Bush given robust welcome at meeting with state farmers

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

AURORA, Mo. -- Dairy farmer John Samek believes he finally has a president who is concerned about his welfare.

In addition to a comprehensive farm bill, Bush told several hundred people Monday at the MFA Aurora Feed Mill that the death tax should be phased out so farmers can pass their assets from one generation to the next without worry.

"I really appreciate him talking about that," Samek said. "I finally feel like I'm not forgotten out here."

Samek, 35, milks about 400 head on about 1,000 acres in Bolivar, Mo., that are partially owned by his father. He estimated the land would bring about $4,000 an acre.

"There's no way I could afford the taxes on that if I had to pay the market value of what it's worth," Samek said.

Samek wasn't the only one encouraged by Bush's visit, which was part of a two-day swing through the Midwest. He arrived to a throng of people clad in red, white and blue at the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport.

He told that crowd that expanded trade is essential to cure recession.

"Let us compete and when we can compete in a fair way, we whip anybody when it comes to selling food," he said.

Diverse crowd

Bush then traveled by motorcade to the feed mill where the crowd was as diverse as Bush's speech -- mentioning trade, economy, terrorism and the need to help fellow citizens.

There were students clad in blue-and-gold Future Farmers of America jackets, farmers in plaid shirts and bib overalls and men in business suits. Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, Senate hopeful Jim Talent and congressmen Kenny Hulshof and Todd Akin also were in the crowd. And everyone gave the president several thunderous rounds of applause.

Bush couldn't have picked a better town than Aurora, where the main industry is agriculture, to discuss his farm policy.

Flags flew from the porches of many homes in the southwest Missouri town of about 7,000 people. Fellowship Baptist Church hung a string of plastic flags from its pillars and added a presidential greeting to its sign near Highway 39 that leads into Aurora.

Hundreds who were unable to get a ticket to be inside the feed mill lined the streets in blustery 40-degree temperatures in hopes of getting a glimpse of the presidential motorcade. Bush had words for them, too.

"If you see some of the folks who lined the road coming in, tell them thanks," he said.

Lance Dickinson of Mount Vernon, Mo., waited on a corner with his two daughters -- Mariah, 4, and Cameryn, 3 months -- for nearly three hours. He couldn't stand having Bush so close and not doing something.

"We like Bush," Dickinson said. "When he says he's going to do something, he does it. He doesn't care what the polls say."

Dickinson, who works at the Efco window factory, supports Bush's proposal to give big corporations tax credits.

"It encourages them to keep people working," he said.

Back inside, Joe Powell said it was good to have Bush at MFA. The mill employs 23 workers and produces a variety of livestock feed.

Powell, vice president of the feed division for MFA Inc., said he also was glad to hear Bush talk about opening global markets. It's the surest way to help farmers to continue to work the land, he said.

For Candice White and Ashley Grimm, both 17 and FFA members, there was only one word to describe Bush: "Awesome."

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