Clinton gets her 'ag' on during Iowa State Fair, as Trump, other contenders rally supporters

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



DES MOINES, Iowa, August 15, 2015 - Two frontrunners in the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, took the obligatory taste of Iowa agriculture today. They capped back-to-back visits to the Iowa State Fair by sampling pork chops on a stick at the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

But it was Clinton who exhibited the bigger interest in agriculture.

Three farmers, Bruce Rohwer; his daughter, Carmen Billick; and Pam Johnson, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, accompanied Clinton through the fair's Agriculture Building and on to the Iowa Pork Tent.

Clinton, who stopped to talk to representatives of the Iowa Pork Council, pronounced I love it! when she saw this year's Monopoly-themed butter cow. Later, standing in line for a pork chop she asked Billick, 34, what it would take to get more young people into agriculture.

I said it's very difficult staring out without the help of somebody because of the large capital requirements to start even a small farm operation, said Billick, who farms with her brother and father at Paullina. She said she told Clinton that younger farmers need programs that can help them compete with older, better capitalized operators. It's easy to get knocked out in an auction, trying to buy land, Billick said.

Lets Talk Food

Clinton responded by asking questions about existing state and federal programs for beginning farmers.

Rohwer and Johnson, both members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association board, and Billick took part in a small, private meeting this spring with Clinton where she sought advice on agriculture policy and economic development.

Trump, whose helicopter circled the fairgrounds while Clinton was making her way through the pork producers' tent, skipped visits to the Iowa Farm Bureau pavilion as well as the Agriculture Building. The latter was filled with a sweltering crowd waiting to see him stop by the butter cow. The butter cow visit had been publicly announced, and the Farm Bureau was told to expect him to stop by there.

At a short news conference at a nearby ball field where his trademark helicopter landed, Trump emphasized his message that the United States is losing in many areas, including trade.

We're not taking care of the military. We're not talking care of our vets. We're not taking care of country. We're not taking care of our finances. We're not taking care of our trade deals, Trump said.

When was the last time you saw our country have a victory. We don't have victories. We don't have victories against China in trade. China just devalued their currency. That's the sucking sound that will hasten U.S. job loss, he said.

Trump also pledged to be tough on illegal immigration. You are going to love me in terms of illegal immigration. We are building a wall, he said.

Later, Trump stepped inside the pork producers tent to address the mob of supporters who were swarming around him and his security entourage. Neither he nor Clinton talked to representatives of the pork producers themselves, said Charlie Johnson, a pork producer from Lochridge who was working at the tent.

Still, the visits seemed to demonstrate that Clinton isn't taking Iowa for granted and that Trump is serious about his candidacy.

Johnson said, It makes a huge difference when the candidates come to the fair and especially if you have a chance to visit with them. Every Iowan should be out getting know the candidates, asking those hard questions, asking them what their issues are and talk to all of them.

Trump is clearly appealing to voters hungry to shake up Washington.

I'm tired of the career politicians, said Kevin Larive, an insurance claims adjuster who likes Trump. His wife, Ana, added, I think we need someone who has some good business sense to them to get this country running right again.

Clinton's chief challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, couldn't avoid the Trump phenomenon elsewhere on the fairgrounds, where he was surrounded by hundreds of supporters as he appeared at The Des Moines Register's candidate soapbox.

During one of the lighter moments of his 20-minute speech, he pointed upward as a helicopter flew overhead.

There's Donald Trump. What can we do?" he asked sarcastically. "I apologize. We left the helicopter at home. It's in the garage. We forgot to bring it."

Sanders avoided any mention of agricultural issues and primarily stuck to his stump speech about saving and expanding Social Security, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and criticizing GOP candidates for undermining family values, which he said included such things as gay marriage, giving a woman control of her reproductive rights and providing free health care to all.

I want to end the absurdity of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, and that is why I strongly support a Medicare for all single-payer system, Sanders told the crowd as his supporters offered frequent applause.

Two long-shot candidates, former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat, also were at the fair on Saturday. Santorum, who is spending several days at the fair, used an interview with the Register Saturday to criticize the Obama administration's Clean Water Act rule, which he said would be devastating to farmers.

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