ST. LOUIS (January 28, 2014) – Responding to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this evening, American Soybean Association President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser took the opportunity to highlight several of the association’s priorities and how they compare and contrast with the plans laid out by the President.“A common theme in tonight’s State of the Union address from the President was the concept of finding ways where Republicans and Democrats can work together; policies and priorities on which the two parties share at least some common ground. We are happy to point out that the President need look no further in that effort than the Agricultural Act of 2014 on which the House of Representatives will vote tomorrow,” said Gaesser. “The farm bill is the product of more than three years of collaborative work between Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow and Chairman Lucas and Ranking Members Cochran and Peterson, and represents a bipartisan and bicameral step toward legislation that works not only for farmers and rural Americans, but for our suburban and urban neighbors. As we urge the House and Senate to pass the bill, we also urge President Obama to embrace the farm bill as an example of how both parties can work together to benefit all Americans.“The President also mentioned several plans designed to create jobs and put Americans to work. While the agricultural community and its related industries put more than 23 million Americans to work every day, there are specific initiatives within our industry that can create even more jobs right away. One is the pair of waterways infrastructure bills passed by the House and Senate and currently in conference. These bills provide critical investment in the locks, dams, river channels and ports that farmers need to move their products to market. We thank the President for mentioning these bills specifically. They are in lock step with the Fix it First initiatives he outlined in last year’s State of the Union, and we encourage Congress to move forward with the conference committee and pass a bill on for the President’s signature.“The second job creator that the soybean industry in particular can contribute is from the burgeoning biodiesel sector. Biodiesel—the majority of which is made from American soybean oil—creates and supports more than 62,000 jobs, and while the President repeatedly cites a desire to pursue his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, the policies of his administration tell a different story. The EPA has proposed a potentially devastating cut in the amount of renewable, clean-burning, American biodiesel to be produced under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014 and 2015. The levels proposed would stifle the growth of biodiesel, a fast-growing industry capable of producing nearly 2 billion gallons annually. If the President is truly committed to all energy options, we encourage him to recognize what soybean farmers already know: biodiesel is a viable and available alternative that helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, lower greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.“Finally, the President has repeatedly emphasized his desire to expand our nation’s trading relationships with both new and existing foreign partners, and tonight he noted our record farm exports in his opening remarks. As our nation’s leading farm export, trade is vital to the success of soybean farmers, and we applaud this emphasis from the President. Trade, and agricultural trade specifically, supports more than a million jobs here at home. Trade agreements, like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, into which Japan is being considered for admission, hold great promise for the soybean industry, and we commend the President for recognizing both in his remarks, but also note that these partnerships function only if they are established in such a way that takes into account the nature of our domestic industry and the modern methods and tools with which we farm.“We certainly echo the President’s call to work together, but we remind him that the issues championed by soybean farmers, including the farm bill, trade, infrastructure and biodiesel, are ones that require—and thankfully enjoy—bipartisan and bicameral support. American agriculture has always been about all of us; Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural, working together to meet the country’s needs. We call on the President, on the House and on the Senate to mirror that cooperation and work with farmers on these and other key issues in the year to come.”
Libertarian Billy Toien, Democrat Mark Begich and independent Gov. Bill Walker receive audience applause at the end of the Get Out the Native Vote candidate forum on Tuesday in Juneau. The microphone on the right is for Republican Mike Dunleavy, who didn’t attend. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)Independent Gov. Bill Walker and Democratic candidate for governor Mark Begich answered a question Tuesday about how they’re competing for the same voters. The exchange occurred at the Get Out the Native Vote forum for candidates for governor in Juneau.Listen nowJuneau Rep. Sam Kito III read the question from a member of the audience. Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy wasn’t there.“Please address the fact that there are two candidate vying for the same pool of votes,” Kito read. “Has a compromise been discussed to ensure that no-show Dunleavy does not win by default of vote splitting? And I’m just reading a question provided by the audience.”Begich, a former U.S. senator, said the candidates must earn every vote. He said the voters will have a choice about who can win and who has the best plan of action for the state.“What’s so great about election is you – it’s in your hands,” Begich said. “It’s not in ours. It’s in yours. I think whoever gets to 38 or so percent wins this race.”Walker said he built a cabinet that drew from the entire state because he didn’t discriminate based on partisan affiliation. He said the cabinet spent the first term addressing the state’s budget crisis.“You know we have wrestled with the fiscal issue, but we wrestled it to the ground,” Walker said. “We stayed here; we didn’t quit. We showed up and we did the hard work.”Walker said he’s angry that Dunleavy didn’t attend.“That’s very disrespectful,” Walker said. “Neither he nor his lieutenant governor (candidate Kevin Meyer) had the courtesy of attending today. I’m embarrassed as an Alaskan that we have somebody running for this office who will not show up in this room.”Asked for a reaction, Dunleavy emailed a statement:“Bill Walker should be more embarrassed by his failed record of a weak economy, vetoed PFDs, and skyrocketing crime than by my campaign schedule.I lived in rural Alaska for 19 years with Alaska Native people. It’s where I met my wife, Rose, of 31 years and where our three daughters were born.From a horrific public safety record, to dismal educational outcomes, to low employment and the theft of PFDs, Bill Walker has failed rural Alaska.”Dunleavy’s campaign said he had multiple meetings in Anchorage Tuesday.Libertarian candidate Billy Toien slapped his campaign bumper sticker over Dunleavy’s nameplate. Toien, a hotel concierge, said he doesn’t have a problem with vote splitting.“I think it’s all about voting your conscience,” Toein said. “It isn’t about who is or isn’t running. Win, lose or draw, if everybody decided to throw their vote away by voting for me, I would win.”Dunleavy did attend a candidate forum at the Anchorage Aviation Museum on Monday.