Although we did not support his election, like many in America we had high hopes that Barack Obama's performance as president would match the soaring rhetoric of his 2008 campaign.
We admit that in troubled times the promise of hope and change had a powerful allure. But over the last four years, the president's vague references to a transformed America have been replaced by legislation, policy proposals and regulations that have taken the country in the wrong direction and have negatively impacted farmers and ranchers.
* The president failed to deliver on his promise to improve the economy. Unemployment has soared, as has the public dole. Instead of cutting budget deficits in half, as promised, the president has increased spending and has added nearly $5 trillion to the national debt.
* The president held up trade agreements, which were negotiated by the previous administration and important to agriculture, to fulfill promises made to union supporters. To appease the Teamsters, he suspended a program to allow some Mexican trucks into the country, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In retaliation, the Mexicans imposed disastrous tariffs on many products, including Christmas trees, apples and potatoes, that cost U.S. producers millions of dollars in lost sales.
The president has not initiated any trade negotiations.
* Under the president's watch, the price of gasoline and diesel fuel has soared to record levels. Beyond increasing the cost of fuel used on the farm, those increases have increased the cost of farm inputs and the transportation of commodities to market.
* The president has pursued policies, regulations and enforcement tactics that threaten the viability and character of American agriculture.
The White House worked with Democrats in Congress on a failed attempt to pass cap-and-trade legislation that would have increased the cost of fuel and other farm inputs, and would have placed ruinous restrictions on equipment and farming practices.
The administration sought to change the Clean Water Act's definition of "waters of the United States" to claim increased regulatory authority.
The Environmental Protection Agency explored more stringent dust standards under the Clean Air Act that would have made standard farming practices all but impossible in some locations.
The Department of Interior circulated internal memos touting a plan to treat as wilderness public lands not so designated by Congress, which would have put million of acres in the West off-limits to grazing.
The Department of Labor reinterpreted child labor laws, and proposed regulatory changes that would have banned young teens from taking farm jobs that have long been the entry point to the workforce in rural America, and would have prevented them from working with their parents on the family farm.
The Department of Labor has employed extortive enforcement tactics that subvert growers' due process rights to challenge alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
While public outcry and a fair amount of concern from legislators of both parties have blocked or forestalled many of these schemes, we have no doubt that in a second term the administration, unhindered by the political concerns of reelection, will pursue these and other policies that could crush Western agriculture.
In 2012, another candidate offers the country a change. We endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.
In contrast to the president, Romney comes to the campaign with previous executive experience in both government and business. As an entrepreneur, Romney can relate to the business concerns of farmers and ranchers.
He proposes an agenda that we believe will move American agriculture in the right direction.
* Romney proposes tax reform designed to promote growth. Because most farm revenue is taxed as personal income, his proposed reduction in marginal income tax rates will benefit farmers, ranchers and agribusiness owners.
The retirement of many in the ag community depends on the value of their business. By keeping capital gains taxes low, the Romney plan would allow farm families and agri-business owners to realize more on their investment. And the elimination of the federal estate tax will allow assets acquired, and taxed, over a lifetime to pass to heirs without extra burden.
* Romney has promised a common sense approach to regulation that will be based on a sound cost-benefit analysis. He will eliminate duplicate and contradictory regulations. He will require agencies to focus on reducing the costs of regulation. He has promised to return to Congress the authority for imposing major regulations.
* Romney believes international trade is vitally important to the success of American agriculture. He promises to complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an effort that has languished under the Obama administration.
He has promised to hold our trading partners accountable for breaching their responsibilities and for taking unfair advantage by manipulating their currencies.
* Romney has promised to pursue policies to take advantage of all of North America's energy resources, to increase the production of U.S. fuels and reduce the costs of agricultural inputs.
As we said last month, your choice is between a president whose record, policies and politics you know, and a challenger who promises something very different. We vote for change.