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By Staff | Mar 27, 2015

I wrote my last column about disappointment over Democrats skipping the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit. There was an op-ed in the Register from U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Lisa Mensah touting the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program investment of $765 million as the administration’s support for ethanol.

What they don’t get though, is without proper implementation of the renewable fuels standard USDA is wasting taxpayers’ money. It was like putting gas in a vehicle and then blocking the road.

With USDA having its foot on the gas and the Environmental Protection Agency with its foot on the brake, the Obama biofuel’s vehicle has gone nowhere.

The EPA is two years behind announcing Renewable Fuels Standard volumetric targets and while having apologized for that, can’t blame Congress this time. Congress wrote the law and they have not implemented it.

The Democrats have dug themselves into a deep hole after winning the last two presidential election cycles in Iowa. Yet it is my impression that their political managers have now lost all touch with the heartland. Hillary is not going to be the miracle they hope for and if she was, she should have shown up in Des Moines at the Iowa Ag Summit and started speaking truth to issues. It was noted that the president has not uttered the word ethanol in public since August of 2011.

As I had noted, each candidate at the Iowa Ag Summit was offered a similar question set so that all of them had a chance to express their opinions. They didn’t appear that they had crammed for the test.

Chris Christie went first. Asked about the RFS, he strongly supports it and criticized the administration for not complying with the law. None of the candidates missed an opportunity to jab the EPA. My notes say that he expressed a broad understanding of ag issues and I gave him an A-. My grades are based solely on the information and answers to the set of questions at the summit relative to what I believe is the ag sector’s test key answers and not on any larger endorsement of their policy stance or political prospects. You may love one of these guys for his ag answers and hate him for some other reason or vise versa. That is up to you.

Mike Huckabee was next. Asked about the rural and urban divide he said that there was nearly as much polarization between rural and urban as between left and right. He called it a cultural disconnect. The surprise here was that he was anti-trade to the point of sounding like he was promoting a trade war with China. He supports no trade with Cuba. He did understand the mission of agriculture. Because of his strong answer on the RFS I gave him a B- despite poor answers on trade and immigration reform.

Jeb Bush followed. He is taller than his brother. He doesn’t quite have the same stance on the RFS that his brother did. He says that the EPA should do its job and implement the RFS and says the RFS worked but sees a reduction in future RFS need. He would undo Obama executive orders on immigration but would model on Canada allowing immigrants to earn legal status. He says that the current family chain migration in immigration is too broad and needs to be narrowed to direct family. He was best on trade, okay on the RFS, right on GMOs, good on crop insurance and I may have graded him on the conservative side with a B.

In between each of the candidate’s questioning on the stage, the lieutenant governor, ISU president and members of the Iowa congressional delegation would make short addresses. Grassley has still got the fire in his gut. Former Senator Harkin was right … Ernst is good looking and I am finally convinced she supports the RFS. Steve King did a very good job. The two congressional newbies, David Young and Rod Blum, each had issues. Young still hasn’t shaken the look of being a congressional staffer.

Blum was flat out annoying, missing the point of the summit. His speech was the most political of the day and mostly about him and how great he was. “Everybody” supposedly wants his advice on how to win in a red district. It was the Iowa Ag summit not a conservative political fest and even Steve King caught that nuance while Blum didn’t.

Ted Cruz was next. The program included a short biography of the candidates. It is a typical criticism of President Obama by Republicans that he has never run anything, making fun of his work as a “community organizer.” I did note from his biography that Ted has never really run anything either. He says that he supports ethanol but not the RFS claiming that he doesn’t want “Washington to pick winners and losers” when actually he wants Washington to do just that. There would be no ethanol industry in Ted’s world just a petroleum mandate with special tax breaks for the oil industry baked into the tax code and more dependence on foreign oil from people who hate us. Ted is full of ideology, yet he doesn’t really relate to or understand what the impact of that ideology is in the real world. I think that some time spent as a “community organizer” would actually improve his perspective on how ideology plays out in reality.

Ted doesn’t understand that the RFS is about market access and he is not one to listen. He is a know it all and new information that doesn’t fit his stance is disregarded. He is against the wind tax subsidies and all subsidies which would include the farm bill. He attacks consensus science on climate change while supporting science on GMOs and criticizes liberals for doing the opposite. He appears clueless to the fact he is no better adherer to science than they are, both extremes using it when it conveniently fits their ideology and disclaiming it when it doesn’t. Ted earned my one and only F. (To be continued.)

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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