Missouri, August 10, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Richard
Oswald, DTN, 08/09/04: The Kerry/Edwards campaign
hosted what they called a "conversation with farmers"
Friday, Aug. 6, at the Jim and Ruth Nelson farm east
of Smithville, Mo. Both candidates wore blue jeans and
stood before farmers seated on hay bales to make their
case for an energy-independent America. A corn festooned
Kerry-Edwards banner blended perfectly with a garden
patch of sweet corn behind the candidates.
John Edwards took the microphone first to thank those
who attended. He quickly launched into his vision for
America which includes a goal for providing 20% of the
United States' fuel needs through renewable fuels including
ethanol and soy diesel. He called for the establishment
of biomass refineries, small business incentives, and
widespread establishment of broadband access for rural
areas. He also called for the use of telemedicine in
areas where access to adequate, reasonably-priced health
care is limited. Edwards said that many projects could
be encouraged through the tax system by offering tax
credits and rural incentives for development.
Senator John Kerry took over the microphone to call
attention to the war in the Middle East. "What
else is in the Middle east," Kerry asked. "Oil."
He said U.S. truckers were paying out $6 billion more
in fuel costs and that the recent run-up in oil prices
was costing America's farmers $1.3 billion per year.
He said America should not be held hostage by its need
for Mid East oil.
Kerry and Edwards propose a $20 billion trust fund
to help finance a reduction in U.S. oil dependence.
The fund would work two ways by helping to defray the
cost of revamping factories used to build energy efficient
cars, and by paying an incentive to those who purchase
vehicles that run on alternative renewable fuels. Kerry
lamented the fact that Americans who want to buy the
most fuel efficient cars must turn to Japanese or European
manufacturers to do so.
Kerry asked the audience of about 150 farmers and farm
supporters to voice questions or share opinions and
concerns with him and Senator Edwards. One lady called
attention to the rising cost of farm inputs as opposed
to the steady prices of farm produce. Kerry answered
by saying that programs like the Conservation Security
Program are not being utilized effectively by USDA.
As proof he cited nearly $100 million worth of backed
up CSP requests in Iowa alone. He also proposed a program
that would enable producers of organic produce to insure
loss of their crops including value loss through GMO
contamination. He called for a renewed effort for an
effective ban on packer ownership of livestock as well
as livestock pollution enforcement and a crackdown on
vertical integration in the food industry.
Senator Edwards sympathized with farmers who have to
cope with rising costs and diminishing returns. "It's
hard," he said, "but there are no easy answers."
Senator Kerry harkened back to a time when, as a teenager,
he had spent time on his aunt and uncle's farm where
he had learned to plow with a John Deere tractor. He
said he had felt connected to the land. Later, he said,
he had helped his uncle clear rocks from the plowed
field. After the long days work he had to remove his
soiled clothes on the back porch because they were too
dirty to wear into the house. He said he felt enriched,
but tired and in need of a shower. He said his uncle
held out a quarter to give him for his days work. That
was when he learned that the greatest rewards from working
the land weren't monetary.
At one point Senator Kerry's wife, Teresa, passed a
note to the Senator which he took and then looked at
her questioningly, "What's this?"
"Read it," she said. Whereupon Senator Kerry
gave her the microphone and told her, "You do it."
An exasperated Mrs. Kerry then told the group about
a hog farm she had toured in Iowa that utilizes non-polluting
pasture production through a five-field rotation. That
prompted a vociferous response from one confinement
hog producer who told the candidates that large scale
producers would "freak" at the suggestion
that all hogs in the U.S. should be raised in that way.
He felt they should know that such a stand could cost
votes in Missouri.
Elizabeth Edwards spoke up and said, "Back when
I had a personal life, I did some bankruptcy work in
North Carolina, trying to help out some small creditors,
and I saw hog farmer after hog farmer put in the same
vise that you're in."
Senator Edwards then added, "We ought to be turning
this hog waste into energy."
Near the end of the meeting a question was raised about
health care proposals. Senator Kerry proposed a $50,000
annual cap on health costs for all Americans. He suggested
Medicaid expenses for children should be born by the
Federal government, freeing the states of that nearly
$5 billion expense. He proposed allowing all Americans
to buy into the same health care plan that is used by
Congress, and he advocated allowing prescription drug
After the meeting the candidates and their wives mingled
with the crowd. I asked Senator Edwards how he felt
about COOL. He said U.S. producers should be able to
identify their produce. I asked him if he felt labeling
should be done voluntarily. He replied, "It should
In a conversation with Teresa Kerry I tried to explain
the heated statements of the confinement hog producer
who had reacted to her impressions of hog farming. She
said she understood because of the situation in her
home state of Pennsylvania. She said at one time Pennsylvania
had more farms per capita than nearly any other state.
She was distressed by the consolidation that has taken
place there and by the damage to the state and its communities
brought about by the loss of farms. She said she felt
something ought to be done to help alleviate the problem.