Republican rivals focus on farm crisis
By DAVID YEPSEN/DES MOINES REGISTER
August 12, 1999
Web posted at: 12:09 p.m. EDT (1609 GMT)
AMES, Iowa (DES MOINES REGISTER) -- Republican presidential candidates turned Wednesday into something
of a "Farm Day" in Iowa as they crisscrossed the state promising
help for Iowa's largest and most economically troubled industry.
Eight of the 10 Republicans running for the White House were scheduled
to be in Iowa Wednesday as they scurried for last-minute votes in
Saturday's GOP straw poll in Ames.
They were joined by Democrats Al Gore and Bill Bradley, who were
perhaps mindful of the 500 or so reporters expected in Iowa for the mock election in Ames.
Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander called on the federal government
to double the amount of money it spends on agricultural research - to about $400 million.
"That would be enough to help create new products and put dollars
in the pockets of farmers," Alexander said after a tour of Iowa
State University's agriculture research labs in Ames.
He said Congress has spent too much time on short-term solutions
to the farm crisis when long-term answers are needed.
Former Cabinet secretary Elizabeth Dole also focused on agriculture
during her speech to Farmland Insurance employees in Des Moines.
She called for the elimination of capital-gains taxes on the first
$500,000 in profits from the sale of farm homes and land, as is
the case for city and suburban homeowners.
Dole also said the threatened presidential veto of a tax bill recently
passed by Congress would hurt farmers because it contains several farm-friendly provisions.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle, meanwhile, criticized the Clinton-Gore
administration's record on farm issues.
"Al Gore has done nothing to halt Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
Greenspan's tight-money policies that are strangling American agriculture,"
Quayle said in a statement released by his campaign while he visited
Boone and Iowa Falls. "Al Gore has made no serious attempt to level
the playing field for U.S. agriculture exports, which have fallen
16 percent in the last three years. And Al Gore has opposed every
serious proposal to provide American farmers with meaningful tax relief."
Quayle said his Indiana background gives him a special understanding
of the problems facing rural America.
Former commentator Pat Buchanan was also speaking about agriculture
Wednesday, visiting a hog farm near Adel.
"The communist Chinese basically don't let American pork into their
market," he said in an interview. "They cut it by 100,000 tons.
On our exports to them, they put 40 percent tariffs on our agricultural
exports, and we give them carte blanche to dump anything and everything
into our market so they've got a $58 billion trade surplus at our expense."
Publisher Steve Forbes gave his stump speech Wednesday to a group
of senior citizens on Des Moines' east side, but he also made special
mention of the problems facing rural America.
He placed the most blame on the Federal Reserve Board for raising interest rates.
"It's as if you went to a doctor and the doctor said, "You are in
good health. In fact, you are so healthy we have to make you sick,"
" Forbes said. "In medicine, you get sued for malpractice for that.
In Washington, they put you on the Federal Reserve Board."
Among the Republicans, only Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Arizona
Sen. John McCain were not in Iowa Wednesday. Alan Keyes planned
to visit Vinton, Independence and Manchester, while Utah Sen. Orrin
Hatch was slated to be in Council Bluffs, Ottumwa and Osceola. Activist
Gary Bauer also campaigned in Des Moines.
While agriculture was the message, the mission was the straw poll
for the candidates. At each event, aides to the candidates scurried
around crowds signing up people to show up in Ames for the $25-per-vote state party fund-raiser.
Edna King, a Farmland employee from Des Moines who watched Dole
speak, said she plans to attend the straw poll with her husband
but hasn"t yet narrowed her choice beyond Dole, Bush or Forbes.
"We"re going to make a whole date out of it," said King, wearing
a Dole sticker. "I like Elizabeth a lot, but I"m just not sure."
Click here for more Iowa straw poll coverage from the Des Moines Register.