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What will Obama presidency mean to agriculture?

The votes are in. Barack Obama will become President on January 20.

What does it mean to agriculture? In terms of the marketplace, the immediate reaction on Wednesday morning was complacent: The same market factors are in play, creating the same volatility and moving in the same directions. Before the opening of the CBOT on Wednesday morning, the grains were called mixed on lower crude oil prices, mixed global stocks and an expected lower opening of the U.S. stock market.

As President, what will Obama's policies mean to rural America? The former Illinois Senator, according to his Web site, will base his administration's plan for farmers on seven priorities:

  1. Payment limits: Obama says he'll implement a $250,000 payment limit and "close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations."

    "I would have liked to have seen some additional reforms in the bill," Obama says in an American Farm Bureau Federation report. "I would like to see some tighter payment limits for example, but on balance the bill did a lot more good than bad because it dramatically increased the funding to fight hunger, it increased funding for conservation and it provided farmers with at least some stability in an increasing volatile market."

Packer ban: President-elect Obama supports a ban on packer ownership of livestock. "Obama and Biden will strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions and transparency in prices.

Local control: Under Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will "strictly regulate pollution from large CAFOs, with fines for those that violate tough standards." This includes "meaningful local control," according to Obama's Web site.

Country-of-origin labeling (COOL): Country-of-origin labeling will be moved toward implementation by President Obama, "so that American producers can distinguish their products from imported ones," according to his Web site.

Organic, local production: The new administration will take steps to promote organic farm production, including helping organic farmers "afford to certify their crops and reform crop insurance to not penalize organic farmers." In addition, the Obama administration will "promote regional food systems."

Young and beginning farmers: Obama and vice president-elect Joe Biden will, according to Obama's Web site, "establish a new program to identify and train the next generation of farmers," as well as provide tax incentives to "make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm.

Conservation: The new administration, Obama says, will boost incentives for landowners to "conduct sustainable agriculture and protect wetlands, grasslands and forests."

Cellulosic ethanol could see a boost under the Obama presidency. Obama says he plans to "phase in" 2 billion gallons of cellulosic production by 2013.

"I am not interested in rolling back the renewable fuel standard. I think it is something that is critically important to supporting the agricultural sector and rural America, and I think that the use of ethanol as a scapegoat for rising fuel prices is misplaced," Obama says in an American Farm Bureau Federation report. "I think corn-based ethanol has been a critical bridge technology to make America more energy independent. Now, I think we have to realize it's going to have some limitations. It has some environmental effects. And that is why we have to help, to work with farmers to make cellulosic ethanol technology widely available, economical and profitable."

In addition to working to "ensure that our rural areas continue their leadership in the renewable fuels movement," the new President, according to Obama's Web site, will take steps to improve rural small business development as well as improving rural communication infrastructure like broadband internet access.

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure that rural Americans have access to a modern communications infrastructure," according to Obama's site. "They will modernize an FCC program that supports rural phone service so that it promotes affordable broadband coverage across rural America as well."

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The votes are in. Barack Obama will become President on January 20.

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