The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 18, 2012

Candidates debate agricultural issues in state fair visits

SEDALIA, Mo. — When it comes to state fairs, the focus is usually on things such as greasy funnel cakes, exceptional barbecue, homemade apple butter, the large cow sculpted from butter, and of course, livestock.

But this year, at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, candidates for public office are making their cases to Missouri voters. Politics was showcased on Thursday for the annual Governor’s Ham Breakfast.

The breakfast — hosted by Gov. Jay Nixon — is billed as a nonpartisan event. All 10 candidates for statewide office were on hand to greet voters. On stage, Nixon was introduced by Jon Hagler, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, as “agriculture’s governor,” a label Nixon accepted in both his political and official capacities.

Drought

On the official side, Nixon has spent the past few weeks touring Missouri touting a state cost-share program to help farmers deal with this year’s crippling drought. At the state fair, he highlighted his administration’s attention to the issue.

Nixon talked about his administration’s approval of more than 4,600 applications for assistance in securing water, whether it be drilling a new well or installing new piping to tap into city water supplies.

The drought — one of the worst in nearly a century — hit Southwest Missouri hard this summer. Just last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor, in a report released by the National Climatic Data Center, reported that much of Southwest and western Missouri are experiencing an “exceptional” drought.

Nixon’s Republican rival, former St. Louis businessman Dave Spence, criticized Nixon’s approach during a campaign stop in Joplin on Wednesday.

“If we do go out with a drought relief program, we’ll go out with something that actually works, not this one that the governor has concocted,” Spence said. “It looks like politics to me.”

Nixon, speaking to reporters at the state fair, said he believes the state “responded aggressively,” noting that “the projects that they approved are being built.”

Last week, Nixon visited a dairy farm owned by Darren and Pam Wilson in Seneca. The family, standing with Nixon in front of a drilling rig, praised the program, which also has been lauded by agriculture groups across the state.

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