(Des Moines, IA) Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack on Monday said there is a crisis on America’s farms and he vowed to pressure presidential candidates like Al Gore, George W. Bush and even the President himself, all of whom will be campaigning in Iowa this week.
“We are going to lose thousands of farmers, thousands of farmers, unless something is done and done now,” Vilsack told reporters at his weekly news conference.
Vilsack said it’s time for federal action on a number of fronts. For example, Vilsack suggests extending September’s deadline when farmers are to repay government commodity loans. Vilsack proposes a one-year extension — with no interest charges during that 12 month period.
“There needs to be immediate attention to this and there needs to be an effort before September arrives at providing some relief,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack took his concerns directly to U.S. Ag Secretary Dan Glickman Monday morning over breakfast. Glickman, who was in Iowa to attend a forum on the World Trade Organization, later told reporters there is a need for “short-term” federal aid for financially-struggling farmers.
“Agriculture is, in many parts of this country, in very deep trouble,” Glickman said. “There will need to be some short-term relief and it cannot be done on the cheap. I am confident we will be able to get that done this year.”
Glickman, however, declined to provide the specific farm aid proposals pursued by the Clinton Administration. During his own statehouse news conference, Iowa’s Governor gently chided federal officials and even Iowa’s entire Congressional delegation for failing farmers.
“I’m going to ask all of them to take a much more aggressive role, a much more active role in putting the national spotlight on the farm economy,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack plans to talk privately Tuesday with Vice President Al Gore and on Friday with President Clinton when the two make stops in Des Moines. Vilsack said he has already talked face-to-face with democrat presidential candidate Bill Bradley and House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich, a republican presidential candidate, about the dire condition of America’s farm economy. Vilsack, Iowa’s newly-elected democrat Governor, vows to telephone the presidential candidates of both parties to draw more specifics from the candidates.
The nation’s pork industry saw historic low prices over the past year, and now commodities like corn and soybeans are recording record lows as well.