(Ames, IA) Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday promised a quick rewrite of federal farm policy should he be elected the next President, while his rival for the democratic party’s nomination accused Gore of presiding over “a farm crisis of historic proportions.”

Gore appeared Wednesday evening at a forum sponsored by the Iowa Farmers Union and the Center for Rural Affairs. Bradley was invited to the event, but declined, issuing a one-page statement to reporters instead. Gore began his appearance before a crowd of about 200 by noting Bradley’s absence, but calling his opponent “intelligent” and “a friend.”

“But he’s not here, so I’ll respond to your questions,” Gore said. Gore repeated his criticism of existing federal farm policy, passed by Congress in 1995 and referred to as the Freedom to Farm law. It set up a seven-year system of declining federal payments to farmers, who at the end of the term will not have federal price supports to rely upon anymore. In return, policymakers promised to open more markets for farm goods, letting farmers reap their profits from expanded trade.

“I believe the next President of the United States needs to go before the nation and say we cannot wait until the current farm bill expires in 2002. We need to re-write it right away and get rid of some of the provisions,” Gore said.

While Gore praised the part of the Freedom to Farm Act which farmers like — it granted farmers freedom to make their own planting decisions rather than restrict their seeding to the number of acres proscribed by a federal formula, Gore assailed the law’s removed of a price floor for commodities.

“The nature of the safety net is unacceptable,” Gore said. “It is brutal, inflexible, unyielding, unworkable. Indeed, it has been a catastrophe,” Gore said.

Gore said there also must be more effective enforcement of laws designed to prevent monopolies from dominating the agricultural sector. In addition, Gore outlined proposals to establish national standards for large-scale hog operations, as well as a national law preventing meatpackers from owning

“American agricultural policy should be explicitly aimed at saving the viability of family farming,” Gore said, to applause from the crowd of farm activists.

In a prepared statement, Bradley also vowed to put teeth in federal efforts to reduce concentration in the meatpacking and hog-confinement industries, and he questioned whether Gore had been an effective leader on ag issues during his vice presidency.

“For seven years, the Clinton/Gore administration has presided over a farm crisis of historic proportions that has eroded equity and forced thousands of farmers and farm families off the land,” Bradley said, in the statement.

“We’ve needed strong leadership for fundamental changes in our farm programs, and the administration has not provided it.”

Bradley delivered a farm policy speech in October, calling for a re-vamped system of ensuring a profit line for farmers. Bradley would have federal payments for farmers kick in when the market prices fall below the cost of production.