Bill Richardson photo

Speech: A New Direction for American Agriculture

November 27, 2007

Thanks so much for joining me here today. It's good to be back in Iowa, in the heartland of America.

Nearly sixty years ago a great son of the heartland, Harry Truman, said that "Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from our government a fair deal."

As I travel around Iowa, it is clear that America's family farmers have not forgotten those words. They have not forgotten that every American deserves a fair deal.

A fair deal on the food we eat.

A fair deal on the new energy that will keep our environment clean.

A fair deal on maintaining our land and water.

Unfortunately under this President, our government has not held up its end of the deal. Fairness has been corrupted by campaign financing. President Bush signed away the family farm to big agribusiness.

We can do better.

This President says he will protect our homeland. But he doesn't seem to understand that our land and water are threatened by pollution. He doesn't understand that the food we consume in this country is not always safe.

We must do better.

The President has promised to do something about the rising price of oil, but his only solution has been to give more money to the oil companies. He's ignored the promise of wind, solar, ethanol and bio-fuel -- energy that's produced not in Iran, but right here in Iowa.

For our children, I know that we will do better.

For fifty years, America's heartland has fed the world. Because of you, generations of foreign citizens have known America not only because we can fire missiles ... but also because we can feed children. Our farmers have made the case for American greatness through the soft power of sustenance.

Now, in a new century, we face new challenges.

Our addiction to foreign oil is hurting our economy and our standing in the world.

We must break it.

Global warming threatens the land that feeds us. The foundation for a whole way of life could soon melt away.

We must reverse it.

I know that Iowa's farmers stand ready to meet this energy challenge. With corn and soybeans, ethanol, biodiesel, wind and bio-mass ... you stand ready to lead the energy revolution we so desperately need.

I also know that we cannot ask you to do it alone. The next President must be a partner.

We need a new direction for American agriculture. One that seizes the opportunities presented by renewable fuel possibilities, that makes conservation a real priority, and levels the playing field for family farmers and independent producers.

I will begin by listening to the words of President Truman.

It's time we put fairness back into our farm policy.

We're going to make sure that free markets and fair competition are the rule, not the exception. I'm going to prohibit excessive vertical and horizontal integration. Modern-day monopolies are just as unacceptable as Standard Oil was at the turn of the century.

We need real enforcement of our anti-trust laws.

I'm going to sign the Packer Ban. I'm going to close the loopholes in the Packers and Stockyards Act. And we have to ensure accurate and complete same-day reporting of all livestock sales.

I'm going to put a hard cap of 250,000 dollars on direct subsidy payments to farmers ... and close the loopholes. As a nation, we should maximize support for family farms. And we need to make the most of our resources.

The family farm has been the back bone of American agriculture for centuries ... and we need to make sure that family farms remain the back bone of American agriculture.

Another important part of making the most of what we have ... is investing in conservation.

Historically, America's farmers have not only been growers of food ... they have been stewards of our land and water. It is absolutely essential that we maintain that tradition of responsibility.

I will fully fund and expand the Conservation Reserve Program, the Conservation Security Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. We need to reduce soil erosion and keep our water clean for future generations.

And if we are serious about the future, then we have to get serious about clean energy. We need an energy revolution in this country ... and Iowa can lead it.

The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation voters have called my energy plan ‘the most aggressive of all the candidates.' Rural America will be central to that plan.

It's going to take a man-on-the-moon effort ... and sacrifice from every American. It's going to take Americans using energy-efficient appliances and taking mass transit where possible.

Just as importantly, it's going to take faith from every American that we can do it. I know that, together, we can.

I have a ten-to-twelve year crash program that moves us away from carbon-based to renewable energy sources.

We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by thirty percent by 2020 and eighty percent by 2040 ... and keep our environment intact.

We can cut our dependence on foreign oil by fifty percent by 2020 by switching to electric and bio-fuels ... and make sure that we never send our kids to die in the Middle East again.

We can build a new energy economy ... and create new, high-quality jobs in Rural America -- jobs that can never be outsourced.

And when there are new economic opportunities in our rural communities, our young people will be able to remain in their communities, have careers and raise families. That's what we want.

An excellent example of the vast potential for good rural jobs in the future is the Wind Energy and Turbine Technology programs at Iowa Lakes Community College. Those programs will help meet the growing demand for skilled technicians who can install, maintain, and service modern wind turbines. We know that the number of wind turbines in the state of Iowa is expected to double in the next twelve months alone.

When I'm President, I will offer tax credits for alternative energy production, especially in ethanol, bio-fuels, wind, and solar.

I will fund research into promising cellulosic ethanol and other bio-fuels.

And I will incentivize the creation of an alternative energy infrastructure, like flex-fuel and plug-in pumps at gas stations.

For the past fifty years, Iowa has been the world's breadbasket. In the next fifty, I believe that Iowa can also be the world's power generator.

Hybrid seed corn is now being developed which promises substantially higher yields, and which can help us develop the equilibrium between food and fuel markets in Iowa.

Farmers right here in America's heartland are working today to build a new energy economy. As President, I will be a partner in leading a new energy revolution.

I know that we can do it because I've done it before. I've been the Secretary of Energy. As Governor, I made New Mexico the Clean Energy State.

And we've done it while creating 80,000 new jobs and revitalizing our rural economy. I offered tax credits to companies that paid above the prevailing wage and created jobs in rural areas.

Having run a state, I know that you can't just focus on the problems that the papers write about. Every community matters, whether it's big or small, urban or rural. And I have worked to solve the problems of all my state's people -- not just those in the big cities.

I will bring that experience to the White House. I will offer a national rural jobs tax credit to make our rural economy strong.

I also recognize that we cannot move forward as a nation, until every American community has a piece of the twenty-first century.

I will ensure that we have universal broadband access throughout rural America. Tele-work holds enormous promise for new jobs in rural America and welcome economic diversity.

I know that we can do all of these things because as I've travelled the country it has become clear to me that Americans are ready to act. What our country needs now is real leadership.

I've spent my entire life bringing people together to get things done. I owe my success in solving problems to taking risks.

Earlier in this campaign, I took some heat from the smarty-pants set in Washington for saying that Iowa should receive its fair share of anti-terrorism funding. I knew it wouldn't be an easy position to take ... but I thought it was clear that we need to protect our nation's food supply from terrorists.

I still feel that way. When I'm President, we're going to beef up USDA inspections of our domestic foodstuffs, and we're going to get tough on food imported from foreign countries.

I'm going to work to diversify our stocks of food species. And I'm going to make sure that we implement Country of Origin Labelling laws immediately. .

I pledge to the American people that I will do whatever it takes to keep our food supply safe.

So even though I took some heat ... I know it was the right thing to do. And sometimes you have to lay things on the line to get results.

I remember when one of my constituents was taken hostage in Sudan. He was an American journalist from my own state and he was captured with two aides from the African nation of Chad. They were imprisoned on phony charges of espionage. I had no reason to be optimistic about their release. But the journalist's wife asked me to go and try to get him out.

So I went.

The dictator of that country -- al-Bashir -- he said: "You can have the American, but the other two from Chad -- they stay."

At this point I could have left with the American, but I said "No. I am bringing them all out."

It was not the easy choice but it was the right choice.

We went back into the negotiation and I left with all three men.

There was no time then for polls or consultants.

And now is not the time for political calculation. Nor is this a time for the politics of negativity.

You know, I haven't read all the other candidates' farm plans. But from what I can tell, they must think you guys have too much dirt out here ... because they're bringing a lot of it to back to the campaign trail and slinging it around at each other.

I say: Let's keep the mud where it belongs.

We cannot build America up by tearing each other down.

Think of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don't serve as Democrats or as Republicans -- they serve as Americans. We have to do the same here at home ... to build a great American future.

At the beginning of this race, I offered a pledge to campaign positively. I stand by that pledge. I refuse to attack anyone's character. That is not we need and I call on my colleagues to stop it. Winning an election is not worth sacrificing our principles.

That does not mean we don't have policy differences -- and that's what we should be talking about. Our different visions for bringing peace to Iraq. On education. On energy. On stopping a war with Iran.

Unfortunately, in Washington today there's too much negativity. Negativity over health care. Negativity over immigration.

But when I travel around Iowa, I see something different. I am reminded again that we are a positive nation, founded on inspiring principles.

I see a place where character is more than the contents of your bank account.

Where leadership means more than a list of things you plan to do.

Where your neighbor's word is more important than all the smooth talk in the world.

I see a people who reward those who work hard; but also recognize that even the hardest workers cannot do it alone.

I see a nation attached to our land, but rooted in our values.

I have a vision of America in ascendancy. It's a vision that all our people, whether they are in blue, red our purple states can share.

This is America. We landed a man on the moon. We built the internet. We beat the Great depression. We defeated the Nazis. We routed the Soviet Union in a global battle over the future of the planet.

So my message for all those who are pessimists, those who are negative, those who are angry is this:

We can do it.

To those who said I couldn't get those hostages out of Sudan -- I said I can. And I did it.

To those who say we can't get a fair deal for our family farmers -- I say we can.

To those who say we can't we can't revitalize our rural economy -- I say we can.

To those who say we can't conserve our land and water -- I say we can.

To those who say we can't spark a new energy revolution -- I say we can.

To those who engage in the politics of personal attacks -- I say we can do better.

If we work together, we can solve our problems. We can. And we will.

It's an honor to be with you. Thank you so much for having me here today.

Bill Richardson, Speech: A New Direction for American Agriculture Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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