Republican presidential candidate John McCain didn't mince words Friday at the Iowa State Fair, telling corn producers he didn't want to subsidize their ethanol but was eager to help market farm products around the world.
“My friends, we will disagree on a specific issue and that's healthy,” McCain said as he stood near bales of straw at one of the nation's premier farming showcases. “I believe in renewable fuels. I don't believe in ethanol subsidies, but I believe in renewable fuels.”
McCain has never been shy about speaking against subsidizing ethanol when he is in farm country, though that stand helped to make him unpopular enough in Iowa that he skipped participating in its leadoff presidential caucuses in 2000 and put much less emphasis on them in 2008 than many of his opponents.
In a brief speech at the fairgrounds – where he viewed a 1,253-pound boar named Freight Train – McCain pledged to negotiate trade deals favorable to farm commodities.
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McCain met with Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey during his fairgrounds tour and promoted expanded pork exports as a boon to the nation's leading hog-producing state. He said a free-trade deal with South Korea could boost profits by $10 a hog.
McCain said his visit gave him a chance to “meet and greet the real America.”
Democrats in the state said McCain's opposition to ethanol subsidies and the $300 billion farm bill would make it difficult for the Republican to win Iowa's seven electoral votes and would hurt him throughout the Midwest. McCain called the bipartisan farm bill “bloated” – the kind of spending measure he would veto.
“He voted against ethanol subsidies, he's opposed to the farm bill,” Iowa Democratic Chairman Scott Brennan said. “What it proves is he doesn't care about what's important to Iowa.”
On energy policy, McCain reiterated his disagreements with Democratic candidate Barack Obama. McCain favors immediately lifting a ban on offshore drilling while Obama opposes more drilling unless it's part of a larger package of energy proposals.