KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS
DENVER – President Bush stood before a group of cattle raisers Friday as a hamburger-loving part-time rancher and wowed his audience with a red-meat speech extolling the virtues of beef, free trade and limited government.
About 5,000 ranchers and meat marketers at a cattle industry convention in Denver rewarded him with whoops, hollers and several standing ovations as he outlined what he called the core principles of his farm policy. The Senate is expected to vote next week on legislation shaping farm subsidies for the next five years.
The president stopped by the gathering on his way to the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Earlier, the cattle raisers most rousing response came when Bush said he wanted to give landowners more control over their property.
Every day is Earth Day for people who rely upon the land to make a living, he said. Bush said he would rather have landowners in charge of environmental policy than have it dictated from a central source of people, many of whom have probably never been on the land.
Bush delivered his farm policy speech as the Senate weighed a five-year farm bill extending crop subsidies and other agriculture programs. The president advocated a middle-ground approach that would move farmers away from government price supports while providing a reliable safety net against financial hardship.
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Reviving one of his campaign proposals, he called for creating Farm and Ranch Savings Accounts to help farmers prepare for hard times. The government would match deposits dollar for dollar.
Bush said he considers agriculture a national security issue.
Its in our national security interest to be able to feed ourselves, he said. Thank goodness, we dont have to rely on somebody elses meat to make sure our people are healthy and well fed.
He promised to seek new markets for American meat in Europe and Asia.
We want people in China eating U.S. beef, the president said.
After fulfilling his ceremonial duties at the Olympics, Bush planned to spend the weekend with his wife in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Their host, New York investor Roland Betts, was one of Bushs fraternity brothers at Yale University.
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