(Des Moines, IA) The two democrats seeking their party’s next presidential nomination feuded Monday over farm policy, with Vice President Al Gore taking the offensive and rival Bill Bradley dismissing Gore’s attack as distortion.
During a telephone conference call with Iowa reporters, Gore assailed Bradley’s voting record in the U.S. Senate as “anti-family farmer” for opposing things federal subsidies for the ethanol industry and voting to end to the federal crop insurance program.
“The record shows very clearly that he has had an anti-family farmer record,” Gore told reporters.
Gore’s comments come as he prepares to appear solo at a Wednesday evening forum sponsored by the Iowa Farmers Union, a “debate” to which Bradley was invited but declined to participate. Gore accused Bradley of ducking the debate.
“He said in Iowa, and I quote, that he doesn’t pretend to know agriculture,” Gore said. “Well, that did not come as a revelation to people who were in the trenches fighting against his assault on family farm policy. He voted consistently not only against ethanol, but against aid for farmers, against farm credit assistance, against price supports.”
During a news conference later in Des Moines, Bradley rejected Gore’s assertions.
“We’re going to have two debates in Iowa here in January,” Bradley told reporters. “…We had two last week. Does he want to debate on Christmas Day, too?”
Bradley said while representing New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, he was voting in the interests of his constituents in the Garden State, most of who have no connection to farms.
“The average per capita expenditure of the federal government in farm programs to New Jersey is six dollars a person,” Bradley said. “The average per capita farm expenditure for Iowa is $2,700 a person.”
Bradley delivered a farm policy speech in mid-October, vowing to crack down on monopolies in the ag industry and to re-establish federal subsidies for farmers when prices for crops and livestock fall below the price of growing or raising those commodities.
“I believe that I’d be a President of all the people. That includes being an effective President for agriculture,” Bradley said during Monday’s news conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
Gore has long advocated dramatic changes in current federal farm policy –the Freedom to Farm law, which he calls “Freedom to Foreclose” – including re-creation of a federal safety net of price supports for farmers.
“We need a President who not only understands agriculture, but understands the threat to family farmers,” Gore said Monday.