Ventura Joins Fight for Farmers

Ventura Joins Fight for Farmers
Posted by FoM on September 22, 1999 at 12:37:44 PT
Source: West Central Tribune
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is urging President Clinton to adopt a dual-track approach to help embattled farmers and rural areas, saying "all the short-term relief in the world" will not compensate for the federal government's failure to not also deal with competitive issues.
In his weekend letter, Ventura urged the president to provide enough farm relief for needy farmers for a meaningful transition through elements beyond their control. "This targeting is especially important, since there are many who fear that much of the billions of dollars in federal agriculture relief money could end up going to corporations and non-farming landowners and bypass the smaller farms where the greatest short-term needs exist," the governor said in his letter to Clinton.Ventura urged the president to scrap a dairy program that favors producers in New England and California over Midwest dairy farmers, reform federal estate taxes, open the crop insurance program to alternative crops and legalize the production of hemp. "Why should federal drug policy exclude America from growing hemp for fiber, when taxpayers subsidize a tobacco industry that states are forced to spend billions to sue?" Ventura asked.Moreover, he said, farmers should be given a seat at the table during when the Millennium Trade Negotiations open this fall in Seattle. He said the farm community's ability to position product on the international market has been made impossible by a failure to value agriculture as highly as technology and or other goods in trade talks."That's why (farmers), not politicians, must join pro-agriculture negotiators at the table in Seattle during the Millennium Trade Talks to represent their own interests," he said.John Wodele, the governor's communications director, said the letter represents a continuation of the dialogue Ventura opened with Clinton in St. Louis in August."It is all part of our effort to show that he is engaged in this ag issue, and we're not going to let up. He has great resolve when it comes to this issue," Wodele said. "I think he has been unfairly criticized in the past for not being engaged."Sen. Paul Wellstone and Rep. Collin Peterson, both Minnesota Democrats, welcomed Ventura's letter to the president. Wellstone, who has been trying to pressure the president and Congress into changing farm policy, said he was "glad" to see the governor "more focused on the farm crisis which continues to bring economic pain and social disruption to family farms and rural communities in Minnesota."But while Wodele says Ventura is still committed to the free-market, subsidy-free concept of the Freedom to Farm Act, Wellstone wants the act repealed."Until we rewrite the 'Freedom to Fail' farm bill so that farmers can count on a decent price, and until we get stronger anti-trust action to level the playing field for family farmers," Wellstone said, "Minnesota's farmers and rural communities will continue to be at risk." Peterson said Ventura was bringing forward the same issues he has been raising in Congress. "A lot of it is what I've been saying, " Peterson said, "so apparently he has been reading his mail."Public pressure, however, may already be producing change in Washington. Peterson said the vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee announced late last week that Republicans intend to bring up the Freedom to Farm Act in January and completely rewrite it. Having Ventura write the president "doesn't hurt anything," he said. "What we need is some more Republican governors doing that."It would help, Peterson said, if Republican governors like Ed Schafer of North Dakota and Bill Janklow of South Dakota would follow Ventura's lead. But they have been dragging their feet on the farm issue, he said.Pubdate: ST. PAUL 9/21/99  Forum Communications Company 1998
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