Obama, McCain: Who will win the rural vote?

With the election four short weeks away, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain are focusing heavily on rural America to win this election. And they’ll need it. According to the National Rural Assembly, 60 million people live in rural areas.

Obama says he wants to make sure that family farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions and fair prices for their goods. He says farm programs are designed to help family farmers instead of corporations. Obama also says he wants to encourage organic agriculture and would like to see more young people become farmers. He plans to provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm.

McCain wants to provide sustainable, market-driven risk management for America’s farmers to reflect the outcomes of the global marketplace. He claims this system would eliminate the influence of special interests on American agricultural policy. He argues this agricultural plan will meet America’s need in food, fiber, feed and energy. Technology will help to reach these needs. McCain is heavily pushing the continuation of positioning America as the leader in agriculture technology.

Both candidates want to provide jobs, education and health care for people in remote locations.

Obama said in the Oct. 7 debate that he plans to invest $150 billion a year over a 10-year period to free the United States from its dependence on foreign oil. He claims this plan will improve the bio-fuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emission coal plants and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid. He also plans to execute an economy-wide cap-and-trade program suggested by scientists to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to McCain’s Web site, he has proposed a $300 million award for “the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the number of commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” He supports the increased use of alternative energy sources like wind, solar and natural gas. McCain’s plan also focuses on increasing the number of nuclear power plants in the United States. He wants to construct 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030.

Both candidates focus on advancing technology and green jobs. Obama plans to create an energy-focused Green Job Corps to help disadvantaged youth gain the job skills they need. Obama also wants to create a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund to bridge the gap in U.S. technology development. He would make a $10 billion investment per year for five years. They both also want to advance clean-coal technology. McCain plans to spend $2 billion annually to help the science, research and development to improve this technology. By doing so, he claims he will restore the jobs lost and create new ones in the coal industry.

Dee Davis, president of the Kentucky-based Center for Rural Strategies, says whoever wins the rural vote will win the presidency. At this point, it’s still hard to tell who is leading with the polls continually changing. The rural population is still torn between the two candidates. Many people living in rural communities approve of McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate because of her understanding of agricultural issues. However, Sen. Joe Biden has repeatedly shown his support for America’s farmers as well. He supported the farm bill and has fought to maintain a competitive marketplace at home for America’s farmers.

Let’s hear your thoughts. Which candidate do you think has a better plan for developing and assisting rural communities?

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