President Obama is picking a new fight with Mitt Romney’s new vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, taking the Wisconsin congressman to task for opposing a major new farm bill now working its way through Congress.
With farmers feeling the economic pinch of this year’s severe drought, Mr. Obama highlighted Mr. Ryan’s vote to block the farm bill from advancing during a campaign swing through Council Bluffs, Iowa Monday.
“I’m told Governor Romney’s new running mate might be around Iowa these next few days, and he’s one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way,” Mr. Obama said.
Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Ryan are stumping Iowa Monday where the farm bill — which contains a raft of agricultural subsidy programs as well as trade, food safety and food stamp provisions — has a major impact on the state’s economy. Critics say it does not do enough to overhaul a wasteful system of taxpayer payouts to favored growers, at a time of record federal deficits.
The Romney campaign fired back at the president, noting that Mr. Ryan is from an agricultural state and supported disaster relief, and said the president’s words on this subject fit his campaign’s familiar pattern.
“The truth is no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. “After nearly four years of failure, it’s no wonder that Barack Obama returns to the state that launched his presidential campaign with nothing more than broken promises and false attacks.”
Republicans have accused Senate Democrats of blocking a bipartisan House-passed bill aimed at helping livestock producers devastated by the drought. The Democratic-controlled Senate refused to take up the bill before it adjourned for the August recess. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, took issue with the House livestock producers’ assistance bill because she saw it as a half-measure that would only help some farmers.
“You know the president — he’s going to be here in a couple of days,” Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, said during a stop in Iowa Friday. “Some of you might want to remind him when he comes that the House passed a bill last week to help those in the livestock industry.”
The farm bill is just the latest point of contention between Mr. Obama and Mr. Ryan. The two have tangled repeatedly over the Wisconsin Republican’s budget plan and plans for overhauling Medicare, as well as the cost of Mr. Obama’s 2010 health care law.
The president used his visit to Iowa to highlight the administration’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the current drought, including a new U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to purchase $150 million worth of meat and fish while prices are low and freeze it for later use.
Last week, the USDA announced $30 million to help farmers and ranchers deliver water to livestock and rehabilitate land affected by the drought.
“Folks suffering from this drought can’t wait for Congress to do its job,” Mr. Obama said. “So in the meantime, I’ve made sure my administration is doing everything we can to provide relief to those who need it.”