McCain’s Agricultural Lip Service

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

On Saturday the McCain campaign released a statement on the candidate’s “vision for agriculture and rural prosperity.”

Who knows? Perhaps his handlers got a look at Rural Votes’ take on the senator’s record of non-support for rural issues here and here and decided to see if they could scoop up some rural votes among people who haven’t yet started paying attention.

Here are the main points in McCain’s press release and the program outlined on his web site. Between the points are comments from this very unimpressed reporter.

  • Establishing a comprehensive energy strategy

Since 1992 McCain has voted at least 23 times against investments in renewable energy. Most recently, he voted in 2006 against an amendment that provided $4 billion in energy programs, including the following funding: Biomass cellulosic fuels ($250 million), Cellulosic biomass ethanol conversion assistance ($250 million), Renewable energy R&D Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower ($290 million).

  • Controlling taxation, regulation and judicial intervention

McCain has repeatedly voted against dairy price supports. Is this his idea of “controlling taxation”?. His dedication to deregulation is part of the irresponsibility that has led to numerous costly recalls of meat and produce due to faulty inspection by the under-funded USDA. His idea of saving rural folks from “judicial intervention” is mainly about gun rights, which the Supreme Court has made essentially a non-issue.

  • Providing a sustainable safety net for farmers

Here he’s talking about government-funded insurance in case of natural disasters, saying, “When farmers suffer from a natural disaster such as droughts or floods, we should assist them – this is a commitment we have made to our farmers and John McCain will honor it.” But what he’s done says something else entirely: votes against some $20 billion in disaster aid to farmers since 1993.

  • Improving incentives to invest in technology and rural infrastructure

McCain voted against funding the USDA, which provides funding for – among other things – rural development five times between fiscal 1995 and 2002. For the 2005-2006 fiscal year (beginning October 1, 2005) McCain got a zero rating from the National Farmers Union and a 35% rating from the Farm Bureau.

  • Encouraging common-sense conservation and food safety measures

When McCain says “common-sense” regulations, he means few to none. Otherwise, why would he vote against funding the USDA, which provides for inspections and food safety measures?  And his failure to support country-of-origin labeling speaks volumes.

  • Promoting agricultural markets and reducing trade barriers

McCain has repeatedly voted against expanding agricultural exports.

  • Recognizing the role of agriculture in national security

Here’s the fear-and-9/11 pitch. It had to come to that, didn’t it? The campaign says, “John McCain believes Americans should be able to trust in the safety and reliability of their food, regardless of its origin. In the aftermath of 9/11, John McCain fought for the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to identify how to best address the terrorist threat and decrease our domestic vulnerability. “ How heartwarming can you get?

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2 Responses to “McCain’s Agricultural Lip Service”

  1. Well said

  2. Polling indicates McCain is ahead in rural votes but that Obama is doing better than Democrats have in past elections.  Seems to me that’s why McCain is paying attention all of a sudden to rural issues and it’s cursory at best.  It’s not good enough — I’m not impressed either.

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