Harkin: Obama ‘really good friend’ of farming

AUGUST 21ST, 2008 | Harkin for Senate

By DOUGLAS BURNS | Staff Writer

Read the Original Story at The Daily Times Herald

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee told a Carroll audience that Barack Obama has done more to support Iowa farming in a few years than John McCain has in a political lifetime.

“To me this (Obama) could be a really good friend of ours in the White House to those of us who farm or live in rural communities,” U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Friday at a rural roundtable for Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois and the Democratic presidential candidate.

More than 30 people attended the 90-minute event in the Harold Bierl Room at the Carroll Depot.

In a wide-ranging presentation and question-and-answer session, Harkin said the issue with McCain, the GOP presidential candidate, is not about party politics. McCain is hostile to farm country and has the record to show it, Harkin said.

“He (McCain) has ridiculed every farm bill we have had on the floor,” Harkin said.

McCain voted against the 2002 farm bill and has said that if he were president today he would veto the current farm bill – one which all seven of Iowa’s federal elected officials, including three Republicans, supported.

“I would have a hard time telling you when John McCain has ever stepped forward to help us on rural issues,” Harkin said.

McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona who was fist elected to Congress in 1982, has voted against ethanol more than 10 times and opposed the wind-production tax credits advocates like T. Boone Pickens say are crucial for the creation of a wind-power corridor through Iowa.

Harkin said Obama has been on board with Midwestern agriculture since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004 – and during his career in the Illinois State Senate.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that McCain has issued an almost blanket opposition to farm subsidies.

“I don’t support agricultural subsidies no matter where they are,” McCain said during a recent appearance in Wisconsin, according to the Associated Press. “The farm bill, $300 billion, is something America simply can’t afford.”

Harkin said the interests of agriculture and renewable energy intersect.

He thinks voters will see calls to drill for more oil as short-term pandering not in the interests of farm country – where more energy can be harvested along with food.

Harkin said Obama understands Iowa and other farming states will play a key role in transitioning the United States from oil to renewables – even if more oil is available domestically.

“We didn’t move to automobiles because we were running out of houses,” Harkin said. “And we didn’t move from candles to light bulbs because we were running out of wax.”

Harkin is joining U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in advocating a flex-fuel vehicle mandate. When one audience member jokingly asked Harkin if these vehicles could run on Templeton Rye, the senator replied, “Some stuff’s too good to put in the tank.”

Harkin had earlier toured the whiskey distillery in Templeton.

During the roundtable Harkin said he was an unabashed supporter of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., as Obama’s running mate.

Obama has yet to make the vice presidential candidate decision, but with the Democratic National Convention starting in a week, the choice is imminent. Harkin elaborated on his pitch for Dodd during an interview with the Daily Times Herald.

“Dodd is my No. 1 pick, but I don’t know where it’s going,” Harkin said.

Harkin said veteran legislator Dodd knows how to move bills through Congress, which will be important to an Obama administration facing international issues.

“He’s going to need a vice president that can help him get his legislative package through the Congress,” Harkin said. “And I can’t think of anyone who can do it better than Chris Dodd.”

Another big consideration, Harkin said, is that Dodd is well-liked by Republicans and Democrats.

“He knows how to work across party lines as evidenced by the fact that he just got this big foreclosure bill done,” Harkin said.

Harkin said Dodd also would be a major asset for the Obama campaign in the Latino-rich Southwest – a region some analysts believe will be decisive in the presidential race.

“He speaks fluent Spanish,” Harkin said. “The Hispanic community loves him. That would be a great outreach for Barack Obama.”

Dodd developed his Spanish-language skills during a stint in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic as a young man. During one campaign stop in Carroll as a presidential candidate last fall, Dodd conducted a video-taped bilingual interview with the Daily Times Herald and La Prensa, a Carroll-based Western Iowa Spanish-language newspaper.

Harkin said he strongly doubts U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton will be the vice presidential selection.

“It’s realism,” Harkin said. “I know full well that if Hillary had gotten the nomination she would never have picked Obama, and if he gets it, he’s not going to pick her for a very simple reason: there’s a lot of latent racism and sexism in this country. It’s hard enough for a woman to win. Then if you add an African American on the ticket, or vice versa, if you have an African-American running and you add a woman on, you add racism and sexism together. That’s a pretty steep hill to climb.”

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