- Category: News
Gov. Steve Beshear took aim at Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul Thursday, criticizing his opposition to federal farm subsidy programs in a speech at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s country ham breakfast at the state fair.
“We are all hearing a lot of loose political talk lately about the need to eliminate programs that provide a safety net for farm families,” said Beshear, a Democrat. “… Some people apparently think we should abandon farmers. … Well, my friends, anybody who really thinks that doesn’t know much about farming.”
Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor who faces Democrat Jack Conway in the November election, has questioned the need for farm subsidy programs and called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to slash its budget.
Paul hasn’t called for the department to be abolished. During the primary, his campaign said he believed the department should be eliminated but didn’t think that was possible and instead would work to scale back programs he views as wasteful.
Paul left the breakfast before Beshear spoke. But he said in an interview earlier in the day that, while he doesn’t want to abolish the department, he does want to target “waste, fraud and abuse” in government. He called for the repeal of subsidies that pay farmers not to farm their lands, which he said would save $1 billion. The Agriculture Department has several types of subsidies that pay farmers not to cultivate land for conservation purposes and to stop water pollution, among other things.
When asked if he supports the conservation subsidies, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “I have voted for most of the farm bills (that have included such payments), yeah, and I try to help Kentucky agriculture.”
Paul has said he would try to help farmers by extending the Bush tax cut that eliminated the federal estate tax and that he would push for additional free trade agreements to open up new markets for Kentucky farm products.
But Democrats were trying to focus attention at Thursday’s breakfast on Paul’s stand against the subsidies. The state Democratic Party passed out fake farm subsidy checks written to Kentucky farmers for “Zero Dollars” and “courtesy of Rand Paul.”
Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general, accused Paul in an interview of being out of touch with farmers.
“I’m glad that he’s here. He needs to get out and meet the people of Kentucky and recognize we have 85,000 farms in this state that are an important part of our economy,” he said.
Paul dismissed Conway’s attacks.
“I think when you’re behind you attack the front-runner,” he said. “I think on every issue he’s wrong.”
Reporter Joseph Gerth can be reached at (502) 582-4702.