FRONT PAGE STORY>>Candidates debate before farmers
Leader staff writer
Lonoke County Farm Bureau members witnessed a clash of both style and substance Monday night when Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, countered challenger Mickey “Stubby” Stumbaugh’s passionate and pointed attack on his record with a calm, low-key appeal for farmers’ votes based on his past performance and his prominence on farm-related House committees.
Republican Stumbaugh’s standard stump speech received enthusiastic reception from some in the room, while Berry—a farmer speaking to farmers—received a heartier response and partial standing ovation.
Stumbaugh, currently the Cabot mayor, is known for his humor and his straight-ahead style. He charged that Berry had not brought home enough benefits for First District constituents and “wants to be a pawn of the Democrats.”
“The truth is not in him,” said Stumbaugh. “I want to lower EPA standards and invest in alternative fuels.” “Illegal immigration will be the downfall of the nation,” he insisted. He said the First District is among the poorest per capita and is losing jobs, has big drug problems and hasn’t gotten its share of highway money under Berry.
Stumbaugh promised to make President Bush’s tax cuts, benefiting some businesses and mostly the wealthy, permanent. He said he would work to eliminate the estate tax. He called Berry the King of Pork and said he helped earmark $300,000 to preserve habitat for the ivory-billed woodpecker—“which may or may not exist,” but not doing enough to help small businesses and keep the economy afloat. He charged that Berry voted against health care, tax relief for small businesses and accelerating tax cuts to help spur the economy. Stumbaugh said he favored price supports for farmers until there is a true free market for their products.
Following Stumbaugh’s attack, Berry, the First District congressman since 1997 and a former Clinton White House appointee, told farmers, “I’m perfectly willing to let my record stand on its own. If you have confidence in me, I hope you will vote for me.”
He reported that the commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers last week signed off on the Bayou Meto irrigation project, designed to pump irrigation water from the Arkansas River and deliver it to area farmers. “The civilian chief said he would sign it,” said Berry.
“I hope that within a few years we’ll be able to take water out of the river and spread it across the (area).” He reported that rice prices seemed to be recovering after falling off when genetic contamination was recently announced.
“Biofuels will increase the prosperity of the farmer,” he said. “It will increase the value of your land, create prosperity and clean up the air all at the same time.” “This election will bring change in health care,” Berry predicted, “so that all can afford health care and drugs.”
He said he would be the No. 2 ranking member of the House agriculture committee when it comes time to write the 2007 farm bill. “This administration has made no secret — they will trade away our subsidies or cut them with the farm bill,” Berry charged.
Dereck Schafer and Jason Fortner, both of Lonoke, and both seniors majoring in agri business at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, each was awarded a $1,000 Gordon R. Brown Scholarship, according to Mike Freeze, outgoing president of the Lonoke County Farm Bureau.
The membership voted unanimously for those nominated for officers for the next year. They were, Woody Bryant, president; Bill Sandage, vice president; Blake Swears, secretary, and Dow Brantley, treasurer. A slate of 27 men were accepted to serve on the next board of directors.