While the third and final presidential debate set for Wednesday evening will surely be marked by the candidates' disagreements, a forum debating their positions on food and farm issues Wednesday morning was notable for showcasing where the nominees agree.
At a Washington, D.C. forum produced by the agricultural policy group Farm Foundation, surrogates for the Trump and Clinton campaigns presented their candidates' takes on farm and food issues from trade to taxes. Sam Clovis, a campaign co-chair and policy advisor, spoke on the positions of Republican nominee Donald Trump. Former U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy Kathleen Merrigan spoke on behalf of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The campaigns agree on food policy in some surprising ways. Most notable: both campaigns say that food-stamp benefits should remain a part of the Farm Bill, Merrigan and Clovis said. That is a break for Trump from the official platform of the Republican Party. The marriage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Farm Bill has always been uneasy.
The campaigns also both said farmers should manage the environment responsibly. Farmers should be incentivized to implement conservation techniques, Clovis said. Clinton has previously called for more funding for conservation efforts like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Despite gains, the agriculture industry still contributes to water pollution and is a major cause of the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Clinton campaign released a detailed plan on policy changes meant to grow the rural economy. Trump created an agricultural advisory committee in August. Without detailed plans for food and farm policy, though, it's hard to say just how deep these agreements go.
Merrigan and Clovis drew stark policy differences on taxes and environmental regulation. Trump has pledged to reduce corporate tax rates, to eliminate the estate tax, and to place a moratorium on hotly contested updates to clean water rules. Merrigan said the rhetoric on both the estate tax and clean water rules has been “blown out of proportion.”
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