Monday, August 13, 2007

Huckabee on Farm Policy: Subsidies 'Not About Farmers' but Cost of What's in Your Grocery Cart

Mike Huckabee is just as comfortable chatting about agriculture as he is about the Fair Tax.

As the former governor of Arkansas was busy campaigning in Des Moines Friday in the closing hours before the Ames Straw Poll, he stopped for a few moments to talk farm policy with Iowa Independent.

The Republican candidate has a keen interest in the issues involved with agriculture and the 2007 Farm Bill, and he provided a fresh and different perspective on farm subsidies than other candidates in the race.

"A lot of people in urban areas don't understand," said Huckabee. "The farm subsidies are not about the farmers. They're about the consumers. It's about making sure the farm prices are stable enough and substantial enough, so that the cost of what comes to our table remains what it is."

The average family in America only spends 9 or 10 percent of its annual budget to purchase food, he said, and if it were to become more than that, it would bring drastic harm to the economy. To put it simply, that's money we wouldn't have to spend for other products and services.

"What it would mean is we would be just driving our whole economy down and changing the base of the economy," he said.

Huckabee said the stability in the farm markets provided by farm programs help to "give us the level of freedom and health that we enjoy in this nation.
He told Iowa Independent and echoed in his speech at the Ames Straw Poll that he is concerned about maintaining that stability in an increasingly globalized food marketplace.

"What worries me is that we are moving rapidly toward this concept of letting foreign importers bring more and more food in. I have a problem with the safety and quality of that food. And I also have a problem with the possibility that that food isn't produced in the same kind of standards that ours is, and that it begins to change our marketplace. I've said to many people, if you think that we have a problem with foreign oil, wait till we depend upon foreign food. That should never happen in this country. We've got to feed ourselves and fuel ourselves and fight for ourselves to be free."

One issue that has been a hot topic in Congress in the midst of writing the 2007 Farm Bill is mandatory country-of-origin labeling for food products.
Asked if he supports full implementation of the country-of-origin law, he answered quickly, "I do."

Mandatory country-of-origin labeling for retail food products was passed by Congress in 2002 but was never implemented. A provision to implement the law was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27, but special interest groups are continuing to work toward weakening the law.

"I want to know where this food comes from," said Huckabee. "I have a lot more confidence in catfish farmers in Arkansas than I do in the Vietnamese who are selling me something that they're saying is catfish when it isn't. I have more confidence in our rice farmers in Arkansas and in your corn farmers than I do in somebody who is producing food in a foreign country. I don't know what kind of conditions, I don't know what issues they're dealing with, with pesticides and herbicides. I have no idea, and, frankly, their government probably doesn't either and probably doesn't care as long as they're shipping it out."

Huckabee said he was pleased with most of what he's seen going into the 2007 farm bill so far, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition.
"I like the fact that we're putting some more money into fruits and vegetables. That's something I think we need to do, to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables, particularly among kids."

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