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Romney Focuses on Farm Policy in Van Meter

Still riding high off as many saw it, his first presidential debate win, Governor Mitt Romney focused on agriculture policy in a campaign stop at a farm near Van Meter Tuesday. While Romney focused primarily on farm policy, Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports the Republican presidential candidate also got a little personal.

Flanked by a John Deere tractor sporting the Romney/Ryan campaign’s trademark red, white and blue “R,” Mitt Romney addressed 1200 people on a corn field in windy northern Madison County. 

"To be out here in a day like this, in this wind?" Romney asked the crowd. "This is exciting, thank you Iowa!"

Romney told the crowd President Obama has no plan for rural America… or agriculture. Romney brought up what he calls the “death tax” …. It’s the estate tax which is levied on property when it changes hands after the owner dies… he says the president would stop farmers from easily passing their land onto their kids.

"You know he has a plan for the death tax, he’s planning on raising the death tax pretty significantly," Romney said. "My view is that you paid for that farm once, you shouldn’t have to pay for it again."

The Obama campaign has said they are returning the estate tax to what it was in 2009. But Romney says Obama isn’t looking out for farmers. He also brought up recent regulations, suggested but not enacted, from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor that regulate dust and kids working on the farm. He called the regulatory burdens under President Obama crazy.

“You need regulations for markets to work effectively, but I’m going to cut back on regulation," Romney told the crowd. "I’m going to put a cap on regulation and any new major regulation will have to be approved by congress, I’m not letting the politicians off the hook.”

That’s something that resonates with voter and rally-goer LeMar Koethy. He grew up on a dairy farm and says farmers and ranchers already have a lot on their plate and play a big part in the economy.

“Stay out of their way,  they regulate, regulate, regulate," Koethy said. "I don’t know where these environmentalists get their ideas from, but it isn’t from anything that makes any sense.”

But about half way into his brief 15-minuite speech Romney covered ground he hadn’t trotted on the campaign trail here in Iowa. He brought up personal stories that he says highlight the great qualities in the American spirit. Like when he was doing volunteer work for his church and got to know a young teenager who had leukemia. He talked to the boy about what happens after death and helping him write his will.He also got a little choked up when remembering a former Navy SEAL who he met at a Christmas party.

“You could imagine how I felt when I found out he was one of the two former Navy SEALS that were killed in Benghazi on September 11," Romney said. "It touched me obviously as I recognized that this young man I thought was so impressive had lost his life in the service with his fellow men and women.”

Voter Naomi Thomasee was moved by Romney’s personal stories.

“I think there’s a real person in there, he tries to be a good politician," Thomasee said. "But I think he needs to let his real person come out and really I think he’s a good man.”

Thomasee is originally from New Zealand. This is the first election she will vote in. She thinks the country is becoming too socialized under President Obama.

“Don’t over support poverty. You’ve got to support people but don’t give them too much access to money, so they don’t struggle to get going," Thomasee said. "I was raised really poor. I came here with nothing to America. My husband and I were raised very poor and we came out of it through hard work.”

Latest Gallup “likely voter” polls show Romney and President Obama neck and neck. The former Massachusetts governor showed a sign he’s still getting used to it.

"If I become… When I become president!" Romney said to cheers from the crowd. "I will do everything in my power to strengthen the family farm and to strengthen our economy."

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.
Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.