The Politics of Food: Where our Presidential Candidates Stand
It’s Presidential election time. Which means debates, attack ads and a lot of politically charged discussions.
Before election day rolls around (Tuesday, November 6th) take some time to get to know where the candidates stand on issues that matter to you.
A big one for us is food (surprise, surprise). With legislation like the Farm Bill, and government agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s important to know where the candidates stand. Having served as president for four years, it’s easy to see what Obama has done in regards to food policy and safety. Luckily, with a little digging we came up with a good foundation on where BOTH candidates stand when it comes to food.
Food Republic published an agriculture policy cheat sheet that gives a good overview of food policy. Let’s start by looking at Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
His position on America’s farmers and subsidies have changed over the years. Starting back in 1994, during a Massachusetts senate campaign, Romney called for the “virtual elimination” of the Department of Agriculture and for cutting back farm subsidies. Fast forward to a 2012 statement in January, where Romney declared farm subsidies a national security issue and maintained they were vital to the safety of the American food supply.
With his announcement of his agricultural advisory committee in March of 2012 Romney said, “I will work to ensure that our food supply will remain steady, safe and affordable for all citizens.” Later that month, when asked about maintaining current farm subsidies by WDAY-TV in North Dakota he said, “We’re competing with other nations around the world, and other nations, in many cases, have various subsidies, which they use to take advantage of market dynamics around the world.” He went on to say that making unilateral changes in our current policies could put as at a disadvantage in a global context.
In regards to food safety, Romney believes a major problem over successive presidencies is the burden regulations have on the economy. He stated that regulations function as a hidden tax on Americans and cited that such regulations are barriers to growth. He believes that the farmers and producers have a long history of taking responsibility for their own safety measures, and preventative practices should be developed by the growers, handlers, processors and others in the supply chain. There isn’t any record of where he stands on labeling genetically modified organism (GMO) foods.
Romney believes that the Federal Government shouldn’t dictate what American’s eat, but notes that there are health challenges of the growing obesity epidemic that represents a public health crisis. He believes in an emphasis on a balanced diet, and plans on having public health programs highlighting the importance of healthy eating.
Now on to President Obama.
In the last four years, food policy and safety has been given the spotlight. We all remember in November of 2011 when congress declared pizza as a vegetable (in reality, it was the 1/8 cup of tomato paste that counts as the vegetable, but still.) Along the lines of food access, food stamp use has increased by 46% since 2008. When a proposal to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat marketed to kids came to congress, it was struck down without any intervention from the White House. And in January of this year, the USDA announced it was closing 259 domestic offices.
On the flip side, within the first 100 days in office, President Obama established the Food Safety Working Group, passing the most comprehensive reform in food safety in 70 years. Obama also believes that GMO food should have mandatory labeling. Obama has endorsed the Senate’s version of the farm bill, which would eliminate costly subsidies for farmers, and increase spending for healthy food initiatives.
Under the President, the USDA approved a new nutrition guide known as MyPlate, and although it has been criticized by some, has had more positive reactions than its predecessor, MyPyramid. Obama wants to lend support to regional food hubs and the establishment of grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods, providing effective ways to promote healthier food choices.
The USDA also revised nutrition standards for school lunches (which passed in January of this year) requiring more vegetables and fruit, a whole grain requirement and milk that is 1% fat or less. First Lady Michelle Obama has started Let’s Move, a national campaign bringing issues like healthy eating, food deserts and childhood obesity to the forefront of the nation’s dialogue. She also had a garden planted at the White House, using it for nutrition education. There is even a blog, Obama Foodorama, following White House food initiatives from “policy to pie”.
There you have it, our candidates and their view on food policy.
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of where the candidates stand. With the election less than a week away, it’s time to buckle down, educate yourself and get out and vote!