By Gary Truitt
Well, here we are in the heart of election season. The conventions are over, the campaign commercials have begun in earnest, and the name calling has declined to the level of a junior high playground. Over the next few months, we in the ag media will be reporting on where different candidates stand on various farm issues. The truth is, however, that their positions, proposals, and promises don’t add up to a bag of beans and should be ignored. What is important is vision — how they see the future.
This realization occurred to me as I was sitting in the recent Lt. Governor’s Debate on Agriculture held in Boone County, Indiana. For 50 minutes, the three candidates for the Lt. Governor position in Indiana dutifully answered questions from three other ag journalists and me about a variety of farm issues from broadband to trade to hemp. The GOP incumbent came well-prepared and had polished answers with lots of facts and figures and very little substance. The Democratic challenger was candid and passionate but admitted she knew nothing about agriculture and had only been studying the issues for the past few weeks. The Libertarian never really answered the questions just restated what the issues were and how they were a problem that needed to be solved.
By the luck of the draw, I got to ask the final question. Trying to get something a little deeper than I had heard so far, I asked each of them for their vision of the future of agriculture. This took them off their prepared scripts and talking points and gave us a glimpse of what was under the hood. On one hand we saw a well-tuned engine with considerable millage on it but running well and ready to continue to perform at the same level. We also saw a new engine with lots of horsepower but having never been started. The third engine was a hybrid of experimental design and questionable engineering. I will let my fellow Hoosiers figure all that out.
On the national scene, in what journalist H.l. Mencken called “A Carnival of Buncombe,” the same approach can be used. Mencken astutely observed that what candidates for the White House really want is “the job.” Thus, they will say anything and promise anything to anybody at any time if it will help them get the job. This may seem cynical, and it is; but it is also reality, and to think otherwise is delusional. Thus, don’t be distracted by what Donald Trump or Joe Biden say or promise on any specific ag issue. Try, as best you can, to discern their vision for the future of agriculture and for our country. Then, decide if that approach is going to help your family and farm grow and prosper in the years ahead.
With so much uncertainty in our economy and our world, it is impossible to say with any degree of confidence what is going to work or not work in the years ahead. The vision and approach our leaders take into that future will determine how they react and adapt, not the promises made or the things said in the closing days of the campaign.