Farmers vaunt Obama at roundtable

Posted Sept. 21, 2008, at 9:24 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Hay bales were stacked against the red barn, typical farm smells were in the air, and Gov. John Baldacci and the state commissioner of agriculture were gathered at a table Saturday with a longtime farmer and his wife to discuss the nation’s future.

Hampden farmer John F. Perry Jr., a Democrat, and his wife of 54 years, Carolyn, a Republican, listened as Baldacci and state Agriculture Commissioner Seth Bradstreet III talked about the benefits of voting for Barack Obama for president in November.

“I truly believe that Barack Obama and Senator [Joe] Biden’s plans will benefit Maine,” Bradstreet said. “Obama supported the last two farm bills and Senator [John] McCain has opposed [them]. These farm bills have helped Maine.”

The rural roundtable was the first Maine Farmers for Obama event planned by a group created to stir up support for the Democratic nominee in rural Maine. Also attending the roundtable were Donovan Todd, a former potato seller, and his wife, who are buying a farm in Etna, and a woman from Bangor who owns horses.

A spokesman for the McCain campaign in New England, Jeff Grappone, told the BDN by e-mail Sunday that McCain would help farmers “by lowering the estate tax and pursuing an ‘all of the above’ approach to expanding energy sources, including offshore drilling.”

“While Senator Obama has questioned the value of free trade, McCain believes we need to open foreign markets to America’s agricultural products,” Grappone said.

Perry, who has been farming for 50 years, said he decided eight years ago how he was going to vote. “The county was afloat eight years ago,” he said. “Now it’s broke.”

Perry has around 60 head of beef cattle, and said the cost of equipment, batteries, tires and fuel has increased, while “the price of beef has not kept up with it.” The only way he can afford to stay in farming is by selling hay collected from his 100-acre farm on Old County Road, Perry said.

Carolyn Perry didn’t indicate the candidate she would support in November, but said, “I’m a Republican, but I rarely vote Republican.”

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