Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Obama releases rural plan

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama today released his plan for rural America, one he says blends initiatives for farms with small-town economic development. Obama discussed elements of his "rural plan" with Iowa Independent and other media on a conference call today.

The Obama-crafted plan is not only significant in Iowa and the intra-party process, but also in the general election as studies reveal that rural voters played determinative roles in recent presidential elections.

Highlights of Obama's plan include a limitation of $250,000 on federal farm payments and the banning of livestock ownership by meat-packing operations.

Obama said he hoped elements of the 11-page plan, like country of origin labeling, would not be controversial and have widespread acceptance.

In the area of education, Obama sees strong support of community colleges as vital for rural Iowa, as studies show that large percentages of graduates of these institutions stay in the state and fill skilled positions.

Obama's plan eliminates income taxes for seniors making less than $50,0000 annually.

If that part of the plan gets some play it will be important for the Illinois senator as 64 percent of the people who participated in the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2004 were 50 years or older.

In a revealing statement considering the percentage of Americans who make their living as farmers -- fewer than 2 percent according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Obama said there is a philosophical underpinning to his rural plan.

In 1785, Thomas Jefferson said, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”

Obama said during the conference call that the plan is the result of a series of 32 rural rountable discussions. Obama was in Adel and Tama personally for the events in those two central Iowa cities.

"Out of the conversations I believe we've developed a plan that will strengthen family farms, will foster economic development in rural communities, will create the kind of sustainable agriculture that will balance the concerns of conservation that I think people in Iowa believe are important and that will also harness the enormous energy that can be obtained from biofuels and other major energy sources," Obama said.

In a previous interview with Iowa Independent, Obama talked about his Midwestern, rural credentials as both a U.S. senator and Illinois state senator who worked on issues in Illinois that are similiar to ones facing Iowans.

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