(Indianola, Iowa) The Republican presidential candidates who are canvassing the state of Iowa by bus, car and minivan all are addressing the depths of despair in farm country caused by record low prices for corn, pork and beans.
One Iowa State University economist has estimated as many as one-third of Iowa farmers may be forced into foreclosure in the next year. Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary estimates 6,000 Iowa farmers will call it quits.
On Wednesday morning, Republican candidate Pat Buchanan staged a news conference at a farm equipment dealership in Indianola to talk about the situation.
“The central problem of American agriculture is that the American farmers has been sacrificed on the altar of a global economy,” Buchanan said, standing in front of a red tractor.
Buchanan accused the Clinton Administration of failing to use its leverage to crack open foreign markets for U.S. agricultural commodities.
“The American farmer has been abandoned by this Administration because they’re too focused on what’s best for the investment capital in New York and not what’s best for Middle America,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan supports direct cash payments to farmers to help them weather the financial downturn. Back on July 16, front-runner George W. Bush also called for a “cash infusion” for farmers at least as large as last year’s disaster aid, which was nearly $6 billion. This past weekend, candidate Elizabeth Dole echoed those sentiments, but said it would take more than $6 billion.
“Let’s don’t stall on this because there are real problems in agriculture today,” Dole said last Saturday during an appearance in Des Moines.
On Tuesday morning, candidate Gary Bauer chimed in, saying he supports both cash payments to farmers as well as changes in the so-called “Freedom to Farm” Act which is gradually removing federal support for farmers.
“Let’s try to bring the broken hearts of the farm tables in Iowa into our living rooms,” Bauer said. “Let’s see if the politicians in Washington will act as quickly to deal with broken hearts in Iowa as they were to deal with broken hearts in Kosovo.”
At least one national Republican leader has scoffed at the urgency of the problem. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has accused democrats in the Senate of exaggerating the problem and Lott has suggested waiting until after the fall harvest to decide what federal action is necessary.
“Somebody ought to grab Trent Lott by the lapels…They gotta wake up and smell the coffee back there in Washington,” Buchanan said Wednesday morning.