With so much at stake this year, it's important to understand that these platforms are a formal set of goals supported by the party and offer a clue to the policies that an administration might enact.

Melody Meyer, Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations

August 5, 2016

5 Min Read
A look at the ag policy platforms for both parties

With both primaries behind us, it is nigh time to settle in and look beyond the chants and cheers, the ever waves of signs, the bright lights and impassioned speeches. It's time to uncover the dirty details of where both parties stand on agricultural policy. What is the philosophical platform each one holds that will support us into our agrarian future? How do they compare with your ideas on food and farming? Let’s take a deep dive into both parties' platforms!

I don't think I've ever paid as much attention to the primaries before this year. Every evening for two weeks I hunkered down with my canines and streamed with rapt attention. With so much at stake this year, it's important to understand that these platforms are a formal set of goals supported by the party—they offer a clue to the policies that an administration of that party might enact.

Here’s how things square up:

Starting with the GOP’s ag policy platform

Improve Farm Bill process: It’s true that the last Farm Bill took too long to enact due in large part to a lack of leadership and inaction by Congress and the administration. This created two years of great instability. The GOP says that it is dedicated to moving the country forward and finishing future Farm Bills in a timely manner.  

Take out SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps) should not be included in future Farm Bills and should be implemented outside of USDA. According to the platform, removing SNAP from the Farm Bill and USDA would "correct a mistake." It is worth noting that removing SNAP from a Farm Bill could destroy the rural-urban coalition that has historically been needed to pass a Farm Bill, making it harder to meet the GOP’s first goal of finishing future Farm Bills in a timely manner.

Rethink crop insurance: No segment of agriculture can expect treatment so favorable that it seriously disadvantages workers in other trades.

Rethink land use: Keep public lands open for grazing, energy production and recreational activities.

Expand trade: The GOP is committed to expanding trade and opening new markets for producers while ensuring that high U.S. standards are held during negotiations with global trading partners. There is no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Eliminate GMO labeling: The GOP platform opposes mandatory GMO labeling. According to the platform, intrusive and expensive federal mandates on scientifically proven safe food options should be ended in order to feed a growing world.

Data should belong to the farmers: The GOP, in the interest of protecting the safety of farmers and ranchers, will advance policies that protect the privacy, safety and private ownership of individual farmers' and ranchers' data.

Abolish the EPA and have states set environmental regulations: Conservation, according to the platform, should be voluntary and directed by property owners. The Environmental Protection Agency should be converted into a bipartisan commission, and much of the agency’s power would be delegated to state governments.

Finally, the Democratic ag policy platform

Invest in rural America: Democrats commit to growing rural economic investment by strengthening water, sewer and broadband infrastructure that will enhance the competitiveness of rural businesses. Policies will be focused on increased funding to expand and support future generations of farmers and ranchers and support programs that protect family farms and expand both local food markets and regional food systems.

Improve agricultural worker protections: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard does a great deal to protect farmworkers from pesticides and herbicides, but worker protections can and should go further. Ideas include improving agricultural worker protections through eliminating child labor, having adequate housing for migrant workers, regulating work hours and providing sanitary working facilities.

Promote equitable trade: The platform acknowledges that global trade has not benefited all Americans. Future trade agreements must be transparent and not undercut American workers, compromise environmental standards or benefit a select few. New trade agreements (including the Trans-Pacific Partnership) must have high environmental and labor standards, end corporate subsidies that hurt American businesses, promote innovation and protect the health and well-being of the environment and American citizens.

Tackle immigration reform: The platform recognizes that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. Immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. need to be completely incorporated into American society through our legal process. The platform intends to fix family backlogs and protect legal immigration avenues. There should be a path to citizenship for law-abiding families.

Environmental stewardship: The urgent threat of climate change needs immediate action. In the platform, there is a shared commitment to addressing climate change while limiting global temperature increases, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs. The platform promotes collective stewardship of natural resources and continued economic opportunities in rural America. Producers that conserve and improve natural resources on their farms will be provided assistance and those participating in the bio-based economy will be provided loans to help spur sector growth.

Protect food stamps: The platform supports protecting SNAP. According to the platform, no individual should experience hunger, and programs that help put food on the table for struggling families should be protected

Fight chemical substance addiction: Chemical substance addiction is an epidemic in rural communities across the U.S. The platform commits to helping those with chemical dependency issues create healthy lives through encouraging full recovery programs and eliminating future barriers to employment, education and housing.

The issues are complex and far reaching for everyone who farms and eats. The way we conduct our country and our ag policy for the next four years will have a broad-reaching impact on the environment, our children and our health. The economic well-being of our rural farming community is at stake. The next generation of farmers depends on sound policy to support their entrance into the field. Our agrarian future is embedded in these future policies.

Please vote this year and make a choice for sustainable agriculture.

Details for this blog provided thanks to Marni Karlin, vice president, government affairs, The Organic Trade Association.

About the Author(s)

Melody Meyer

Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations, United Natural Foods Inc.

Melody Meyer is the vice president of policy and industry relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). She is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical industry issues and is active in advocating for fair and equitable funding for organic agriculture.

Melody’s career spans several decades in the organic and natural foods industry, including nine years of international trade and development. She began her career in 1976 working in an Iowa Natural Food Cooperative. Her early years in the retail segment of the burgeoning organic industry provided valuable experience buying from local farmers and providing fair returns in order to increase their organic acreage. This experience led to a lifelong dream of changing the way people eat and farm.

Melody founded her own business in 1995, Source Organic, which joined organic producers all over the country directly with national retailers and wholesalers. Source Organic was eventually acquired by Albert’s Organics (a division of United Natural Foods UNFI) in 2001 and it became the procurement department for all organic fresh produce purchased for the company. Her dream was being realized on a national scale!

In 2004 she began importing directly from small banana producers in Latin America. They were uniting and developing self-governed organizations enabling the small producers to export internationally for the first time. This international business provided a new level of prosperity, allowing the communities to increase much-needed social systems and infrastructure.

She has been deeply involved in introducing fair trade certification to growers in Latin America with Fair Trade USA and FLO.  The fair trade premiums are managed by self-governed worker groups to provide education, reforestation, access to clean water and health care.

Melody is proud to be the current executive director of the UNFI Foundation, which is dedicated to funding nonprofit organizations that promote organic and sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems. Priorities of the foundation include organic research, protecting biodiversity of seeds, promoting transparent labeling and educating consumers on healthy food choices.

She is serving her second term on the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association (OTA).  She also sits on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).

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