Candidates, farmers discuss issues at forum

Saturday, June 21, 2008 | 7:20 p.m. CDT; updated 11:06 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Local farmers learned a spoonful of honey ice cream helps the politics go down. Members of the Boone County Farm Bureau nibbled on brownies but didn't waste time chewing the fat with candidates for coming elections.

Fourteen candidates for county, state and U.S. congressional offices attended the bureau’s election forum Friday night in Cosmopolitan Park. The neutral playing field allowed farmers to talk one-on-one with politicians, said Steven Sapp, farm bureau board president.

“We align with what’s best for farms,” he said.

The farm bureau does not side with a particular political party. Sapp identified the top issues facing Boone County farmers as property rights and “anything that affects how we sell and grow products.”

The bureau hosts a political event every election year.

The politicians and their friends and family almost outnumbered the farmers at this year’s event.

Every candidate for every office on the Boone County ballot in this year’s primary and general elections was invited to attend. All 1,800 farm bureau members were also invited, but only about 30 came. That meant more politics and more homemade ice cream, provided by family farm-owners Art and Vera Gelder, for all. Sapp pointed out that many members were taking advantage of the nice weather to make up for time lost to rain this year.

“The attendance is small, but word travels fast in the farming community,” he said. “What you say is important and will get around.”

Candidates and their representatives drew on ties to agriculture — some were raised on farms while others, such as gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof, still farm.

Muriel Cyane, a farm bureau member and lifelong Boone County resident said she liked hearing about each candidate’s history with the farming community.

“It’s the best background you can have,” she said.

Cyane said it’s difficult to choose who deserves her vote in primary elections with such strong candidates.

August primary contests will narrow the field in races such as that for U.S. representative for 9th congressional district, with four candidates on both Republican and Democratic tickets. The primaries will also decide the winner for two of the contests: Boone County Southern District commissioner and Boone County assessor. All candidates for those races were present.

A few state election contenders also made an appearance, including Republican lieutenant governor candidate Paul Sims, 21st District state representative candidate Kelly Schultz and state treasurer candidate Charles B. Wheeler, both Democrats.

Wheeler traveled from Kansas City to St. Louis to Jackson, and then to Columbia for a three-minute speech in front of the Farm Bureau.

The mix of county and state candidates livened the discussion. Economic development in Columbia, ethanol and even abortion rights were brought up.

“They all sound pretty sincere,” Cyane said of the candidates. “It’ll be hard to pick out one when it’s time to vote.”

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