Monday, August 13, 2012

Iowa Family Farm Visit: President Obama Discusses Drought Relief Efforts

Newly announced federal meat & fish purchase is far more than "a few strips of bacon," President says...
On the first day of his bus tour through Iowa, President Obama on Monday afternoon visited a 2,200 acre farm owned by the McIntosh family in Missouri Valley, meeting with the four brothers who are the farmer/owners: Dean, Don, Richard and Roger McIntosh. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack accompanied the President as the farmers showed their withered corn crop. (Above: The President with the farmers and Vilsack, far right)

The McIntosh family has been farming on the land for almost a century, according to the White House, and they currently grow 60% corn and 40% soybeans. Their crop yield is down by at least one-third due to the drought, the White House said. Iowa is the #1 corn producer in the nation, and the President noted that "almost half of the corn crop and more than a third of the soybean crop is in poor or very poor condition."

"Like a lot of families in this area and across America, the McIntoshes are suffering under one of the worst droughts in 50 years," President Obama said after his corn briefing, standing at a lectern against a backdrop of yellow stalks. (Above, with Vilsack)

"Crops and livestock are a $30 billion business in Iowa, and that's a huge chunk of the economy that's being put at risk. And states all across the heartland have it just as bad."

The President once again called on Congress to pass a new Farm Bill, as he did during his first stop of the day in Council Bluffs. This time, he didn't credit the failure of the legislation to GOP rival Rep. Paul Ryan.

"Now, the best way to help these states is for Congress to act. They need to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some long-term certainty."

The President also repeated his announcement from earlier in the day of a new federal purchase of $170 million in meat from livestock producers impacted by the drought.

"We're not just talking about a few strips of bacon here," the President said.

The USDA plans to buy up to $100 million in pork, $50 million worth of chicken, and $10 million worth of lamb and farm-raised catfish (the President during his remarks said $20 million of each of these, but USDA earlier in the day announced a $10 million purchase of each). The meat will be used in federal nutrition programs, USDA said.

"It turns out that the federal government buys a lot of meat for military bases, hospitals, colleges, food banks and cafeterias," the President said.

"And because of the drought, there are a lot of folks out there that are trying to sell meat right now. So just like you might buy more chicken when it's on sale and freeze it, we are going to stock up. Prices are low; farmers and ranchers need help; so it makes sense."

It's a win-win for taxpayers, the President added. USDA put out a press release that touted the plan as a win-win for federal nutrition programs: The meat buy will "provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA's nutrition programs," the agency said.

The President has also directed the Department of Defense--which the White House said purchased more than 150,000 million pounds of beef and pork in the last year alone--to encourage its vendors to accelerate meat purchases for the military and freeze it for future use.

"Understand this won't solve the problem. We can't make it rain," the President said.

"But this will help families like the McIntoshes in states across the country, including here in Iowa. And we're going to keep doing what we can to help because that's what we do. We are Americans. We take care of each other."

The President's farm visit was announced on Monday morning by the White House, as he was aboard Air Force One, en route to the start of his three-day campaign swing. He headed off to his next stop in Boone, Iowa, after shaking hands with a group of spectators. But first, there was a stop for sno cones in Denison... (Above: A longshot of the President and the farmers, and the dead corn)

*The transcript of the President's remarks.

CLICK HERE for all posts about the Administration's drought response

CLICK HERE for all posts about the bus tour.

*Top photo by Pete Souza/White House; second photo by USDA photo by Dave Kosling/USDA; third photo by Pool