U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, makes the case for the re-election of President Barack Obama on Friday afternoon in Carroll. <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns</em></span>
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, makes the case for the re-election of President Barack Obama on Friday afternoon in Carroll. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Monday, October 1, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Friday said President Barack Obama’s root thinking on the economy is decidedly middle-cass.

“The president’s philosophy is a middle-out philosophy,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack, a former two-term governor of Iowa, spoke to about 25 people, most of them party activists, at the Carroll County Democratic headquarters.

Specifically, Vilsack noted that the stock market increased during the Obama administration. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 7,949 at the end of the day Jan. 20, 2009, Obama’s first day in office. As of mid morning today the Dow was at 13,583 -- a 71 percent increase under the president.

“Four years ago, the stock market was tanking, the housing market was deflating,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said the economy is now “headed in the right direction,” although there is more to do.

For rural Iowa, the Obama administration has delivered measurable results, Vilsack said.

Agricultural exports are on the rise, and biofuels have helped buoy grain prices, the ag secretary said.

Quoting USDA figures, The Bioenergysite.com reports that exports of U.S. food and agricultural products are expected to reach $143.5 billion in fiscal 2013, well above the record set in 2011. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have made gains of 50 percent, reports the bioenergysite.com

“We’re going to have a huge explosion of bio-based opportunities in this country,” Vilsack said.

For a state with a significant older population, the preservation of Medicare is vital, he said.

There are clear distinctions on this issue between the president and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Vilsack.

“Governor Romney wants to replace it with a voucher program,” Vilsack said.

He added, “There are fundamental differences here, folks, sharp contrasts.”

Vilsack challenged attacks from the right on the farm program’s food-stamp provisions. He said 92 percent of food stamps go to senior citizens, the disabled, children and working men and women. The fraud rate in the program is less than 1 percent,

Crop-insurance fraud is greater concern, he said.

“But you never hear about that” from the political right, Vilsack said.

Vilsack said Republicans in Congress are placing farmers and ranchers in jeopardy by holding the farm bill hostage to ideological concerns.

“They left early,” he said of House members.

The Senate passed a farm bill in June, but the GOP-controlled House has not been able to promote one.

With no farm bill as of today many farm-export programs are hobbled, which Vilsack says opens the door for South America and Canada and other nations to gain a competitive advantage.

“These programs end, they stop,” Vilsack.

Rural America shouldn’t have to take the hit many Republicans would like to see with debt reduction in the farm bill, Vilsack said.

“We’re doing our part,” he said. “We just shouldn’t have to do everybody else’s part.”