VAN METER, Iowa – Mitt Romney, pitching his candidacy on Tuesday to Iowa farmers, promised to strengthen the family farm by cutting regulations, increasing trade, lowering energy costs, and getting rid of the estate tax on high-value family farms transferred after the owner dies.
President Obama has "no plan for rural America … I do," Romney told a crowd of more than 500 who gathered on a family farm here in central Iowa to hear him speak.
Focusing on the parts of his economic plan most relevant to the agriculture industry, Romney said he wants to abolish the estate tax that conservatives call the "death tax.” Obama has proposed a 45 percent tax rate on individual estates that are worth more than $3.5 million – down from the current $5.2 million. (The measure was killed when it failed to gain the support of some Democrats in the Senate).
“He’s planning on raising the death tax pretty significantly,” Romney said of Obama. “My own view is we ought to kill the death tax. You paid for that farm once, you shouldn’t have to pay for it again.”
The Republican nominee seized on the frustration of many farmers over the inability of Congress to pass a farm bill. Obama has blamed Republicans in Congress, including Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, but Romney said Obama was partially to blame for the failure.
“People have been waiting a long time for a farm bill and the president has to exert the kind of presidential leadership it takes to get the House and the Senate together and actually pass a farm bill,” he said. “That’s something I will devote my time to, to make sure that we get that bill passed so farmers know what they can expect.”
Romney did not detail what features he would like to see passed in a farm bill, or what he would do about farm subsidies that critics view as corporate welfare.
Romney also touched on how his regulatory plan would benefit Iowa’s farmers, arguing that regulations under the Obama administration have “gone crazy.” Romney pointed to efforts by the government to regulate water in ditches and to try to prevent teenagers from being able to work on family farms (the latter a claim rated inaccurate by fact-checkers). “You have to have regulations,” Romney said, but he argued that there are too many frivolous ones and said that as president he will ask that all regulations get passed through Congress.
One of the areas Romney steered clear of was wind energy, which is responsible for thousands of manufacturing jobs in Iowa and is a source of revenue for many farmers who have allowed wind turbines to be built on their land. Although he promoted his plan to increase the production of oil, coal, and natural gas as beneficial to farmers, Romney did not mention his opposition to extending the wind tax credit. The position puts him at odds with most of Iowa’s Republican leaders.
Obama’s campaign website lays out parts of his record and plans that benefit rural America, including expansion of financing and credit for rural businesses, and investment in clean energy and broadband Internet in rural areas.