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Bush Pledges Aid to Farmers

September 2, 1999

DALLAS CENTER, Iowa (AP) _ Texas Gov. George W. Bush spelled out a farm aid package he said would bolster ``the heart of our economy″ even as he collected the backing of key rural activists.

Bush’s farm package included short-term fixes like emergency aid and special tax-free savings accounts, ideas Congress already is considering, and also proposed ways to boost agricultural exports, the key to long-term prosperity, he said Wednesday.

``We owe it to farmers to see them through the transition period,″ said Bush. ``Crises come and go, but commitments don’t.″

Bush said that blocking China’s admission to the World Trade Organization was a costly mistake and that European allies should be pressured to lift restrictions on genetically altered commodities.

``We don’t appreciate unfair trade barriers,″ said Bush. ``We want to compete and we want to compete on level ground.″

Returning to the state for the first time since winning a high-profile straw poll last month, Bush not only collected the formal endorsements of more than 100 farm activists and leaders, but more than half the Republicans in the Iowa Legislature as well

Though the endorsements reinforce Bush’s front-runner status in the Republican presidential race leading up to Iowa’s precinct caucuses, he said, ``I’ve got a lot to do.″

Bush donned a green cap, and stood amid hay bales on a farm just outside Des Moines to spell out his trade proposals, an important issue in a state where the farm economy is sour.

U.S. farmers are expected to export $49 billion worth of commodities this year, down from the peak of $59.8 billion three years ago. The Agriculture Department is expecting only slight improvement in 2000. Economists blame the decline on the Asian economic crisis and a worldwide glut of grain.

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