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There isn’t really any Iowa summit, forum, or gathering of citizens which goes unnoticed by presidential candidates during an election year. This weekend, it was the Iowa Agricultural Summit in Des Moines.

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Report from the Washington Post:

A day-long forum on agriculture here, where likely Republican presidential candidates courted Iowa’s farming industry, revealed sharp policy differences among the contenders, from immigration to energy subsidies.

The nine White House aspirants used their turns on stage Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to blast President Obama and his administration as being heavy-handed and indecisive, arguing that a change in leadership is necessary to stimulate agricultural growth.

Calling the Environmental Protection Agency “a pig in slop,” Jeb Bush said, “We have to begin to rein in this top-down driven regulatory system.” Asked how to achieve that, the former Florida governor said, “The first thing you do is you change presidents.”

The industry-sponsored summit — in which each hopeful answered questions on energy, the environment, immigration and food safety in solo sessions with agriculture businessman Bruce Rastetter — highlighted the demands that Iowans place on candidates to pay attention to the state that hosts the first presidential caucuses.

Saturday’s forum was one of a series of events on Iowa’s political calendar this spring and summer designed to draw the candidates to the state and take positions on its pet issues. Iowa has long pushed for federal support for its ethanol industry, and many people have argued that without the high-profile caucuses, the subsidies would have been harder to sustain. [Emphasis added]

Fuel subsidies became a point of contention as Rastetter tried to draw support from a new generation of presidential hopefuls. While many of the prospective candidates said they backed the subsidies, the event was notable for the number of dissenters, with Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) being the most explicit, saying the Renewable Fuel Standard should be repealed.

“The answer you’d like me to give is, ‘I’m for the RFS, darnit,’?” Cruz said. “But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians who run around telling one group one thing, another group another thing, and then go to Washington and they don’t do anything they said they’d do.”

Arguing about the validity of ethanol subsidies for Iowa corn producers is not something many candidates will do. Iowans like their subsidies on this front, regardless of party affiliation. It’s purely a local issue which becomes a national one in presidential election years.

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