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Klobuchar visits New Hampton, talks ag issues

Klobuchar visits New Hampton, talks ag issues
Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., visits The Pub at the Pinicon in New Hampton to meet with voters. (New Hampton Tribune photo by Bob Fenske.)
By Bob Fenske,

Minnesota’s senior senator’s message during a presidential campaign stop in New Hampton last week was short and to the point: President Trump is no friend to farmers.

Amy Klobuchar, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 and is the daughter of longtime Minneapolis newspaper columnist Jim Klobuchar, told a group of about 30 people gathered at the Pub at the Pinicon that the current administration’s policies are the reason that farmers in Iowa and throughout the country are struggling.

“As president, I’m going to be devoted to bringing sanity back to our ag policy,” she said. “What is happening right now is, in my mind, unforgivable.”

She said the trade wars, some of which she categorized as “Trump creations,” have had a devastating effect on grain farmers at the same time the administration continues to grant an inordinate number of waivers to oil refineries.

“It started with 10 and then went to 20 and then 40 and then 60 and then 80 … I mean it’s an unbelievable story,” Klobuchar said. “Basically it took away any gains we made with year-round E-15.”

She said that she recently visited a bio-diesel plant that closed in Crawford, where just one employee remains. As he gave her a tour of the plant, they came upon a coat rack of uniforms.

“’These are my friends I used to work with,’” she said that man told her, “’and I don’t know if they’re ever coming back again.'”

He had kept all of the uniforms with the names on them, Klobuchar said, “Derek, Mark, Salvador — and it’s just a reminder that these aren’t just policies that we have as talking points or numbers, these are real people.”

Klobuchar also showed off a sense of humor as she talked about agriculture issues.

“Since we’re No. 1 in turkeys in Minnesota,” she said, “I figured you guys in Iowa would like that joke.”

At the same time, Klobuchar touted her ability to reach across party lines — pointing out that she has co-authored bills with Iowa’s Republican Sen. Charles Grassley to help farmers in the Midwest.

“We can work together,” she said, “and we have to work together. There are numerous issues — agriculture, infrastructure, to name two — that have support from Democrats and Republicans, but we have a president who is … a loose cannon, and we need some civility back in the White House.”

Klobuchar was introduced by Floyd County farmer Pam Johnson, a former National Corn Growers Association president, who endorsed Klobuchar in August.

“One of the things that attracted me to Amy’s campaign is that she understands the issues we’re going through,” Johnson said, “and she does her work with respect. I think we’re all tired of the rhetoric flying around.”

Klobuchar said there has been a 25 percent increase in farm bankruptcies, and she and Grassley authored a bill that allowed farmers facing bankruptcy to remain on their land for a longer time.

She also decried the fact that the administration is not listening to former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who currently serves as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s under-secretary for farm production and conservation.

“Lastly, I want to touch on the USDA and how important that as president, I’m going to build that up again,” she said before touching on Northey. “It’s hard for him to keep it on the course you want when you have an administration that’s doing bad things all the time.”

Although Klobuchar ranks fifth — behind former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — in most polls, she said following the roundtable discussion that she thinks her campaign is on the right track.

“We’re still more than two months out” from the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, she said, “and I honestly think the momentum is swinging our way. … People are realizing that our next president has to be a leader not just of Republicans or Democrats but the whole country, and the fact that I have consistently shown that I can go across the aisle and work with Republicans is a strength I believe we have to have.”