The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Ripples, reactions from Obama's bus tour of the Midwest


President Barack Obama’s three-day bus trip to the Midwest continued to make news over the weekend with a series of developments:
  • The publication of an interview Obama gave to a local Iowa newspaper.
  • Obama’s weekly video address delivered from Alpha, Ill.
  • The weekly Republican address delivered by John Kasich, governor of Ohio, a state Obama did not visit.
  • A news release from the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, noting its presence at the rural economic summit in Iowa.
  • A news release from Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Obama administration regulatory initiatives he believes are hurting rural America.

In the interview published Thursday by the Caroll, Iowa, Daily Times Herald and on Friday on the Daily Yonder website, Obama said he believes his administration “has done as good of a job on agriculture as any administration” and also emphasized that the administration has focused on bringing high-speed Internet service to rural America and creating programs to attract teachers, doctors and nurses to rural areas.

Obama also said he would consider appointing a rural American to the U.S. Supreme Court and that he believes some of the comments Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said about Texas seceding from the union and joking about the Civil War are “just for effect and to get himself on TV.”

Obama said he believed Perry would tone down his remarks now that he is running for president and that if he does not, “the American people will be able to make those judgments themselves about the kind of president that they want.”

Obama said he believes Democrats win less in rural areas because the population is older and because social issues have “made rural communities suspicious of Democratic candidates.” But Obama, who did better in rural America than any presidential candidate since Bill Clinton, also said that he has urged Democrats to run in rural America and that rural Democrats need to show up at the polls.

“If you go to a rural community and people feel that you’re respectful and you’re listening to ’em and you’ve got I think a good story to tell about issues like agriculture — and my administration I think has done as good of a job on agriculture as any administration — then even if you don’t win, you learn something, and over time, you can rebuild trust,” Obama said.

In his weekly address, recorded at the Country Corner Farm in Alpha, Ill., Obama urged Congress to cut payroll taxes again, pass a road construction bill to employ Americans including soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to pass the pending free-trade agreements. He did not mention trade adjustment assistance, which the administration has insisted on including in the package with the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“These are commonsense ideas – ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans," Obama said. "The only thing holding them back is politics. The only thing preventing us from passing these bills is the refusal by some in Congress to put country ahead of party. That’s the problem right now. That’s what’s holding this country back. That’s what we have to change.”

In a reply representing the national Republican party, Gov. John Kasich noted that Obama “didn’t stop in Ohio this time around," but that if he had he would have urged him to follow Ohio’s lead in closing a budget shortfall without raising taxes.

Kasich, a former House Budget Committee chairman, noted that Standard & Poor’s, which recently downgraded the U.S. government credit rating, has recently upgraded Ohio’s rating.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association reported that two of its leaders had participated in the administration’s rural events last week.

USCA Vice President Jess Peterson, who lobbies for the group in Washington, participated in a session that was led by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Peterson said the summit’s timing before the writing of the 2012 farm bill was “ideal” for the president and policymakers to get a look at issues facing rural America, and that he had encouraged the continuation of the livestock title, conservation programs and disaster aid that are in the 2008 farm bill.

Peterson also praised the administration for its program to increase high-speed Internet service in rural America, saying that the better and faster connections “enhance livestock marketing opportunities, access to crop reports and prices, along with online purchasing ability and educational opportunities are critical components to ensure prosperity in rural America.”

Jim Schaben, a USCA member who owns the Dunlap Livestock Market in Dunlap, Iowa, participated in a session led by Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Schaben said that guaranteed loans are needed to enable the next generation to stay in farming and ranching.

"Personally, I see policies like the country-of-origin labeling, components within the proposed Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule, and the US Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) as being some of the top issues that this administration can continue to make a priority,” Schaben said.

USCA has been one of the farm groups pushing for a strong rewrite of the GIPSA rule on the grounds that the current rule favors the meatpacking industry, while the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council and Republicans have said that the proposed rule would interfere with current marketing arrangements.

Peterson’s and Schaben’s presence were not noted by journalists in press pool reports filed last week, but they completed the circle of Democratic-leaning rural leaders invited to the summit.

Others, as noted by The Hagstrom Report last week, included:
  • National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson
  • Joel Greeno, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who is a member of the executive committee of the National Family Farm Coalition
  • Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska
  • John Zippert, assistant secretary for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a Georgia-based group that works with black farmers
  • David Gipp of the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota
  • Tom Buis of Growth Energy, the ethanol group, and a former president of the National Farmers Union.
Finally, in a Friday news release, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., put the rewrite of the GIPSA regulation at the top of a list of proposed regulatory actions that he said “could negative impact rural America.”

Roberts said he wrote a letter to Obama in which he noted that an Illinois farmer had told the president last week that he was concerned about dust, noise and water regulations under consideration and that Obama had told the farmer that he should check with USDA on whether these regulations are “happening.”

“I want to assure you that this farmer’s concerns are justified,” Roberts said, and provided Obama with a list of 11 proposed regulations, starting with the GIPSA rule and including several proposed by the Environmental Protection. A USDA spokesman said Friday that the agency would inform its state and local offices about regulatory proposals so that farmers can “contact USDA,” as the president suggested.