Live from Des Moines

We had the great privilege to attend last weekend’s annual Iowa Farmers Union convention in Des Moines, IA. As you may have heard, we’re in the middle of an absurdly early presidential campaign, and the Iowa caucuses are considered important by those in the know. So there just happened to be substantial political presence at the IFU convention, and we certainly enjoyed aggravating campaign staff by pointing out their bosses’ regular votes against the interests of family farmers and rural America.

But we did not attend just to irritate puffed-up politicos. There was work to be done, and IFU members are some of the best people you’ll find anywhere.

Several of the presidential candidates had representatives show up to give speeches touting their qualifications for office. And lo and behold, who shows up for John Edwards but Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), who we’ve made a habit of criticizing for her support of the sham payment limitation reform in the House farm bill passed a few weeks back. On the other hand, we worked closely with her to insert some beginning farmer and rancher programs in the House version of the 2007 farm bill. She was successful (with the help of MN Rep. Tim Walz, in particular) so we really, really appreciate that.

Rep. Herseth Sandlin spoke for Edwards for 15 minutes or so, then took questions from the audience. Questions were supposed to be related to the Edwards campaign, but this is a bunch of farmers we’re talking about, so pretty much all the questions had to do with the farm bill. Luckily for us, we had our brand-spanking new digital voice recorder handy. So now we’re a multimedia blog.

The first clip particularly feeds our ego, as Rep. Herseth Sandlin talks beginning farmer issues and mention us by name- twice! (46 seconds).

The sound quality in these isn't the best, but what can you do? Anyway, the Center for Rural Affairs was the only organization mentioned by Rep. Herseth Sandlin other than Farmers Union, who was hosting the meeting anyway. It was enough to reduce us to a helpless state of pathetic gratitude. We recovered, but it took a while.

The second clip is more important to us. Rep. Herseth Sandlin defends the House farm bill payment limitations provisions, but more importantly, talks about working with Senators Grassley and Harkin, as well as Senator Dorgan of North Dakota to get real payment limits in the final bill. She also talks about livestock market competition issues, a subject near and dear to our hearts (1:14 minutes).

We’re still ticked that Rep. Herseth Sandlin supported the House farm bill, and no matter what she says the sham reform in the House bill is actually a step backward. But we’re glad to hear her talk about working on the Dorgan-Grassley payment limits proposal. Another crack in the facade of House farm bill unity, if you ask us. One more thing. If anybody hears her mention us by name again, please, please let us know. We’re suckers for free publicity.

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