Presidential campaigns begin earlier every election cycle. Only midway through 2019, and we’re already two debates in with a crowded slate of Democrats looking to challenge President Trump in next year’s general election.

A lot’s at stake for farmers to vote on. Trump’s presidency has been marked by challenges. Trade wars with China have necessitated subsidies for affected farmers. New technologies will continue to reshape the landscape of agriculture. Environmental considerations will continue to loom large.

Agricultural policy is an important part of a candidate’s platform, but outside of specialized forums, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

Although it’s still early, previewing what candidates plans to do for farmers, food supply, and commerce can help voters decide on what they want their future to look like. A quick rundown of three candidates’ current policy proposals follows, with brief commentary on the possible impact of these positions. 

  1. Joe Biden

    The former Vice President and longtime Delaware Senator, Biden is looking to negotiate fair trade policies for farmers while also promoting sustainability.

    Global competition is creating an economic climate that’s making it harder for farmers to succeed, Biden charges. He’d promote a fairer and freer exchange. He wants to open up new market opportunities while leveling the playing field for American agriculture.

    Biden would pursue a net-zero emissions policy by encouraging farmers to participate in a carbon marketplace.

    If Biden’s legislative career is any indication, the results will be mixed. He’s won acclaim for defending family farms and his efforts in trade diplomacy. On the other hand, environmental activists and farmers have criticized his preferential treatment of big ag and his failure to take more sweeping initiatives to curb the effects of climate change.


  2. Elizabeth Warren

    The Massachusetts Senator has offered some of the most detailed policy proposals of any Democratic candidate. Along with her colleague from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, Warren has centered her ag platform on fighting corporate control of farming and making the American food system more sustainable.

    Warren seeks to regulate the corporate mergers and acquisitions that are making agriculture more monopolistic. That includes oversight of foreign purchases of American farmland.

    This focus isn’t just for the boardroom. She’s expressed support for “right to repair” legislation to force manufacturers of large farm equipment to give owners access to repair codes, instead of forcing them to pay authorized mechanics to fix things.

    Senator Warren has also expressed support for a $2 trillion green manufacturing plan, a measure that could revolutionize sustainable farm production.   

    These finely-crafted measures have earned Warren respect and disdain. Depending on how dangerous  you think corporate control of agriculture is, how serious the environmental crisis has become, and to what extent protectionist measures will further the lot of American farmers, you’ll either get behind Warren or move in the opposite direction.

  3. Andrew Yang

    You might not recognize Yang’s name. He’s a single-issue candidate, and he has not yet proposed an agriculture policy, which makes it likely that he’ll tank in the Iowa primary.

    Still, Yang’s focus on softening the economic dislocation that’s coming from automated jobs could have significant implications for farming. He’s championed a Freedom Dividend guaranteeing $1,000 per month to every citizen along with single-payer healthcare as part of a human-centered capitalism in a changing jobs market.

    Farming is already starting to feel the effects of AI, machine learning, and autonomous vehicles. Yang’s initiatives could also help newer farmers get on their feet. Many college graduates, for examples, are waiting to pay off student loans before buying farmland; with their Freedom Dividend, they might not have to delay starting up.