Kennedy Visits Farm Community To Learn About Hunger
MEMPHIS, Mo. (AP) _ Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, learning firsthand about farmers’ problems, toured a hog farm Saturday and met with residents of this agricultural community, who described the hardships they face.
The Massachusetts Democrat, who surprised political observers last week by removing himself from contention for the 1988 presidential nomination, appeared at a church-sponsored luncheon and a town meeting at the Scotland County High School.
″Your brother (President John F. Kennedy) said ’Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,‴ Wayne Cryts, the former head of the American Agriculture Movement in Missouri, said at the town meeting in this northeast Missouri community. ″Senator, we’re asking you to help agriculture.″
Kennedy told the approximately 1,300 residents who gathered in the school auditorium Saturday afternoon that he understood ″farmers aren’t asking for a handout, just an opportunity to produce.″
″I think that it is about time that we as a country respond to the crisis that is right here,″ Kennedy said.
For 90 minutes, Kennedy listened to rural experts, farmers and other residents express concern about the deteriorating agricultural environment as his two sons, Edward Jr. and Patrick, sat in the audience.
Leroy Huff, the high school principal, told Kennedy the children of farmers were leaving for more promising careers in urban areas and asked the senator to help stop the exodus.
Scotland County Memorial Hospital Administrator Paul Brown said farm families were dropping medical insurance or refusing proper medical treatment to save money.
Earlier, at the luncheon for needy families and Future Farmers of America members, Kennedy asked how many people felt their children would have a better life if they continued farming. The senator was answered by silence.
Kennedy and his sons spent the night at the 615-acre farm of Bill and Donna Shoop, where the senator rose before dawn Saturday and began the day with a look at the Shoops’ hog operation.
Later he stopped at the farm of Gary Anson for a kitchen-table discussion of farm policy.
″I’m raising hogs out here, doing it the way our government wants us to. I’d like to see you do something,″ Anson told Kennedy. ″We’re at the bottom of the ladder. We’re just hanging on.″
Kennedy said he hoped the government could fashion a farm policy ″so it gets to you people.″
″My brother used to say: ’The farmer gets it both ways. They buy it from him wholesale and sell it to him retail,‴ Kennedy said.
During a brief visit to another farm, the senator, clad in a ski jacket, corduroy trousers and work boots, posed for pictures with two mules named Mork and Mindy, after the television space alien and his human hostess.
Farmers and their families, who also met with Kennedy at a church pot luck supper Friday that was closed to reporters, hope that Kennedy’s visit will result in more public attention to the plight of American agriculture.
Shoop said he hoped Kennedy would go back to Washington with the message that although the 1985 farm bill was passed this week, some type of emergency action would be needed to get farmers through the upcoming year.
″We hope we can convey to him that we are honest, hard-working people out here, under severe pressure,″ he said.
Late Saturday, Kennedy made a brief stop in Kansas City, Kan., to tour a 11/2 -mile-long limestone cave where government surplus foods are stored. He then boarded a plane for Seattle. Kennedy also is to travel to West Virginia before returning to Boston.