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In Iowa, Jeb Bush tackles ethanol subsidies and immigration reform -- and plugs Publix

via @lesleyclark

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appeared in Iowa for the first time in more than two years Saturday and declined to commit to popular subsidies to corn farmers, saying the fuel standard legislation that his brother signed into law in 2007 “has worked for sure,” but that the markets should determine the outcome.

“I would suggest to you ultimately, whether it is ethanol or any other alternative fuel, renewable or otherwise, the markets ultimately are going to have to decide,” Bush said at the Iowa Ag Summit. He has said that the Republican nominee should be prepared to “lose the primary to win the general” –- a caution against treading too far to the right in the primaries.

A parade of potential 2016 Republican candidates found common ground on opposing increased trade with Cuba, a move championed by agricultural interests in several farm states.

“We should ultimately trade with Cuba when Cuba is free,” Bush said. Reminded that the U.S. trades with China, Bush said China offers the U.S. “huge economic opportunities” while Cuba, an island of 11 million people “is impoverished, and it’s a dictatorship.”

Bush said he opposes efforts to label genetically-engineered foods -- a proposal that has support from activists but faces opposition from biotech companies and the manufacturers of packaged foods. But he he backs labeling for the country of origin, saying he’ll pick up some “Iowa beef” at his local Publix supermarket in Coral Gables on Sunday, along with avocados for “really good guacamole.”

The candidates split on immigration, with Bush defending his immigration stance that some conservatives view warily, saying that the U.S. needs the workers.

“If we want to be young and dynamic and growing again, I think we need to fix this broken system,” Bush said, calling for a path to legal status for immigrants who are in the U.S. without the proper documentation.

“No one I know has a plan to deal with illegal immigration, to say they’re going to be rounded up taken away,” Bush said, calling for illegal immigrants to earn legal status “over the long haul” after paying fines and learning English.

“This is the only serious, thoughtful way to deal with this,” Bush said.