So once again Iowa Farmers are going to have a large impact on who the candidates are for President of the United States. Or at least who the Republican candidate is going to be. Their input may be somewhat less valuable this year due to the fact that the Republican field of candidates are all pretty bad and the race is still up in the air. It could continue through New Hampshire and the Carolinas on into Super Tuesday. One Bloomberg reporter said that “Polls have also shown that a majority of likely caucus- goers are open to switching from whichever candidate they currently back.” Last night on the News Hour and Charlie Rose they were saying the numbers were 40% still likely to switch. So even today as the caucuses begin things are still in flux. Personally I hope Ron Paul wins. And here are my reasons: he is straight spoken, he is consistent, he is a fan of raw milk, my son has been a fan of Mr. Paul for years, and boy, oh, boy, what fun it would be to have him as the Republican candidate!!!
But seriously, folks, here is some analysis of what is going on in the minds of Iowa Farmers as they go to their local caucus sites today. First, you have to understand that to an Iowa farmer the economy is looking pretty good right now. Land prices are up three times what they were 10 years ago. Farm profits around the country are high, that includes in Iowa. Unemployment in Iowa is low (5.8%). Commodity prices are high and ever-growing up 28% in the last year. So farmers are going out and spending large amounts on big-ticket farm implements like combines. Sometimes putting down as much as 50% cash. This makes the John Deere dealers happy and circulates the $$ in the Iowa economy. Times are not tough in Iowa. As AgWatch Network said in a recent article: the rural sector has been enjoying its most profitable period in decades.
So what are Iowa farmers using as their yardstick for measuring the candidates? The support of ethanol subsidies is somewhat lower on the list than usual because of the strong farm economy in general. The fact that the ethanol subsidy ended with the new year did not come as a surprise to anyone. And the new farm bill with it’s bid to end 15 years of direct payments to farmers is not popular but remember that commodity prices are still high. One large factor being exports. China is now buys 25% of the soybean crop directly. So one big issue is trade with China. Romney’s remarks about China being a currency manipulator and his consideration of new tariffs on their imports, which could potentially lead to a trade war, caused some farmers a few qualms but their wish to have a candidate that might actually win could overcome those fears. Even as Romney says he would move to cut farm subsidies he still could quite possibly win the caucuses. Farmers are nothing if not practical and Republican farmers really want to win the big enchilada. They really want to beat Obama. A lot of them see Romney as their only true hope of winning the general election.
The farmers are also very happy with their bankers lately. A big change of attitude having largely to do with the fact that they have switched to banking locally. As one farmer put it: “I won’t do business with a bank whose name you’d recognize. If you deal with a bank that’s out of your league, they’ll squash you like a bug and not realize it.” This could explain their indifference or even antipathy to the Occupy Movement. They just are not feeling the pain that the rest of us are. They got squished longer ago and since then they have recovered and are doing very well. Americans have short memories. I never thought that was true of farmers but I guess in Iowa it just might be.
So we await the results. As one article I read said this is a slow time of year for farmers so they have time to attend the caucuses. It will be interesting to see what impact they have on the outcome.