February 7, 2008 / 12:40 AM / 12 years ago

White House race seen shunning agriculture

REN0, Nevada (Reuters) - The next president of the United States has so far said very little about agriculture, cattle or livestock, which the president of the nation’s largest cattle group called “kind of scary.”

“As I have listened to the candidates in their primaries for the last two or three months, I have yet to hear anything mentioning the word agriculture, mentioning the livestock industry or mentioning the cattle industry,” John Queen, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, told Reuters on Wednesday. “It is kind of scary to me.”

The NCBA has about 30,000 members and more than 5,000 of them are in Reno this week for the group’s annual convention.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lead the Democratic race for the White House. On the Republican side, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are vying for their party’s nomination.

The NCBA generally does not endorse candidates and does not intend to endorse one this year, said Queen, but the group did endorse President George W. Bush during his campaign for a second term.

“As far as siding with the political candidates, I don’t think that is in the NCBA’s best interest,” said Queen on the sidelines of the NCBA’s convention.

“We are 109 years old, we operated under many Democrat and many Republican administrations and we survived each and every one of them and we will do that this time,” he said.

Queen said he would welcome the chance to question any of the candidates about their policies on agriculture, livestock, ethanol and energy, and conservation.

“I have not heard the word ethanol yet, but I have heard the word energy,” Queen said, referring to the many political speeches this election year.

Ethanol is of particular importance to livestock producers, because the biofuel has sent prices for corn, an important feed, skyrocketing. This has angered many in the meat industry because the grain is a key feed and the higher prices have increased production costs for cattle, hogs and chickens.

Currently, corn is the primary raw material for ethanol production.

Particularly troubling to livestock producers is that ethanol producers have been aided by the U.S. government because fuel makers can receive a tax credit for using ethanol and there is a tariff on imported ethanol.

Editing by Christian Wiessner

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