(Dallas Center, Iowa) Standing in shirt-sleeves before a John Deere combine, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush announced a series of proposals he billed as “simple and direct” solutions to the problems American farmers face.
“Agriculture is not just one industry among many,” Bush told the crowd of about 150 who stood in front of him under two, huge shade trees. “It’s the heart of our economy. I believe that.”
Bush proposed letting farmers establish rainy-day, tax-deferred savings accounts to meet expenses during income depressions. The Texas Governor also called for reform of federal crop insurance.
“At present, only 60 percent of the cultivated land is covered by crop insurance,” Bush said. “Some crops and livestock are not covered at all.”
Bush advocated encouraging insurance companies to develop new products and re-doing the government program’s premium structure, which he said was unaffordable in some areas of the country.
Bush promised to phase out the federal estate tax for farms and uphold the property rights of farmers.
In addition to a renewed call for “fast track” trade negotiating authority for the President, Bush said he would push governments around the globe to completely eliminate ag export subsidies and tariffs.
“We want to compete, and we want to compete on level ground,” Bush said, to applause from the crowd. “…Agriculture has got to be a centerpiece of a sound international economic policy.”
Bush’s campaign staff picked a so-called “century farm” (a farm which has been in the same family for more than 100 years) as the backdrop for Bush’s ag policy speech. As Bush faced the crowd, a windmill was to his left and a grain silo to his right.
Many in the crowd, which arrived via a three-mile stretch of gravel road, wore John Deere green hats, emblazoned with the words “Bush farm team.”
“I’m a very strong supporter of Bush, ” said Sam Davis, a farmer from Adel, Iowa, who was sporting one of the hats. “I like his honesty. I like his conservativeness. In spite of some of the rumors that have been put out, he is straight forward.”
Bob Taylor, a farmer from nearby Minburn, Iowa is a Bush-backer, too.
“I was impressed. He sounds like a good strong leader and that’s what we need,” Taylor said.
Earlier Wednesday, Bush served as the keynote speaker at a fund-raiser for republican candidates for the Iowa Legislature, a luncheon which raised $100,000 for the cause.
Wednesday’s trip to Iowa was Bush’s first visit to the state since he won the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll August 14. Bush promised more frequent trips to the state.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do and even though we did well in the first test in your state, I understand that the Caucuses are what really count,” Bush told reporters.
The Iowa Caucuses, a first test in the presidential campaign, are likely to be held January 31, 2000.