Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney says he no longer advocates the "virtual elimination" of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I was, back in 1994, talking about combining the Department of Agriculture with Commerce, but I have since indicated that those suggestions for reorganizing government — including getting rid of the Department of Education — I have forsworn that and said, ‘No, let’s take a look at that restructuring of government later,’" Romney says. "I’m not proposing, now, any elimination of departments."

Some of Romney’s rival campaigns have been pointing to a YouTube video clip from 1994 — when Romney was running for the U.S. Senate — in which Romney also called for reducing farm subsidies. Romney points out congress took that action in 1995 with the Farm Bill it passed.

According to Romney, additional reductions in farm subsidies at this time would not be wise. "Europe and other nations continue to protect their farmers with a heavy subsidization program and we’re not going to take action which would put us at a competitive disadvantage for our farmers," Romney says.

Negotiators from the U.S. and other countries are bogged down in the latest round of international trade talks, and Romney points to the general refusal of European countries to reduce or eliminate farm subsidies. "If the Europeans make no progress in that regard, then we’re certainly not going to unilaterally disarm, if you will. We’re not going to put our farmers at a disadvantage," Romney says. "…We have to make sure that we’re protecting the family farm here and our agricultural interests and economy."

Just like John Kerry, another Massachusetts politician, faced in 2004, Romney’s been tagged with the "flip flopper" label this year from rivals who point to his changed views of government’s role in abortion and stem cell policies.

"I don’t know of anyone who is running for president among the major contenders that hasn’t changed their views over time as the world changes and as their experience gives them greater wisdom," Romney says, pointing to some of the changing positions of chief rivals.

As for his 1994 idea of closing some federal agencies, Romney says it was his experience in elected office that changed his mind.

"I’ve learned having been a governor that just eliminating the name of a department doesn’t change anything if the program is alive," Romney says. "…We’ve going to have to go through all the programs of the federal government, see which ones make sense and which ones don’t."

Romney made his comments this morning during an interview with Radio Iowa.