June 27, 2016

The world of science and agriculture within the 2016 U.S. Presidential Race


By Casey L. Bradley, ASAS Public Policy Committee Member

June 27, 2016 – It appears the presidential ballot has been almost 100% finalized going into both the Republican and Democratic conventions, with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being the presumptive nominees. However, what is unclear is the candidates’ views on science and agriculture. Unfortunately, this article will not bring much clarity into this subject, as both campaigns ignored our request for comment.

At the moment, it appears the major differences between the two candidates exist in budgeting, rather than opinions on different scientific issues. Ms. Clinton has advocated for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation. Mr. Trump has never presented an opinion on funding for these agencies, but has suggested that even though he is a proponent of space exploration, he feels that there are larger issues facing the USA that need attention, before advocating for increased funding for NASA.

There is limited information available on specific scientific and agricultural issues from both candidates, but here are a few viewpoints. From what is available, it appears that both candidates support the use of vaccinations. Mr. Trump, similar to many Republicans, feels that Climate Change is an unimportant and unjustified funding priority, to such an extent that he has suggested cutting the budget for the EPA. He does not feel that humans play a major role in climate change, even though the current consensus (IPCC AR5) indicates that humans are more than half responsible for the increase in global warming. Opposing, Ms. Clinton continues to support the current administration’s policy and viewpoint on climate change. Both candidates seem to support similar views on energy in regard to natural gas and nuclear power. In regard to GMOs there are mixed opinions from both candidates and no clear understanding of their viewpoints, even though Mr. Trump’s humorous Tweet during the primary has led his opponents to suggest he is against GMOs. If we look at evidence-based medicine and biomedical research it appears this area needs more clarity from both candidates, rather than just support of budgets.

A recent editorial by John Phipps at AgWeb.com states that farm policy often gets few sound bites during presidential campaign stops, and that neither Trump nor Clinton “rank ag policy a priority.” Phipps also expresses his opinion of Trump’s position on immigration and trade policy, stating how it could impact U.S. agricultural exports.

However, contrary to Phipps’s opinions is Mr. Trump’s track record as a businessman: He has approximately 500 business entities and his personal net worth is estimated at $4.5 billion. Perhaps this suggests Mr. Trump would create policies that help only American business, including ag, rather than creating a risk for them. Also, Ms. Clinton’s increased support for NIH has been linked to increasing Alzheimer’s research funding from $600 million currently to around $2 billion, suggesting that research to bring advances to agriculture may get cut rather than increased.

In closing, the race for the White House is in full gallop, but a lot of things are yet to be known about either candidate’s viewpoints on science and agriculture. Hopefully science and agriculture will get more sound bites from the candidates in the coming months so that we can better understand which candidate is truly supportive of science and agriculture.


Issue Hillary Clinton Donald Trump
Vaccinations Supports Supports
Climate Change Supports current policies Humans are not a cause
GMO Not clear Not clear
Energy Supports research into alternative sources Supports research into alternative sources
Funding for Research Supports NIH & NSF increase Decrease NASA budget