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Farmers' decision, on a president won't be easy come November

I was having breakfast with a group of folks that I didn't know very well when someone asked me what I thought about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention.

I started to respond but caught myself and reminded them that as a media person I was supposed to be neutral, etc., etc., and not express my personal feelings. The person asking the question seemed to accept that, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We hear a lot about media bias these days. Conservatives complain about the “liberal” media, while liberals note that most of the nation's media companies are owned by businessmen more likely to take a conservative stance on political issues.

As businessmen, farmers tend to fall into the latter category, although you can't blame them and other industry members for feeling a little adrift when they contemplate their choices for the Nov. 4 elections.

Barack Obama, on one hand, is not known as a student of agriculture. He supported the 2008 farm bill, the 2006 disaster relief bill and expanded research and use of renewable fuels. But the Illinois Democrat obviously has little in common with rural residents even though he represents one of the largest agricultural states.

John McCain, on the other hand, has never met a farm bill he liked. The Arizona senator has also criticized “big payments to wealthy farmers” and other spending for farm programs, flood control, renewable fuels and rural development.

McCain's opposition has drawn some criticism from some unusual quarters in recent months. A group of Louisiana farmers, consultants and university researchers recently wrote the senator taking him to task for his “farmer-bashing.”

“Your most recent comments regarding the new farm bill indicate you are less than aware of the true state of agriculture, farmers, the farm economy and world trade,” the letter said. “I was an ardent supporter of both you and the Republican Party until I read your comments. It is practically impossible for anyone in agriculture to vote for someone who has little regard for American agriculture and its farmers, workers and support personnel.”

Another farmer, Fred Yoder, a past president of the National Corn Growers Association from Ohio, ripped into the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee for inserting language in the Republican Platform that basically opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard requiring use of alternative fuels in gasoline.

“Sen. McCain has stated he would end mandates, subsidies, tariffs and price supports that focus exclusively on corn-based ethanol and let the free market identify the best alternative fuels,” said Yoder. “Who is he kidding? What incentives will there be to sink enormous amounts of money into research to develop these new fuels if there is no market for them?”

What you decide about the candidates and their stands on the issues is up to each individual farmer. The important thing is that you do that between now and Nov. 4 - and vote.

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