By Jeb Bush
As Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness." Today, it is a great economic engine for our country. Millions of families rely on our farms and ranches for their well-being. Millions of our youth see it as their future, their opportunity to rise.
In Florida, world-class agriculture is the second biggest industry in the state. Florida provides over 40 percent of the world's orange juice, and food production contributes over $100 billion a year to the state's economy.
When I was governor of Florida, the state achieved 4.4 percent annual economic growth. Florida farmers did better, along with everyone else. Now, I have a plan for real, sustained 4 percent economic growth for the entire country.
It starts with putting the interests of people in towns like Washington, Iowa in front of the special interests in Washington, D.C.
In Iowa, it's been 15 years since middle-class families have gotten a pay raise, while Washington, D.C. has become a boom town. We need a president who can help farm families and rural America rise up.
I think Washington can learn a few things from rural America -- things like common sense, a respect for the land and love of country. These are rural values I share. Too many in Washington D.C. do not share these values. It's time for a change, and that's why I'm running for president.
Instead of suppressing farm production, we can strengthen rural America. Here is my plan to do that:
Free us from the Chokehold of Federal Regulations
Overreaching federal regulations stifle the potential of American agriculture and make a mockery of state authority and private property rights. For example, the federal "Waters of the United States" rule is simply an illegal powergrab that demonstrates a gross lack of understanding about what it takes to run a farm or business. Worse, we now know that the federal government presented the public with biased information in order to force the rule through. Fortunately, a number of states are challenging this regulation in the courts with some success.
On day one of my administration, I will stop every single regulation in process. I will immediately begin a sweeping reform of federal regulations, including repeal of the most onerous Obama-era rules and regulations including the "Waters of the United States" rule and Dodd-Frank financial regulations. I will execute detailed plans I have already laid out to: free us from overbearing regulations; reverse the illegal federal powergrab of states' rights; and loosen the tight grip on lands that burdens ranchers in the West.
Expand Trade and Open New Markets
When we compete on a level playing field, American workers and farmers win every time. More trade -- and fairer trade -- may be the single best way to increase prosperity in rural areas. Total U.S. agriculture exports were over $150 billion in 2014, accounting for a third of gross farm income. Over 50 percent of the world gets its corn from the United States. We supply 40 percent of the world's cotton. Almost 30 percent of its wheat. And the world will be asking for more. We'll have the potential to feed billions of new middle-class consumers in Asia and Africa over the next few decades.
That's why I support trade deals that are good for American workers and farmers. For instance, unlike Hillary Clinton, I have consistently backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trade deals are not just about lowering trade barriers, boosting sales and creating jobs. They are about America playing a leadership role in setting policies that will shape the global economy.
Under President Obama, Americans have now endured six years of tax increases, and yet the federal government still added $8 trillion to our debt.
Restoring the right to rise in America requires accelerating growth, and that can't be done without a complete overhaul of the U.S. tax code. Farmers and ranchers, in particular, are burdened by federal taxes if they wish to pass their operations on to the next generation. My comprehensive tax reform plandecreases tax rates across the board, establishing the lowest rate since President Reagan. Perhaps more importantly to farmers and ranchers, I would entirely eliminate the death tax.
Renewable Fuels Standard
The law that was passed in 2007 has worked, look at the increase in production. It has been a benefit to us as we've reduced our dependency on foreign sources of oil. We need to level the playing field for all sources of energy. As we move forward over the long haul, there should be certainty for people to invest and we ought to continue to innovate to create the lowest cost energy sources in the world. Ultimately if you can compete in an open market place, then you'll thrive, we need to make sure there is market access. I do think that phasing out, getting to a place where we don't pick winners and losers and we don't create mandates, over time, is the proper thing to do. 2022 is the law and is probably the good break point.
Today the average American farmer is 15 times more productive than the average farmer in 1950. Farming is one of the most innovative sectors of our economy. We are still discovering what biotechnology can accomplish to increase yields and better meet the needs of consumers.
Too often, the federal government chokes innovation through overregulation and high taxation. But the federal government also misses opportunities. The government spends too much, but it also spends too much on the wrong things. Research, including agricultural research, is undervalued. For instance, the federal governmentspent $80 million last year on employees to sit at home and do no work. Some of that funding would have been better spent pursuing breakthroughs, such as the prevention of plant disease, in our agricultural research programs.
On the Verge of our Greatest Time
If we get a few big things right, we are on the verge of the greatest time to be alive. But, under President Obama, Washington is standing in the way. We need a president who makes it easier, not harder, for people to rise above their current condition. That includes getting Washington D.C. off our backs, expanding food markets, lowering tax rates and promoting innovation. Removing government barriers and opening up opportunity will offer every hardworking farming and ranching family the ability to achieve their dreams. That's what I will do as the next president of the United States.