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Published: Saturday, 3/17/2001

Kaptur talks farming on fertile political ground

Kaptur: The White House is shortchanging agriculture. Kaptur: The White House is shortchanging agriculture.
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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur spoke to a conference of agriculture experts last night in Ames, Iowa, discussing issues important to the farming community.

The Toledo Democrat did nothing to downplay the possibility she may use the speech as a barometer for a possible run for the White House in 2004, though Roger Szemraj, her chief of staff, would not confirm her interest in running.

“Iowa leads America not only in hog production - it has for the past 100 years - not only in corn production, and not only in egg production - a recent achievement - but also in the number of off-year visits by out-of-state politicians,” reads an excerpt of Miss Kaptur's speech obtained yesterday by The Blade.

“But I'm not here today as a candidate for president, but as the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, as a citizen vitally concerned for family farms - and as someone who shares your interest in the challenges and opportunities we face as American agriculture becomes bigger, more concentrated, and more difficult for small and medium sized farms.”

Miss Kaptur on Wednesday called Roll Call, a twice-weekly newspaper that circulates on Capitol Hill in Washington, to tell them she believes agriculture was an issue missing in action during the last presidential campaign.

“I say that [the state of rural America] should have been part of this past campaign but was not,” she told Roll Call, noting that she's the top Democrat on the agriculture funding panel in the House.

She also said she plans to travel to New Hampshire, but that for now “we're focusing on Iowa.”

Miss Kaptur was mentioned as a possible running mate for independent Ross Perot in 1996.

Mr. Szemraj said Miss Kaptur is focusing on farming issues because the federal farm bill must be reauthorized by this Congress, and she wants to be well-positioned to influence how that legislation is drafted. The Iowa conference was sponsored by Successful Farming magazine.

In her speech, she excoriated President Bush for calling for a tax cut when family farms are in financial trouble. She was also critical of the White House budget proposal on agriculture because it does not include what she considers to be enough money to carry out government programs properly.

“President Bush came to Iowa earlier this month and promised Midwesterners that he could increase support to agriculture despite his tax cut, I'm here today to dispute that false claim,” she told the group. “One top of this, the [President's] contingency fund is also the pot he'll use for natural disasters and other non-agricultural emergencies. Claims on these funds already exceed the money really available in it.”

She called for wider use of ethanol, a fuel popular in Iowa because it consumes farming byproducts and has helped the state's economy. Most presidential candidates praise ethanol while in Iowa.

Miss Kaptur was first elected to Congress in 1982.

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