St Paul, Minnesota — Presidential hopeful Ralph Nader proposed shifting control of U.S. agriculture away from corporate conglomerates and back toward the family farmer on Friday.
“By weakening the stranglehold agribusiness has on the food industry, we will be able to increase farm gate prices and competition, which will consequently reduce food costs for consumers,” he said.
The Green Party candidate commented before what he was billing as a “super rally” at the Target Center in Minneapolis, an event he hoped would draw a large audience to raise money and build support for his inclusion in presidential debates.
His farm plan, among other things, calls for stronger enforcement of antitrust laws, prohibition of meatpacker ownership of livestock production facilities and allowing American farmers to grow industrial hemp.
Next to him on a table during a news conference sat a pile of 18,000 signatures of Minnesotans requesting that Nader be included in the debates.
The Minnesota stop was the second of four major rallies. The first, in Portland, Oregon, sold out with 10,000 tickets at $7 apiece.
Former talk show host Phil Donahue and others have joined the longtime consumer advocate and his running mate, Winona LaDuke of Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation, for this leg of the campaign.
The last time Nader visited Minnesota, he held a smaller rally at the University of Minnesota that drew a packed house of 1,400 and raised about $17,000.
It’s an unusual way for a presidential candidate to raise money, but Nader says the rallies are the best way to show how serious he is.
“We have to demonstrate that we can draw far greater audiences,” Nader said.
Nader cited Minnesota as an example of a state on the cutting edge of what should be done to spur more voter participation.
Three things — debate access, public financing and same-day voter registration — helped Gov. Jesse Ventura get elected, andNader thinks those principles should be emulated by other states.
“Those three factors should be the law of the land,” he said, adding that “campaign finance reform is the boulder on the highway to justice.”
He said if he were in the debates, one of his top priorities would be spurring more discussion on agriculture policy.
“It’s almost entirely ignored by Bush and Gore,” he said, after throwing down a quick snack of an organic fig bar.
He said it would be in Bush’s best interest to insist that Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan be allowed into the nationally televised debates.
That “would throw Al Gore completely on the defensive,” Nader said.
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