Friday, June 08, 2007

Brownback Touts his Agricultural Roots at Pork Expo

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback is probably known best as a conservative hard-liner on social issues, but the presidential candidate was touting his agricultural background during a visit to the World Pork Expo Friday.
Brownback is one of many candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president, but his Iowa communications aide, Billy Valentine, is quick to note that Brownback is the only farmer in the race.
Answering questions from reporters who gathered as he arrived at the expo, Brownback emphasized his roots in agriculture. "I grew up raising pigs in eastern Kansas," said Brownback. "It was a good part of where I made my income to be able to go to 'K' State to get an agriculture degree. And I was a farm broadcaster for a while, and secretary of agriculture in Kansas. So I know some of these issues. Now the industry changes, and has changed since then. But I think I still have the heart of a farmer. My dad farmed, my brother farms, and my other brother is a veterinarian. These are folks I identify with and I care for a lot."
Brownback talked about how agriculture is quickly becoming an important part of the energy puzzle in the United States, and discussed his views on farm policy. "I want to see an aggressive support for getting a bigger piece of the energy market," he said.
Rising grain prices due to increased demand for renewable fuels production are taking a bite out of the profitability of livestock production, a fact that is on Brownback's mind. "I think something we need to have a good discussion about is the impact of this on animal agriculture, with the expansion of the energy market. I'm hearing from cattlemen, and it's going to hit pork producers. I don't know the solution, but I know that we're having a big market shift taking place that has impact and I want to see if there are any policy adjustments we need to make to account for that."
As Brownback toured the Varied Industries Building at the expo, he was greeted by a group of supporters that included a former student.
Chris Sluder, pictured above, was a student at Kansas State University when Brownback was a teacher of agriculture law and policy. Sluder now works in an agribusiness in the pork industry in Bethany, Mo.
Brownback was asked at the expo if he would be competing at the Ames Republican Straw Poll in August. "I'm here to compete," he said. "And I'm here to talk about ideas. And I don't believe in coronations, that somebody just declares themselves a victory." Brownback was asked if a Republican candidate can be successful without competing in the Straw Poll. "People have tried that in the past, people have tried to bypass Iowa in the past. It has not been successful," he said. "And they shouldn't bypass Iowa. Iowa is a great testing ground. It has a very balanced set of people, and they've shown a very good track record of picking winners."
It didn't take long for Brownback to be asked about the immigration debate in the Senate. "It's derailed, since yesterday," he said as he explained some of the reasons why the immigration reforms failed to pass through the Senate on Thursday. "(A) deal was cut behind closed doors. I sit on the Judiciary Committee, and it wasn't taken through committee. It was just jumped from the deal to the floor, and then a lot of us put forward amendments on the floor. I think we need comprehensive immigration reform, but you've got to go through the process to be able to get this done."
Brownback went on to explain what he would like to see happen as part of immigration reforms. "The current system doesn't work. It's broken. Badly. We've got to do something about it. I was very hopeful that this process would produce a bill. I want border security, interior enforcement and comprehensive reform. Those, I think, are the three hallmarks that you have to have in a bill and if we can get those, I think you can get a bill through," he said.

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