AP - Obama Outlines Policies for Rural America
Democrat Barack Obama is spelling out a package of rural-focused proposals Tuesday that would aid smaller farmers, set goals for an expanding renewable fuels industry and establish incentives for organic production.
Obama called for a goal of producing 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2013, while taking care that such an expansion doesn't worsen pollution.
"We must be vigilant to ensure that we do this in a sustainable fashion so that land and water resources are conserved," said Obama, in remarks prepared for delivery later Tuesday and provided to The Associated Press.
The Illinois Democrat announced his plan after holding two earlier rural policy meetings in Iowa. His aides also have held more than 30 hearings around the state to gather ideas about the plan.
If elected to the White House, Obama said he would hold a "rural policy summit" in Iowa and submit a package of proposals to Congress within the first 100 days in office.
"Real leadership for rural America starts with one simple principle: listening," said Obama. "You know when you get out and talk to folks you are reminded there is a lot that all of America can learn from rural America."
Obama traveled to an eastern Iowa farm to outline his plan, parts of which have been offered before. His proposal included:
_ A $250,000 limit on subsidy payments to farmers as well as strict environmental rules and enforcement for large livestock operations. He would also put strict limits on the size of operations eligible for assistance in cleaning pollution, "so the largest polluters have to pay for their own environmental cleanup."
_ Creation of new cost-sharing programs to help farmers get certification as organic farmers, and revamping crop insurance programs to avoid penalizing organic producers.
_ A goal of a 50 percent increase in the economy's energy efficiency by 2030.
_ A change to allow small businesses to pool together to offer health insurance for workers, with subsidies for those who can't afford it. Also, overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement system that can penalize rural areas.
_ Loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses who practice in rural areas. Also, revamp community college programs to "reflect the increasingly dynamic and technical skills required for rural America to respond to a globalizing workforce."
_ Establish new incentives to promote sustainable farming and creation of new wetlands.
_ A repeat of his call to eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000 a year. Also, let Medicare bargain for the lowest prescription drug costs.
"In moving forward we must always stress sustainability and conservation principles that are best understood by Americans who live and work off the land," said Obama.
In his latest visit to farms and small towns in eastern Iowa, Obama planned to point to similarities with his home state of Illinois. Though he's from Chicago, Obama routinely notes that his home state is one of the nation's leading farm states.
Other Democratic front-runners also plan Iowa stops. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was campaigning Tuesday in western Iowa, and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to visit the state later this week.