Republican presidential candidate John McCain would be less likely to raise estate and capital gains taxes and would be more business friendly if elected, says Tom Sell, with Combest, Sell and Associates, LLC, Washington, DC, and Lubbock, Texas.

But his “rhetoric on agriculture is a disaster.” Sell presented a Republican perspective on the 2008 presidential election during the recent Texas Produce Convention in McAllen. Sell said McCain would have vetoed the 2008 farm bill.

But he said McCain would be less likely to impose more regulations on U.S. business than would Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He conceded that Obama supported the 2008 farm bill and supports ethanol subsidies, which McCain opposes.

“Ethanol has had a dramatic impact on agriculture the last few years,” he said. “(Ethanol) has driven up grain prices.”

Sell said immigration would be an important issue for the next administration but “neither party has a silver bullet.”

He said agriculture would continue to be a bipartisan issue, regardless of who occupies the White House. “The strength lies in Congress.” The agricultural industry faces extremists to both left and right, he said. “On the right, we have to fight Libertarians and associations like the Heritage Foundation.” To the other extreme is the Environmental Working Group.

“At the end of the day ag interests are on the same team and support strong ag policy.” He said agriculture would benefit from a divided government and expects Democrats to bolster their control of both houses of Congress, picking up “six or seven seats in the Senate and a dozen or so in the House.”

He said agriculture has been under attack and will continue to be over three primary issues: budget, trade and politics.

He said a budget deficit of more than $485 billion and a $10 trillion debt puts programs in jeopardy. “The farm bill is a small percentage of the budget, but gets an inordinate amount of scrutiny. But we contend economic benefits in a farm safety net spur a lot of economic activity.”

He said neither party has a real solution to budget problems.

He's concerned about trade. “If ongoing trade talks in the World Trade organization go through, we may have to rewrite the farm bill.” He said McCain would be more trade friendly than Obama.

He said politics will be a key and for agriculture to succeed bipartisan efforts must continue. “We have to build coalitions. Of 434 congressional districts, only 70 are rural. Organizations like the Environmental Working Group spend a lot of money to grease their political machines.”

He said agriculture also must work to avoid division. Some groups will try to “divide program crops from non-program crops and will use payment limits to divide big farms from small ones.”

He said the 2008 farm bill “is good policy. Agriculture is equal or more important (than other industries) to our fundamental economy.”