Secretary of Agriculture Robert ("Call me Bob") Bergland campaigned yesterday in Virginia for Democratic gubernatorial hoepful Henry E. Howell, repeating the Carter administration message that Howell has friends in high places in Washington.
Bergland came at Howell's request and expense, flying in a private plane from Washington to a $10-a-plate lunch in Suffolk (which bills itself as the center of the peanut growing industry) and an afternoon reception in Kenbridge (dairy and tobacco country).
In the evening, Bergland appeared at a fund-raising reception attended by about 200 persons in Harrisonburg.
Farming is Virginia's No. 1 industry and between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the state's job are farm-related, said E. Clair Compton.
Compton is former state director of the Farmer's Home Administration and is one of the organizers of a recently formed Farmers for Howell Committee.
Bergland, who was escorted on his trip through Virginia by the man Howell defeated in the Democratic primary, former Attorney General Andrew (See VIRGINIA B5, Col. 4> P. Miller, got a warm reception from the farmers he encountered. Their main concern seemed to be the administration's position on continuing price control and support programs. Bergland assured them he was not considering changing the allotment system that small farmers credit with making it possible for them to compete with large landowners.
Bergland seemed to enjoy his brief ride in the Howell camper, a decorated van in which the candidate accompanied Bergland to and from the airport to the lunch in Suffolk. Howell took to the loud-speaker as the van passed through downtown Suffolk and said to people on the streets "This is Henry Howell and we have the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America in this van. Isn't that great."
"We don't use these in Minnesota,," said Bergland, a former congressman.
Bergland told the farmers "Henry Howell is my friend. He has been to see me.He has called me. He has offered advice and recommendations . . . he is a man who listens . . . a man who cares."
Not all the farmers in either Suffolk or Kenbridge supported Howell over his Republican opponent John N. Dalton, but most of them did. "I think Henry has picked up some agricultural friends lately," said Ned Tucker, a dairy man around Kenbridge. "He's been around here and the farmers seem to like Carter and Bergland."
Bergland's visit, which comes after campaign appearances for Howell by the President, the Vice President, and presidential adviser Hamilton Jordan, could help Howell firm up support from farmers. Howell aides say. The secretary's style is low-key and unpretentious, he occasionally pulled a packet of chewing tobacco out of the pocket of his three-piece suit.
The contrast Howell's more exuberant approach seemed to reassure some of the farmers and those who did attend the two events were among the influential farmers in their respective communities, according to Democratic Party workers.
Bergland told them that he traveled regularly to talk to farmers to avoid an attack of "Potomac Fever," brought on by too much exposure to Washington.
"I can't remember when we've had a cabinet secretary in Lunenburg County," said State Senator Jim Edmunds, who hosted the reception in Kenbridge.
Meanwhile, in Loudoun County, Dalton got a dose of Saturday in the suburbs as he pursued prospective voters through their weekend ritual of supermarkets beauty parlors and barber shops.
Trunding through a plethora of shopping centers from Leesburg to Sterling Park, the voters were not always easy to find, since Dalton arrived at the supermarkets only shortly after they opened. Those he did find often wound up with a double dose of the candidate as he greeted them near the turbot filets and asked for their vote at the produce stand.
Later that afternoon, at the other end of the northern Virginia suburbs, the entire Democratic statewide ticket held forth at the 23rd annual Lee District barbecue sponsored by Fairfax county Supervisor Joseph Alexander at his home in Fairfax County.
Howell was introduced by Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz.) who reminded the assembled Democrats that "you all blew it in 1973" (when Howell was defeated for the governorship by Gov. Mills E. Godwin) and urged them not to repeat the mistake.
Howell himself sounded familiar themes, blasting conservatives for their efforts to defeat him and the utilities - "we in Virginia are turkeys for utilities," Howell said, "and I'm tired of getting plucked."