President George W. Bush addressed an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 4,000 pork producers and allied industry representatives on June 7th, during the 14th Annual World Pork Expo in Des Moines. Bush’s visit marked the first time a U.S. president has attended the annual pork industry event.

Addressing the massive crowd in the tightly secured 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, National Pork Producer Council (NPPC) President David Roper proclaimed: "I am honored to introduce to you a real friend of the American farmer and livestock producer. He has demonstrated his commitment to U.S. agriculture recently by signing a farm bill that will open foreign markets to U.S. pork exports, continue to ensure a safe food supply and (to) help livestock producers address their operations’ environmental needs."

President Bush stepped to the podium, prepared speech in hand, but he referred to his notes sparingly, choosing instead to address the crowd openly and spontaneously.

The President began by expressing his "great pleasure" to be out of Washington, a pleasure matched by the chance to visit agriculture’s heartland. "I’m honored to be with the good folks who supply our country with food – and the good folks who live the values of the farm," he began.

Tax Relief

Bush acknowledged that his visit marked the first anniversary of his signing of the tax relief bill shepherded through the U.S. Senate by Iowa’s Charles Grassley. He used the tax relief package to segue into Congress’ recent action to repeal the death tax. "The United States Congress realized how unfair the death tax is to the people who make a living on the farm. Finally, we repealed the death tax," he said.

But amidst the applause, Bush cautioned that two obstacles remain. First, the repeal isn’t permanent. A "quirk in the law" has the death tax fully repealed in 2010, but then reinstates it in 2011. Secondly, members of the Senate must be convinced to follow the House of Representative’s lead and pass the bill to make the repeal permanent, explained Bush.

"It makes no sense to tax a person’s assets twice," stated the President. "And, it makes no sense to have a tax that drives people off the farm. For the good of American agriculture, let’s make sure that death tax is forever buried, and forever done away with."

An amendment was passed in the House of Representatives to make the repeal permanent. However, 10 days after Bush’s speech, the Gramm/Kyl Amendment in the Senate fell six votes shy of those needed to pass and make the repeal permanent.

Strength in Agriculture

In the heart of the Corn Belt, President Bush grasped the opportunity to build support for an energy bill "that promotes renewable sources of energy such as ethanol and biodiesel." He acknowledged some people’s reaction when he first came to Iowa to ask for an energy bill that included the fuel alternatives: "This guy’s from Texas, he can’t possibly mean what he says about ethanol." But, he assured: "It’s in our national interest to have more forms of energy produced at home so we’re less reliant on foreign sources of energy.

"In order to make sure this economy is strong, we’ve got to make sure that the agricultural sector of our economy is strong." Noting that he was governor of the second-largest agricultural state, he continued: "And, I understand the need to be able to grow more food than we need – for the national security of the country as well.

"I also understand that when there’s oversupply, it’s a problem. And, one of the ways to deal with over supply is to sell our pork to foreign markets. I need the trade promotion authority," he stressed. "It’s time to quit playing politics with trade promotion. It’s time for the House and the Senate to get together – and get a bill on my desk. My promise to you all is this: we’re not going to treat agriculture as some second-class citizen when it comes to international trade agreements.

"I understand the importance of agriculture for our economy; I understand the importance of agriculture for job creation; and, I understand the need to fight for foreign markets so that when we’re good at something, we benefit. And, we’re good at growing hogs and we ought to be selling our hogs all across the world," he stated emphatically.

Farm Bill

Turning next to the farm bill, the President said: "The farm bill I signed recognizes the importance of trade. In fancy Washington talk, it’s what we call WTO (World Trade Organization) compliant. It means we’ve honored our trade agreements when it comes to agriculture.

"But it also recognizes (that) there needs to be a safety net for the American farmer. And, it also recognizes the need to promote conservation in America through the EQIP program (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), for example.

"I signed a good farm bill. It’s good for the American farmer and it’s good for the United States of America," he stressed.

President Bush went on to talk about the need for terrorism insurance so that construction programs can move forward without fear of attack; he discussed the war on terrorism and his proposal to create the Department of Homeland Security, a new cabinet-level position aimed at consolidating essential security functions into a single agency.

The President closed his address by encouraging all Americans to stay strong, yet consider the incredible power that acts of kindness can have in defining the "goodness and decency" of all Americans.

"I know we can rise to the challenge of showing the world that, in the face of incredible evil done to America can come some great good. And it starts right with you. Every act of kindness and compassion, the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and compassion, will show the enemy and the world the true face of the greatest nation on the face of the earth. Thanks for letting me come by," he said in closing.

A full text of President Bush’s address at the 2002 World Pork Expo can be found at: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020607-4.html /vs/ceah/cahm .