Iowa is not only heavily dependent on agriculture, but it also has emerged as a critical swing state this election year, with both Obama and Ryan campaigning in the state this week.
“I am told that Governor Romney’s new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa the next few days,” Obama told a crowd of about 4,300 at Bayliss Park, an outdoor square in downtown Council Bluffs. “So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is in our rural communities. We’ve got to put politics aside and do the right thing for rural America and for Iowa.”
Monday afternoon, Obama visited the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa, where he examined dried, brown cornstalks and highlighted his announcement. The family—brothers Dean, Don, Richard and Roger — estimate they’ve lost a third of their crop this year, which is 60 percent corn and 40 percent soybeans. Obama was accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
He said the Department of Agriculture will buy up to $100 million in pork products, $50 million in poultry and $10 million each in lamb and farm-raised catfish. The president also will direct the Department of Defense to encourage its vendors to hasten purchases of meat products. The department buys 95 million pounds of beef and 65 million pounds of pork each year.
The Department of Agriculture provided additional details about the plan Monday, saying the purchases would be used for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including school breakfast and lunch programs, aid for victims of natural disasters and food banks. The purchases are intended to help American livestock producers while providing high quality food to people who benefit from federal nutrition programs.
Hours after Obama’s announcement, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said the president should instead pressure Senate Democrats to pass a livestock disaster assistance program approved by the House before the August recess.
“That would do livestock producers a lot more good than a new spending program,” Latham said.
Latham, who is locked in a competitive race with Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) to represent the region Obama visited Monday, added that the $170 million in federal assistance would do little to sway agricultural markets. “It’s not necessary,” he said. “Maybe it’s something they can talk about on the campaign trail, but it’s not going to have any affect on the market.”