Ag politics: Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson takes stances on GMOs, Farm Bill and immigration | TheFencePost.com

Ag politics: Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson takes stances on GMOs, Farm Bill and immigration

Tommy Simmons

As the rest of the country planned barbecues and Memorial Day celebrations, Libertarians were busy in Orlando, Fla. The party held its national convention from May 26-29, and by May 29 announced its decision to nominate former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson for the presidency.

While Johnson is not exactly a political celebrity in the world of agriculture, he has made decisions – especially in his capacity as governor of New Mexico – which have had lasting impacts on the industry.

In August 2001, for example, Johnson signed a resolution drafted by the Western Governors' Association in support of a national block grant program for agricultural stewardship.

The program, which was approved by Congress in 2002, allows states to enter into agreements with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive grant money to address threats to soil, air, water and wildlife. Johnson's support for the program came in the final two years of his governorship and when he was still a member of the Republican Party.

Johnson has also voiced an opinion on the controversy surrounding products containing GMO ingredients in recent years.

"While I generally resist the idea of government mandates, public safety is a legitimate government function," he said via a July 2012 email to ProCon.org, sent by his communications director. "For many people, certain food ingredients can do serious harm, and knowing what is in food is absolutely essential. For millions of Americans … knowing what we are eating is not a matter of preference or convenience, (but) rather is an issue of basic safety."

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This viewpoint places him in the camp of Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, whose home state of Vermont passed a law in 2014 requiring labels on products containing GMO ingredients.

In keeping with his party's desire for smaller government and a slimmer budget, Johnson has also said he believes farm subsidies need to be cut by at least 43 percent and possibly abolished altogether according to a Twitter chat in April 2012. The most recent Farm Bill, which Congress approved in 2014, is projected to total $23.3 billion in aid to farmers by 2017.

Johnson has also taken a moderate stance on illegal immigration, stating he believes illegal immigrants should have a two-year grace period to attain work visas, according to his 2012 presidential campaign website.

As it is estimated by the Southern Poverty Law Center that one in six of all agricultural workers in the U.S. are undocumented, this would allow them significant time to remain in the country and the industry. ❖