August 13th, 2012
04:06 PM ET
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (CNN) – President Obama mixed business and campaigning on Monday, holding a rally and an official event on the first leg of a three-day bus tour across the Hawkeye State.
After delivering his campaign stump speech here at Bayliss Park, the president and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stopped by a drought-ravaged farm in the Missouri Valley to officially announce a new initiative to aid farmers and ranchers.
Calling the current conditions the worst “in decades,” the president outlined actions his administration has taken to address the crisis, including the approval of emergency loans, opening federal lands for grazing and providing money to help get water to livestock.
The administration’s actions also include a new initiative, announced Monday morning in a statement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to purchase up to $170 million of “pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks.”
While the government couldn't make it rain, the president said that as a major consumer of U.S. meat products, it could assist struggling farmers and ranchers by purchasing the food now and freezing it for future consumption.
Earlier in the day, Obama targeted the newest member of the GOP ticket Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for participating in a Republican congressional roadblock of a Farm Bill that he says is keeping farmers and ranchers from getting additional assistance.
“I am told that Governor Romney's new running mate Paul Ryan might be around Iowa in the next few days,” Obama said, just hours before Ryan was scheduled to appear in Des Moines at the Iowa State Fair. “He's one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. We've got to put politics aside when it comes to doing the right thing for rural America and for Iowa.”
The claim appears to be part of a larger effort to place Ryan at the helm of some unpopular congressional proposals, as later in his remarks Obama also labeled Ryan the “ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress.”
The Romney campaign pushed back against the president’s accusations, claiming that Ryan has been a proponent of relief for those affected by the drought.
“Paul Ryan hails from an agriculture state and supported disaster relief, and the truth is no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “After nearly four years of failure, it’s no wonder that Barack Obama returns to the state that launched his presidential campaign with nothing more than broken promises and false attacks.”
Just two days removed from the announcement of Ryan as presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, Obama began by praising the young congressman as “a good man” who is “an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney's vision.”
“But the problem is that vision is one that I fundamentally disagree with,” Obama told the largely supportive crowd of 4,300 people.