DES MOINES, Iowa —A number of presidential candidates were under one roof today for the first ever Iowa Agricultural Summit. While the event is technically a nonpartisan event, this is the next milestone for many big-name Republicans.
Two people were escorted from the Iowa Ag Summit after heckling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
A total of eight potential candidates addressed the summit today. Presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio did not make an appearance.
Potential candidates discussed ethanol, water quality, biofuels, international trade and immigration policies that affect the vast majority of farmers.
Iowa agriculture and energy tycoon Bruce Rastetter organized the event on a basis that past election cycles have lacked such important conversations.
Gov. Terry Branstad’s welcome remarks were quickly interrupted by a protester who called the event a “corruption summit.” The man was escorted, and Branstad continued his address by criticizing Barack Obama for not acting on the renewable fuel standard and not promoting ethanol. “Don’t mess with RFS,” Branstad declared, saying that renewable fuel standard is helping reduce foreign oil dependency.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed Branstad as the first presidential hopeful to take the stage. Christie criticized Obama on trade and renewable fuel policies, saying the RFS is “indicative of how the president doesn’t understand the executive branch has to execute.”
Hecklers again interrupted the summit. Two protesters criticized Christie’s response to Hurricane Sandy. The two people told KCCI’s Ryan Smith that they are still displaced from the 2012 natural disaster. They also said they flew from New Jersey to Iowa specifically to track down Christie.
“I’m glad to see that New Jersey has come to Iowa,” Christie responded to the hecklers. The crowd cheered while the two people were escorted from the summit.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took the stage next and defended the renewable fuel standard as a way for America to fuel itself. “A country needs to be able to feed itself, fuel itself and fight for itself,” he said.
The conversation moved to trade promotion, specifically regarding Cuba. Huckabee said that if he’s president, he wants to have all the authority for trade promotion. Huckabee said Cuba “kicks their people in the groin,” and that the United States shouldn’t trade with Cuba unless it can make an exception for freedom and liberty.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush agreed, saying that the United States should not seek trade with Cuba unless there are “big time changes,” he said.
Bush also spoke about immigration, saying immigrants who are currently in the United States need to have a path to legal status. He referenced Canada, saying “Canada has more economic immigrants than we do…We need to fix this broken immigration system.”
Bush led into the issue of food labeling, saying he’ll be cooking Iowa beef at his home after church Sunday in addition to a “really good guacamole.” He said he wants to know where those ingredients come from and that he supports country of origin food labeling, something Huckabee opposes.
Before wrapping up his time on stage, Bush squeezed in his appeal to get rid of Obamacare. A few audience members gave Bush a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded Texas for leading the nation in wind energy, and the crowd later applauded Perry for insisting the government secure the border as a first step in tackling immigration issues.
Sen. Ted Cruz agreed with Perry on immigration, saying it’s important to secure the border and stop illegal immigration.
Cruz said he wasn’t just going to appease the crowd by giving an easy answer on RFS and stuck to his opposition. He said he doesn’t think “Washington should be picking winners and losers,” and that we should allow renewable fuels to innovate without the federal government controlling it.
Cruz also attacked Obamacare, calling it a “train wreck” and that we need to repeal every word of it.
Rastetter said Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats considering White House bids were invited but did not attend today.
KCCI’s Kim St. Onge and Ryan Smith will have a full recap of the event on KCCI 8 News at Six.