Focusing on his commitment for tax incentives to help spur economic growth, President Barack Obama’s State of Union message found a receptive audience in the food industry.

Obama pledges to help small businesses, exports grow

Obama

Obama defended the federal government rescue of the financial system and the results of the stimulus bill in his Jan. 28 address, but also pledged to do more.

President Obama also acknowledged the efforts of first lady Michelle Obama in creating a national movement to take on the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier.

The president set a goal to double U.S. exports in five years and announced the launch of a National Export Initiative that he said will help farmers and small business increase their exports. The president also pledged to continue to shape the Doha trade agreement and strengthen relationships with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

He proposed to take the $30 billion Wall Street banks have repaid from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program and use those funds to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. Obama also suggested the need for a new small business tax credit to small business that hire new workers or raise wages.

“While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment,” he said.

While the proposals on small business and exports are encouraging, Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said more detail is needed. Gilmer said United Fresh was especially pleased by the President’s reference to the anti-obesity campaign.

Obama pledges to help small businesses, exports grow

Gilmer

“We are absolutely thrilled and ready to step up and do whatever we can as an industry to support the White House (anti-obesity) efforts,” he said. “It’s a perfect dovetail match to our child nutrition initiatives’ for getting more fruits and vegetables into school feeding programs.”

Gilmer said United Fresh believes fruits and vegetables will play a big role in the effort to combat obesity.

Dawn Sweeney, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association said in a statement that the group welcomed the president’s efforts to support small business and job creation.

“We support the president’s call for tax incentives to help spur the economy and generate additional jobs, including the extension of expired provisions that allow businesses an enhanced deduction for expensing and bonus depreciation for capital expenditures,” she said.

Sweeney said the NRA was encouraged by the proposal to use a portion of the TARP money to support small business lending.

One key focus of Obama’s administration has been the push for health care reform, and the president urged Congress to finish the job. Sweeney said the NRA would support health care reform only if it includes protections in the Senate bill.

Sweeney also expressed support the anti-obesity campaign.

Obama included one sentence in his remarks about the need to continue work on immigration reform but did not talk about food safety legislation.

He stressed the need for climate change legislation he said would create new “clean energy” jobs in the U.S.

“Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -- because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy,” he said.

Obama also said the administration was prepared to fight the deficit with a three year freeze on government spending. That freeze won’t affect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security but will touch all other discretionary government programs, he said.