantial amount of money, and it helped discipline federal spending somewhat,” he said.

Though the bans have passed with little public opposition, Sen. Lamar Alexander said he hopes earmarks will be brought back in the future. “Earmarks became a scandal and we needed to clean them up,” the Tennessee Republican said Monday evening. “But it’s time for us to begin to think about our constitutional responsibilities, which are to appropriate dollars.” Alexander noted that he voted for the moratorium again this year.

Other longtime GOP supporters of earmarks include Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who serves on the Appropriations Committee. She told Alaska Public Radio Network that she doesn’t agree with the strategy.

Biofuels Fight Flares Before Possible Defense Debate (via Roll Call)

More than one-third of the Senate is calling for removal of provisions in the defense authorization bill that would limit military efforts to develop alternative fuels.

In a Nov. 16 letter to Senate leaders, 38 senators backed Pentagon biofuels programs as worthy investments, given that the U.S. military is the largest user of oil in the world.

“Alternative fuels will not supplant fossil fuels entirely; however, replacing even a fraction of the fuels consumed by DOD with domestic alternative fuels has the potential to advance U.S. national security, improve strategic flexibility and insulate the defense budget against spikes in the cost of fossil fuels,” Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mark Udall, D-Colo., and 36 additional Democrats wrote in the letter released Nov. 19.

The letter singles out two provisions included in the defense authorization bill (S 3254) that would limit funds for procuring alternative fuels if the costs exceed those of traditional fossil fuels and bar the department from entering into contracts to support construction of biofuels refineries.

Opponents of the Defense Department’s biofuels programs, including Republicans John McCain of Arizona and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, added the provisions to the bill during an Armed Services Committee markup in May. The House-passed companion bill (HR 4310) includes similar restrictions.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and McCain, the panel’s ranking member, have been pressing for floor time for the Senate bill. But committee member Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., said last week that the amendment process remains in flux.

Guest Commentary: U.S. Farm Bill – Dairy’s Dilemma

Joe Borgerding, Borgerding Dairy

The elections are finally over and we can now see if the lame-duck session can get some things done that could not seem to get done during the politically charged months when legislators feared taking sides on anything. There is a tremendous amount of backlogged work to do in a very short time, with the nearly expired farm bill just a small part of the pile.

There is growing pressure being applied at this time to bring it to a vote in the House, since it is nearly complete, and food stamp funding being the main holdup.

What most people don’t realize is that, buried in the farm bill is a major dairy reform piece that will dramatically change how we do dairy policy in this country. Since the 51,000 remaining dairy producers don’t have a national dairy board to represent their best interests, instead of the interests of the processors, they have not had much of a say in the way this legislation was written.  Almost anyone who has tried to figure out how we price dairy products in this country will soon admit that it is the most archaic, complicated, outdated, and cumbersome system ever patched together, and it needs to be brought into the 21st century  to be relevant, fair, and more transparent.

There seems to be a lot of faith in Rep. Collin Peterson to fix the problem since he has experience with farm issues, and he is putting a lot of faith in recommendations put out by the directors of major dairy co-ops in how to fix the dairy safety-net. With very little input from independent dairy farmers in all parts of the country, a desire for expediency, and to get buy-in of processors, the plan took shape.

Why would we create another layer of government control, based on the same mixed up market signals and faulty production figures that have created the volatile pricing in the past? Why would we create a supply-management program in a country that promotes free market ideology, while the rest of the world is abandoning theirs to compete globally?

Since no-one understood milk pricing before, it is hard to ask intelligent questions about how this new plan can be any better, so the hard questions have still not been addressed. Who, on the House Agriculture Committee, would realize that the hearing participants were hand-picked by the same people who wrote the plan?

Since I have been involved in a grass-roots dairy producer group, “DPAC”, I have become aware that there are many areas of the country that do not have surplus production since they have restrained expansion, many retired local farmers, and have great regional demand for more milk. Other areas have expanded herds rapidly and have not found markets for the flood of milk they created, thus the need for the safety net.

We now have reached the point where 3% of our producers crank out 50% of all the milk. The old safety net, “MILC”, supported the first 2.4 million lbs. of milk annually on each dairy when prices were too low.  The new plan, “DSA”, calls for margins to be insured to minimize losses on unlimited production up to “base” of historical sales.

If there is too low of a margin, on average in the US, then all producers who are in the proposed dairy program would have to cut production, even if your region was critically short of milk. If a farmer recently expanded production, and chose not to cut back delivery’s , there would be penalties deducted from the milk check to help fund the subsidies to insure the margin for those who don’t need to expand any more.

Since the new plan is based on historical sales base’s,  the 3% of producers with the largest bases, would collect 50% of any subsidies paid, while the small farmers that need to upgrade and expand, would be penalized to fund the program. This unfair policy will surely accelerate the consolidation of our dairy industry.

With so little time for real discussion, it seems the least we can do to protect what is left is to tell our Representatives in Congress to support the Goodlatte/Scott amendment that was proposed to the House Agriculture Committee, to remove the disastrous supply management part of the bill. In the case of dairy, there is a need to rebuild the system that was designed for the 1930’s, and not add more to it that makes it even worse.

Joe Borgerding milks 165 cows on the family dairy farm in Stearns County Minnesota.  He has been a director of the Dairy Policy Action Committee for the past year.

Got Milk Industry? S.D. Recruiting Dairy Farmers (via Minneapolis StarTribune)

Minnesota’s neighbor is making its pitch in other states, around the world.

Thirsty for milk, and the money that comes with it, South Dakota has ramped up efforts to recruit dairy farmers from other states and countries, including England, Ireland and the Netherlands.

South Dakota isn’t alone in the recruitment game, as North Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Texas and other states attempt to prove they are the dairy industry’s next frontier.

Simply put, “they want what we have,” said Shelly Mayer, a dairy farmer near Slinger, Wis., and executive director of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Mayer said she and her husband, Dwight, were recruited by Kansas with the offer of wide-open spaces, attractive to farmers who felt crowded by urban sprawl.

“As a farm kid who grew up in southwestern Wisconsin, I miss some of that,” Mayer said. “You could say they have the open spaces and great big places, which is wonderful.”

Some states have recruited dairy farmers for years.

“I think the Dakotas are just getting more aggressive about it,” Mayer said.

It was noticeable this fall at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., where representatives from the Mount Rushmore state made pitches to dairy farmers about why they should relocate.

Two South Dakota dairy processors put up billboards in Tulare County, Calif., which has about 340,000 dairy cows, saying “All our cows in South Dakota are happy.”

The billboards followed an ad campaign that touted South Dakota as a better place for dairy business because, unlike California, it doesn’t have quotas that limit milk production.

“We think South Dakota is a good place to milk cows,” said state Agriculture Secretary Walter Bones. “Our state is one of those areas with tremendous untapped potential.”

Earlier this year, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard went to California recruiting, telling reporters “we’re on a cattle roundup. So if you’re out there in the world of dairying and you’re looking for a place to plant your dairy, South Dakota is open for business.”

Some California farmers have shown interest in relocating to South Dakota and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest as the cost of cattle feed has soared in the West and it has become more expensive to do business because of taxes, regulations and rising land prices.

“We think once they start coming, more will follow,” said Jon Davis, CEO of Le Sueur, Minn.-based Davisco Foods International Inc., which makes cheese in South Dakota.

South Dakota sells dairy products worldwide. Earlier this year, Bel Brands USA said it was building a $100 million cheese plant near Brookings, in the eastern part of the state, that will employ 400 people.

“People have invested a lot of money in the processing industry here. The only piece of the puzzle that’s missing is the farms,” Davis said.

The state’s industry has persuaded European dairy farmers to move here, and it helped a Costa Rican dairy operation relocate, although that farm folded after a short time.

South Dakotaa is successfully recruited about 23 dairy farms in the last couple of years, most of them capable of handling 1,000 cows or more.

Article by: Rick Barrett , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

This article can be accessed by visiting http://www.startribune.com/business/180446331.html

Farm Bill Unlikely Before Fiscal Cliff Issue Resolved (via Grand Forks Herald)

 America’s agriculture industry needs to be patient. Jennifer Duffy of The Cook Political Report said Tuesday that an overall budget-debt deal needs to happen before Congress can pass new federal farm policy.

Jennifer Duffy of The Cook Political Report said Tuesday that an overall budget-debt deal needs to happen before Congress can pass new federal farm policy.

“I don’t know how they pass anything that deals with revenue without dealing with the fiscal cliff,” Duffy said, using a term in vogue about federal government budget problems due after Dec. 31 unless Congress and President Barack Obama reach an agreement.

In an interview after speaking to the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council’s annual meeting, Duffy said, however, that “we are in very uncharted waters” so anything is possible.

She also said the budget issue is a “moving target.”

“I don’t think they are going to do it by the end of the year,” she added.

Apple Valley, Minn., native James Hohmann, a reporter for the Politico news organization, agreed that he does not expect a budget solution before 2013.

That is not good news for farmers and others who rely on the bill to provide programs such as crop insurance that pays when weather damages crops.

Current federal farm policies expire Dec. 31.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents western Minnesota, said he wants the farm bill passed by the end of the year. He does not want simply to extend farm programs.

Congress returned to work Tuesday, with many observers saying they expect work on the budget to continue through the end of the year.

The overall federal budget will get more attention than the farm bill, one of the few stand-alone funding bills awaiting congressional action.

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill earlier this year, but the House has not taken it up after its Republican leaders said there were not enough votes to pass it.

The bill, which funds nutrition programs such as food stamps as well as farm programs, is sitting on the back burner as Congress and Obama look at ways to avoid drastic cuts that federal law requires if they don’t take further action. That also needs to be done by Dec. 31.

The farm bill’s future rests with Republicans, Hohmann said.

Many Republicans oppose the size of nutrition programs connected to the farm bill, and some oppose what they see as subsidies given to farmers. Still, Hohmann said, some Republicans see the need for continuing farm programs.

The political reporter called the division, and many like it within the party, a “Republican civil war.”

Hohmann traveled with the Mitt Romney campaign in the final weeks before Election Day, and said: “Rural issues definitely got the short shrift” in the presidential campaign. Days before the election while traveling through rural Ohio, Romney talked about coal mines but not farms, Hohmann said.

While rural America normally is Republican country, “Democrats did much better than anyone expected,” he added.

With the Senate Democratic caucus split from very liberal to moderate, North Dakota’s new senator Heidi Heitkamp will be important, Duffy said.

As a rookie in that caucus, Heitkamp will have “a little voice, but will be a voice within the Democratic caucus,” she said.

Will Congress Punt on the ‘Fiscal Cliff’? (via Roll Call)

A revitalized President Barack Obama is already clashing with a still-solid GOP House majority in a lame-duck session that looks to be configured for the same gridlock that has tied up Washington, D.C., for the past two years.

Foremost among the challenges facing the White House and Congress is steering away from the “fiscal cliff” of broad tax increases and deep spending cuts slated to take effect in January, which could push the fragile economy back into recession.

Without action by year’s end, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts would expire, as would a 2 percent Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for millions of jobless. At the same time, $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts would begin to take effect under the sequestration agreed to under last summer’s debt ceiling law.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to continue at least some of the tax cuts and strongly oppose the automatic spending cuts, particularly those directed at the Pentagon. But there is no consensus on a solution, with Democrats demanding revenue increases and Republicans resisting.

Both sides had hoped the elections would settle the standoff, but Republicans and Democrats appeared to be entrenched in their positions as the voting gave way to a Congressional landscape that looks, on the surface, little changed. Democrats argue that because Obama campaigned on the idea of raising tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, some of the tax cuts should be allowed to expire.

On Friday, Obama made that argument himself in his first public statement since election night, rejecting the idea that he didn’t have a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy.

“This was a central question of the election,” Obama said, contending that a majority of people agreed with his position, including Democrats, independents and many Republicans. “Our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people.”

But the only sign that GOP lawmakers might bend was that some members of the leadership have suggested the most contentious issues should be put off until next year.

In his own media availability Friday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hinted at his previous suggestion that lawmakers punt on the fiscal cliff until the 113th Congress, so the new Members elected Tuesday have the ability to weigh in.   “I propose that we avert the fiscal cliff in a manner that ensures that 2013 is the year our government finally comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to go into details on exactly how Obama wanted to avoid the fiscal cliff beyond extending the middle class tax cuts, saying those details would be negotiated.

Still, many political analysts do not expect Congress to ring in the New Year without taking some action to ward off what could be a major hit to the economy.

“I’m sure political parties, both of them, understand that the American people will not be amused if the failure of the parties to get to ‘yes’ produces a new recession,” says William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

For that reason, lawmakers might agree to a stopgap of some sort, allowing the 113th Congress to chart the country’s fiscal course free of immediate economic peril.

“They’re going to want to buy time,” said Ross Baker, a Congressional scholar at Rutgers University who predicts “the Olympic event in Washington known as kicking the can down the road.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shrugged that aside on Wednesday, saying lawmakers “should roll up our sleeves and get it done.”

Congress has a daunting list of other unfinished business.

Farm state lawmakers are still hoping to pass multi-year legislation to reauthorize the country’s agricultural programs. National security measures — including this year’s defense authorization bill, a cybersecurity bill and legislation to reauthorize the government’s surveillance authority — are also expected to occupy floor time.

Prominent business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are pushing Congress to act on legislation establishing permanent normal trade relations with Russia. The bill is backed by the Obama administration and breezed through the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means panels, but Congressional leaders have struggled to set up a procedural path to passage.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is also expected to push for a supplemental appropriations bill for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies in response to Hurricane Sandy.

A host of other measures remains on the lame-duck agenda, including an overhaul of the Postal Service, a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and a bill to increase the number of visas for highly skilled immigrants.

Sarah Binder, a Congressional scholar at George Washington University, said lame-duck sessions generally do not deviate from the rest of the year in strategy or output.   “It’s a myth that lame-duck sessions are these miraculous” periods, she said, where lawmakers are freed from normal constraints and suddenly change behavior.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

This article can be accessed by visiting http://www.rollcall.com/news/ben_weyl-218940-1.html?ET=rollcall:e14676:63338a:&st=email&pos=eam

Post-Mortem: The 2012 Elections

Although the term “status quo” is being used by pundits and political operatives to define the 2012 elections, a closer look would indicate a different story on a number of fronts.  As the Nation continues to sift through the results of the electoral contests, one thing appears certain – the will of the respective parties to work toward compromise will be sorely tested because many of the differences aren’t necessarily based on policy but philosophical principles.

 
Although President Obama will face essentially the same Congress as was in place the past two year, his administration will do so within the context of a closely divided nation.  The immediate issue that must be addressed is the looming “fiscal cliff” but, going forward, there are a number of the long-term issues on the agenda – including tax policy, passage of comprehensive farm bill, immigration reform and energy policy.
Aside from the presidential contest, the strong showing by Senate Democrats on November 6th puts them in position to help steer President Obama’s second-term agenda when the 113th Congress convenes in January of 2013.  In addition to 53 Democrats and one Independent (Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont), it is likely that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will also be welcoming Senator-elect Angus King (I-ME) to the Democratic Caucus.

 
There were a number of solid wins in 15 critical states for the Democrats, including Massachusetts and Maine.  In Massachusetts, Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D) defeated incumbent Senator Scott Brown (R) and Senator-elect Angus King (I) captured the seat held by retiring Senator Olympia Snowe (R).

 
But these Democratic pick-ups were just the beginning of the wave.  When all was said and done, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and John Tester (D-MT) all prevailed in close races.
In other races of note, Senator-elect Joe Donnelly (D-IN) defeated Richard Mourdock (R-IN) and Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) held off a spirited challenge from Representative Rick Berg (R-ND).

 
As for the GOP, the biggest failure was not necessarily the real or perceived failures of the Romney campaign operation, but a failure to meet expectations – particularly when it came to control of the United States Senate.  Despite 2-1 odds in their favor, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was unable to garner enough seats to claim the majority or close the gap in the Senate.  Instead, the Republicans ended the cycle with a net loss of two seats in the “Upper Chamber”.

 
On the GOP side of the ledger, Republicans were able to defend their seat in Arizona, where Senator-elect Jeff Flake (R) defeated Richard Carmona (D) – as well as in Nevada, where Senator Dean Heller (R) won reelection.  In a GOP pickup, Senator-elect Deb Fischer (R-NE) defeated former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) to claim the seat of retiring Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE).

 
The difference in the Senate, however, between 60 votes and 51 votes is fairly inconsequential.  The Democrats still do not have the 60 votes required to invoke cloture so the willingness of both side to strike deals on a number of critical issues will continue to be of importance.
Congressional observers should not be surprised if the Republican majority in the House of Representatives takes its role as a “firewall” against controversial Administration initiatives to the next level.  The majority in the House will again be led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has already indicated a position on taxes that puts him at odds with President Obama.

 
In addition, Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan returns from the campaign trail to resume the helm of the critically important House Budget Committee where he will be in the middle of every substantive policy debate to come before the chamber.  At this point, Mr. Ryan’s stock is incredibly high within the Republican Party and he has the opportunity to fill the leadership vacuum now present within the GOP when it comes to the national stage.

 
If there was one bit of positive news for the GOP on the national stage (aside from holding onto the House of Representatives) it is that a Republican won the governor’s office in North Carolina.  With the victory of Pat McCrory (R) over Walter Dalton (D) the Republicans now hold 30 governorships.

 
In the era of the perpetual election cycle, the focus has already shifted to the 2014 and the 2016 contests.  Although the map again looks difficult for Democrats going forward, there is a political eternity between now and November of 2014.  Democrats will be running in Obama’s second midterm election cycle and conventional wisdom holds that this has historically made things more difficult for the incumbent party.

 

Both political parties face immediate challenges.  For the Republicans, it is a time for the customary “soul searching” as a party that inevitably occurs after a disappointing defeat.  For the Democrats, the challenge is to not misread the election results, which could result in an overreach that would hinder their chances in the mid-term elections.

 

Copyright © 2012 RDL & Associates, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Guest Commentary: Why Markets Are Objective, and Government Isn’t

Fran Tarkenton, Tarkenton Companies

It’s true that government creates jobs. Of course, they do it only with money generated from the private sector!

We have generally paid our government to protect us and support the rule of law in our nation. That means national defense, law enforcement, the judicial system—things of that nature. State and local governments are paid to keep the infrastructure in place, while the federal government maintains interstate transportation. State and local universities and school districts are paid to educate our kids.

Studies show that, historically, about 7.3 percent of our total workforce is in government work, growing with the population. They note that it has dropped down to 7 percent since 2009. If I’ve done the math right, that means government has lost 4 percent of its workforce during the recession. I assume that means “government unemployment” stands at 4 percent. Private sector unemployment is more like 15 percent. Any pundits moaning about government austerity or draconian personnel cuts should get a new talking point.

Although we value those government jobs—they are essential—we must be cautious about government growth. Entrepreneurs and business people in general define success by creating useful products, which bring in profits. The bigger the utility to society, the bigger the profit, the better. So success in the private sector is measured by profits and revenues—the essential fact is that if you figure out how to help people, then profits and revenues will follow. And of course, the more profits, the more tax revenue flows to the government to support those “government jobs.”

In government, the highest achievers are rewarded for the size of the department they run. It’s assumed that the bigger the department or agency, the more useful good they are doing for society. We’ve learned, however, that’s not always the case. More teachers and school administrators haven’t created more education achievement. More managers and employees in the U.S. Postal Service haven’t helped make it more efficient. In fact, when the USPS competes with the private sector—FedEx and UPS, for instance, not to mention email—the Postal Service loses.

We hope our elected representatives will hold down costs and eliminate corruption. But there’s not a lot of incentive to do so, unless the public rises up with a movement to call for cutting costs.

Government grows by growing its role in our lives. If it regulates diet as well as food safety, it is growing that role. If it regulates energy policies according to a political view that says we should be more like Europe in our fuel consumption, it will grow to influence not only energy but transportation, manufacturing, and regulators themselves.

Government is almost never an objective force—whether Republican or Democrat, it is supporting not only a political philosophy (which might benefit big business or unions, for instance), but also supporting those who vote for that party (NRA members on one side or NEA members on the other).

Markets are the great objective force of the private sector. New ideas have fewer obstacles to market entry than ever before, thanks to the power of the web. Good ideas are found by consumers and customers. Good companies grow and succeed. Companies that become overly bureaucratized or that settle for mediocrity fail. No matter how big they are, they will fail if they don’t serve the public and develop relevant differentiation, which equals value.

Stupid companies die. Stupid government outlives us all. Our only defense and government getting bigger and stupider is holding down its size and spending. Apparently, we’re doing a pretty poor job of that so far, looking at the $16 trillion national debt. But it’s never too late to try to do better.

Since 1996, Fran Tarkenton’s mission has been to be the trusted spokesperson for Small Business in America. He founded and still owns GoSmallBiz.com, a leading small business portal and consulting service provider.  He also owns StarterSuccess.com, which provides a suite of cloud-based productivity applications for small business. The applications include CRM, HR, Web Builder and Business Plan tools. Fran is also a founding partner in one of the fastest growing conference call companies in the U.S. and is chairman of Tarkenton Financial, which focuses on insurance based retirement planning.

Agri-Pulse Poll Shows Most Farmers Will Vote Romney, Blame Democrats on Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2012- According to the Agri-Pulse Farm and Rural Poll released today, 78 percent of farm and ranch owners polled are voting for Mitt Romney in the presidential election and largely blame Democrats for the failure to pass a new farm bill.

On November 1, 2012, Pulse Opinion Research conducted a survey of 319 likely voters with farms of over 500 acres. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 6.0 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

The telephone survey found that 71 percent of respondents strongly disapprove of President Obama’s job performance while 12 percent strongly approve. Of all farmers polled, 51 percent labeled themselves Republican, 26 percent Democrat.

It may not be surprising that 92 percent of self-identified Republican respondents picked Romney as their presidential vote, but more than half (53 percent) of the self-identified Democrat respondents also picked Romney. Additionally, 74 percent of farmers who identified themselves as “other” in party affiliation expressed preference for Romney.

Asked whether Republicans or Democrats are to blame for the failure to pass a new farm bill, 46 percent answered Democrats while 28 percent said both parties are equally responsible. Nineteen percent blamed Republicans. Interestingly, 35 percent of self-identified Democrats blamed their own party, while only 7 percent of self-identified Republicans blamed theirs. Many (42 percent) are “not very optimistic” that a new farm bill will pass before the end of 2012.

A majority (58 percent) of respondents believe the next president will cut farm program spending, regardless of which is elected. However, if more money is available to spend on farm programs, the most popular way to spend the money is improving crop insurance, as chosen by 37 percent of farmers polled. Notably, 49 percent of farmers indicated they grow only crops, 48 percent indicated they grow crops as well as raise livestock and 3 percent raise only livestock.

The farmers believe that environmental regulations and tax burdens are the biggest threats facing the future of their farming operations, 33 percent and 29 percent, respectively. The next most popular answer is “activist groups who oppose modern farming methods” at 16 percent. To this question, 42 percent of self-identified liberal respondents chose tax burdens as their greatest threat and 36 percent of self-identified conservatives chose environmental regulations.

Most respondents agreed that the renewable fuels standard (RFS) is “very important” or “somewhat” important for the future profitability of U.S. agriculture. Only 12 percent indicated it was “not very important” or “not at all important,” while 12 percent said they are “not sure.” Half of farmers who raise only livestock answered that continuing the RFS is “very important.”

When it comes to the approval of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s job performance, 41 percent “somewhat approve,” while 26 percent “somewhat disapprove.”

The telephone survey of 319 likely voters with farms of over 500 acres was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on November 1, 2012. Pulse Opinion Research, LLC is an independent public opinion research firm using automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports, LLC.

According to Pulse Opinion Research, LLC, calls were placed to randomly-selected phone numbers through a process that insures appropriate geographic representation. After the calls are completed, the raw data is processed through a weighting program to insure that the sample reflects the overall population in terms of age, race, gender, political party, and other factors. The processing step is required because different segments of the population answer the phone in different ways. For example, women answer the phone more than men, older people are home more and answer more than younger people, and rural residents typically answer the phone more frequently than urban residents.

For the full survey questions, the answer options and the polling results: http://www.agri-pulse.com/uploaded/Survey_results_likely_voters.pdf

#30

For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com