Iowa Politics Focus on Ethanol

With the Iowa caucus only a few days away, Republican presidential hopefuls are spending their last few moments crisscrossing the state and drumming up support.

Given the importance of agriculture to Iowans, the subject of farm subsidies has been a major part of the presidential primaries. Subsidies have been a hot button issue for the last several years. Given the weakness of the American economy, some politicians and voters have been questioning the need for expensive farm subsidies and federal support programs.

The leading Republican candidates have courted this fiscal conservatism, coming out forcefully against ethanol subsidies, a major economic factor in Iowa.

Ron Paul, for example, who has led several polls in the state, has claimed that ethanol subsidies are unconstitutional and unaffordable given the state of the economy. In 2008, Rick Perry attempted to end ethanol subsidies in Texas in order to protect Texas ranchers whose grain costs have been skyrocketing.

Michelle Bachmann courted controversy when she voted against ethanol subsidies in 2008 and publicly opposed farm subsidies. Even frontrunner Mitt Romney has criticized farm subsidies, saying, “I’m not running for office based on making promises of handing out money.”

The ability of leading candidates to criticize agricultural programs in Iowa is a reflection of how important the economy is to voters. The economic downturn, combined with the overall success of the agricultural industry as a whole, has allowed candidates to oppose popular agricultural programs without facing significant backlash.

Whether this is indicative of a larger trend has yet to be seen, although with the 2012 Farm Bill awaiting Congressional debate, voters across the country may yet see how important farming is to American politicians.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer