I Like Mike — Does Mike Like Ag?


huck guitar.jpg
Iowans have the privilege and responsibility of field testing presidential candidates and in return, they command an attention in our national policy debates that at times allows them to squeeze out a few goodies, such as ethanol subsidies, despite their inefficiencies. But with farming a pivotal part of Iowa’s economy, Iowans should be asking themselves what candidates are willing to do for them and the country beyond the ethanol pledge when it comes to agriculture sales, especially when there is low-hanging fruit to be plucked in this arena.
In July, the International Trade Commission (ITC) released a report estimating national earnings from lifting the ban on agriculture sales to Cuba. Applying trade and theory and pricing analysis to current sales, the ITC estimated the US could reap $320 million in agriculture sales to Cuba. And this was merely a counterfactual assessment–it estimated what sales might be if the restrictions on sales did not exist in 2006. But it openly admitted this to be a short-term, lower bound estimate that did not take into account dynamic returns and the ITC expects this figure to grow. Another study from a few years ago has projected upwards of $1.2 billion in agriculture sales alone.
From my rough estimates, combining the results of the ITC report and the previous study’s state by state analysis, Iowans could have taken home a 6% share of that $320 million and previous projections estimate Iowa’s annual gain to be $70 million in agriculture sales and an additional $200 million in downstream/spin-off effects. Even if the primary spike in sales comes from Southern poultry exports, the Iowa Ag Review has noted that for every pound of poultry sold an additional pound of soybean meal moves off market creating new demand. And a quick look at the USDA’s Iowa fact sheet would reveal that, behind corn, soybeans are Iowa’s meal ticket.
The share that Iowans could expect would rival most boondoggle subsidy programs and could be easily captured with some rational, commonsense policies that evade our antiquated US-Cuba policy thinking.
Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani bill themselves as pragmatic problem solvers and competent managers, but they’ve staked out fairly ideological positions on foreign policy. Though Mike Huckabee — who has recently garnered new attention and interest after his successful performance in Wednesday’s Republican debate — has at times gestured in this direction, he has not yet committed himself to a foreign policy that belies a commonsense pragmatism. And more importantly, he exhibits countervailing tendencies.
Huckabee appears more in touch with the struggles of his fellow constituents paying greater attention to bread and butter issues than the other leading candidates. As Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus put it, Huckabee “has the air of the nice neighbor who wanders by to discuss your crabgrass problem.” (He also plays the bass guitar in his own band, which performed at his Iowa straw poll party).
Coming from a state like Arkansas that stands to gain almost half a billion in agriculture sales to Cuba, Huckabee would have to consider this issue. And as he’s trolling for votes, caucus goers should pose the question to him to determine whether he’s willing to put the interests of Iowan and American farmers above an ill-thought out, ideological trade policy that harms our interests.
His second place finish in the recent straw poll shows Huckabee can do well in Iowa but he remains quite an unknown quantity and needs to distinguish himself in some way. Standing out on such a reasonable issue such as agriculture sales that benefits Iowa farmers might be the ticket to position himself against the ideological blinders of leading Republican candidates attracting more national attention and garnering the support of more Iowans. The ag sales position also offers Huckabee a boost in some critical regions — California, the Midwest, and the South. And it would call into question Romney and Giuliani’s pragmatist credentials when they opt to foreclose on opportunities for American farmers.
Perhaps this is an issue for Ron Paul or Sam Brownback, who have both expressed concerns over failed US foreign policy positions, though from very different angles. But one thing is for certain — this issue, like sales of chickens to Cuba, is ripe for the taking.
–Sameer Lalwani


12 comments on “I Like Mike — Does Mike Like Ag?

  1. Sandy says:

    Thanks for your post, virginia cynic, and your quite reasonable, valid questions.


  2. MarkL says:

    I believe I read about Kucinich’s trip on Daily Kos, among other places. I think Rawstory covered it.


  3. virginia cynic says:

    Please, can we all be spared the nice, friendly, neighbor with the crabgrass advice persona? (see, Reagan, Ronald ” nice guy to have barbecue with”, Bush, Geo. W. ” nice guy to have beer with”)
    These guys with extremist right wing views based on some gut feelings or religious beliefs or Milton Friedman’s version of capitalism are dangerous and at least two of the above did serious damage to our country . So now instead of dealing with the fact that Huckabee is a fervent right winger we get the nice neighbor nonsense. Typical Washington elite way of dealing with right wing extremists . Ignore the utterly stupid things a man says and does and how completely unaccomplished the person has been (Reagan and Bush) and instead focus on some inane part of that person’s programs and desperately talk about how the person makes some sense and how nice he would be as a neighbor. ( the neighbors that rational people always say yeah he’s a nice guy personally but thank god he’s not in charge of anything)
    The reality is that Huckabee is so far out of it that he DOES NOT EVEN BELIEVE in EVOLUTION. His problem is not with a particular mechanism or with some arcane part of evolutionary theory. HE does not believe in it on RELIGIOUS grounds. And you let the guy slide and fail to confront the fact that he is a religious fanatic. AT YOUR PERIL AND OURS.
    Why do you coddle these people? Do you simply lack the courage to say that the guy is a fool?


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I was impressed with Kucinich’s trip.”
    How did you hear about it?
    Mainstream media?
    Steve Clemons’ commented on it?
    AIPAC ran it on their website?
    CNN did a story on it?
    The mass marketed Presidential hopeful frauds took time out from lying to us, and drew attention to Kucinich’s efforts?
    None of the above?


  5. MarkL says:

    I was impressed with Kucinich’s trip. good job.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    One other thing. You can bet if it was Hillary or Obama that spent their vacation engaging the Syrian or Lebanese leadership, you would have heard about it on this blog, from Steve.
    It would be interesting to know how many of the Democrats spent their vacation in Israel, promising them more arms and American taxpayer monies.


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Here is a bulk email I just recieved from the Kucinich campaign. Compare it to the bit of internet bribery that Steve posted from Hillary.
    Oh, and gee, I received it at 6;12 PM, PST. Uh, also, it only had ONE “contribute” link, and no promises of “doing lunch” if I contribute.
    Damn, I guess if I wanna contribute, it will have to be because of the candidate’s positions, and not because of how good the wine was.
    A report from the Middle East
    Dear ……..,
    While the other leading candidates for the Presidency were spending the Labor Day weekend campaigning at picnics, barbeques, state and county fairs, and parading in front of the cameras, YOUR candidate, Dennis Kucinich, without fanfare, was quietly traveling throughout the troubled Middle East in search of real-world solutions to monumental, global challenges.
    The votes we cast next year will have an impact here in the United States and around the world, and the candidate we elect must be equipped to make sound foreign policy decisions, based on first hand experience and in-person communications with other world leaders.
    So, while other candidates partied and picnicked and posed, Dennis and Elizabeth traveled to a troubled, dangerous region of the world to meet with heads of state and other political leaders to find ways to solve the problems, mitigate the dangers, and find common ground for diplomatic cooperation – and PEACE.
    “Strength through Peace” – the Kucinich philosophy – means direct engagement, diplomacy, adherence to international law and upholding treaties. It was in that spirit that Dennis and Elizabeth decided to visit the Middle East; to see whether political and religious leaders as well as the citizens of the region were open to the kind of positive dialogue recommended in the Baker Hamilton report. The kind of dialogue ignored and dismissed by the White House.
    The six day trip started in Syria. In the Golan region, they visited the site of the “Shouting Valley” where Syrians whose families were separated by the occupation have to literally shout to each other across a distance of several hundred yards in order to maintain family and personal contact.
    Syria has accepted and settled more than one and a half million refugees from Iraq. Dennis and Elizabeth visited an area on the Syrian-Iraqi border, as well as one neighborhood in Damascus where some of the Iraqis had settled. The Syrian government is providing free education and healthcare. “People are desperate,” said Dennis. “They have lost loved ones in the war. They have nothing but the clothes on their back. This is a profound humanitarian gesture on the part of this country because it significantly increases the population of Syria. Now, someone must provide for these refugees.”
    On the second day, there was an extended meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They discussed a wide range of other matters including building relations between Syria and the United States, the role of the European community in negotiations between Syria and Israel, hopes for a national unity government in Lebanon, matters affecting Pakistan, and Assad’s stated desire for a peace agreement with Israel.
    Elizabeth met with the President’s British-born wife, with whom she shares an interest in community economic development, education and the welfare of refugees.
    One of the most moving parts of their trip was a visit to the holy site of Notre Dame de Saydanaya, a revered Christian mecca where legend says the Virgin Mary appeared 1,500 years ago, fully veiled Muslim women worship together with Christians. “In this time of religious strife, it is important to bear witness to places that show the way of peace,” Elizabeth observed.
    Peace and harmony in the Axis of Evil?? Would that message be seen on American TV? No.
    Next, Dennis and Elizabeth visited Lebanon. There, Dennis met with President Emil Lahoud and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora where further discussions centered on resolving the conflict with Israel and issues surrounding stability in Lebanon.
    President Lahoud was specific about the challenge of Shiites having resigned from the government: “Lebanon is governed by a consensus on every issue. To have this we must have the three main religious groups represented equally (Shiites, Sunnis and Maronites). When one group leaves, you cannot have a legal government.”
    And, in what may be a surprise to many here at home, there is a surprisingly large American population in Lebanon. How large? About 50,000, many of them active in “Democrats Abroad Lebanon”, a branch of the Democratic Party’s official overseas arm. Those U.S. citizens were thrilled to have a chance to meet Dennis and Elizabeth at a special evening meeting, and they used the event to kick-off their plans for getting Americans in the country to vote in Democrats Abroad’s delegate selection process to choose delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention next year in Denver.
    Lebanon’s leading Christian cleric, Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Church met with Dennis and Elizabeth. Cardinal Sfier is no stranger to U.S. politics. He has met with George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condaleeza Rice in Washington. As the leader of a large segment of an ethnically and religious diverse nation, he told the Kuciniches, “We have to appreciate living together with persons who are not of our faith and working with them to achieve a common good.”
    Dennis and Elizabeth also made plans to return to Qana, the site of heavy fighting during last year’s war and to participate in a televised ‘Town Hall forum’ in downtown Beirut with residents of the city.
    Dennis, who will be returning to the U.S. in the next few days, summed up the trip this way: “I believe that through direct communication, there is hope for peace. The world is ready to embrace America again. It is important that America reaches out to show our true values, our compassion and our willingness to work for peace.”
    When he and Elizabeth return, he will provide a more detailed description of their travels and a more comprehensive assessment of his political and diplomatic findings.
    Strength through Peace,
    Kucinich for President 2008


  8. MarkL says:

    Any other lightweights that TWN has yet to endorse?
    Is David Duke running this time around? He would not be the least able, or the most repugnant of the Republicans, were he running.


  9. Quiddity says:

    Huckabee is incredibly dangerous. He supports a tax plan that would be devastating to the poor. He wants to stay in Iraq to preserve our “honor”.
    His finishing in the straw poll was largely due to support from the “fair tax” people. Sam Brownback is a more credible spokesman for the religious voter.
    Don’t be fooled by the nice guy persona.


  10. Shawn says:

    It’s refreshing to see Mike Huckabee and these other ‘second tier’ candidates act like real people. The clowns in the top tier (on both sides) act like phonies, just telling us what their public and their party wants to hear.


  11. TB says:

    Is Huckabee playing an Alembic Essence?
    Wow, nice ax Mike … He sholdn’t be president, but his taste in instruments is first rate.


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Oh, thank God, Sameer…..
    ….while our president gets away with impeachable offenses, Rice says “fuck you” to Congressional subpoenas, over 600,000 Iraqis are dead, another four million Iraqis are displaced, these lying pieces of shit in the White House pawn off fake Osama tapes on us, and Cheney is in orgasmic ecstacy at the prospect of nuking Iran….
    …… I was worried the issue of selling chickens to Cuba might get lost in the shuffle.


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