While neither McCain nor Obama possess much agricultural background, differences over trade and energy will give agricultural voters plenty to think about, says Brad Lubben, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension public policy specialist.

Obama has been a reluctant supporter of free trade who has called for reviews of trade agreements to make sure they protect labor and the environment, says Lubben. McCain strongly supports liberalizing trade, removing barriers and pursuing international trade agreements.

On energy, Obama supports the use of biofuels as well as alternative and renewable fuels and energy conservation. McCain supports the use of all energy sources, including nuclear power, and less reliance on subsidies and import tariffs.

How each candidate’s positions will affect farmers remains to be seen, says Lubben. McCain’s desire to pursue international trade agreements sounds promising to producers, but not everyone is optimistic about trade, he says.

“There’s a lot of pessimism about how big these trade opportunities are, so the whole agriculture industry is not unanimous in its agreement that all trade is good,” says Lubben.

Likewise, Obama’s support for alternative fuels and energy conservation sounds good, but “very few people want to consume less energy,” says Lubben. Rather, conservation might only be a part of a portfolio along with new energy sources needed to meet continued growth in energy demand.

Since neither candidate has a strong agricultural background, the key will be who they put in their inner circle to advise them on the issues, adds Lubben. For more on Lubben’s views, see the full article, “Presidential Candidates Lacking Ag Knowledge.”