John Edwards visited a family farm outside Springfield, Mo., on Monday to assure rural voters of the Democratic presidential ticket's plans to assist farmers, but that does not mean allowing grain exports to Cuba, as some U.S. farmers have sought.
Touting a plan called "Hope for the Heartland," the North Carolina senator promised to provide seed money for new businesses, expand high-speed Internet access and make money available for more police officers and equipment to fight methamphetamine production and dealing in rural areas.
Edwards said in response to a question that he did not support lifting embargos on Cuba. "We believe that [Fidel] Castro is a brutal dictator and we have to maintain pressure on Castro," he said, referring to the Cuban president. "We do believe in principle travel and allowing medical supplies into Cuba is a good idea and some of the policies that the administration has been engaging in recently, where they've cut off and restricted some of that, is a mistake. But we also think it's very important to keep the heat on Castro."
Sporting blue jeans and rolled-up sleeves, Edwards spent a half-hour talking with about 30 residents invited to the home of J.M. Crighton and his wife, Nancy, whose 500-acre farm has been in the Crighton family for generations. Before turning to his rural initiative, Edwards referred to recent news reports, including a series in The Washington Post, about how the Bush administration has relaxed some health and safety regulations covering the environment and the workplace. He accused the administration of changing the laws to appease big campaign contributors.
"In my and John Kerry's judgment, these are mistakes -- big mistakes," he said, citing rollbacks in laws that protect air quality and workers in chemical plants and coal mines. "The people ask, 'Why is this happening?' Well, the simple answer is follow the money -- the campaign money," Edwards said. "What John and I want to do is get the 'for sale' sign off the White House and put a sign up again that says 'for the people.' "
Edward G. Janosik, 86, who asked about lifting the trade embargo for some crops, said he was not disappointed in Edwards's answer. "As long as he's got a position and it's a reasonable position," Janosik said.