CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Record profits should convince Arkansas farmers to back President Barack Obama for re-election, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of the state delegation to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.
Vilsack stopped by a breakfast for Arkansas delegates to provide them with talking points they can use when they return home Friday.
"Ask your friends and neighbors, ‘Why do you want to vote Republican when we’ve got the best farm income we have ever had?,’’’ he said.
Vilsack and other Obama campaign surrogates are making the rounds of state delegation breakfasts to rally political activists as the Nov. 6 election draws near.
Arkansas delegates also heard from Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on Wednesday. Biden, the vice president’s son, focused on veterans and Warner on business.
Biden, a major in the Delaware National Guard, served a year in Iraq as an attorney. Warner, a former governor, founded cell phone giant Nextel.
Although farmers have suffered through a recent drought, Vilsack said there have been "record" earnings and exports of agricultural products in recent years.
"We have had record farm income and we’ve also had unemployment drop in rural areas at a faster rate than the rest of the country," Vilsack said, adding that American farm exports totalled $137 billion last year.
Vilsack gave some of the credit to the Obama administration, which has promoted agricultural exports, bio-products, local and regional farmer markets and conservation programs.
In contrast, Republicans in Congress are looking to cut back on such programs, he said, noting that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, was the architect of a budget plan that proposed slashing commodity and nutrition assistance programs.
Biden made a similar claim on veterans health programs, saying that Romney wants to turn it into a voucher program.
"Here’s a coupon and you are on your own," Biden said.
Biden and Warner also took a jab at Ryan for misstating the time it took him to finish a marathon. Ryan had claimed a time of under three hours when, in fact, it was around four hours.
"That’s a number you remember if you do a sub three-hour marathon," Biden said. "He did a little over four hours. My mom ran that marathon in about four-and-a-half hours. So, he had a pretty good time, about the same as my mom."
Vilsack told the Arkansas delegation that he had run the Little Rock marathon as well as four or five others.
"Trust me folks. I know my time. Nobody lies about their marathon time and certainly nobody exaggerates it by an hour," he said.
Asked afterward for his time, Vilsack said 4:18, paused, and added that his most recent finish was six hours plus.