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Obama announces federal aid to help drought-hit farmers

The US government is planning an emergency purchase of up to $ 170 million of meat and fish to soothe the needs of the drought-ravaged agriculture industry. Announcing that, Obama also takes first aim at Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

By Jeff MasonReuters / August 13, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event on Sunday at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago. Starting a planned three-day swing on Monday through Iowa the president announced the federal aid for farmers.

Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP

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Chicago

President Barack Obama announced an emergency purchase of up to $170 million of meat and fish on Monday on a campaign trip to drought-hit Iowa, and accused Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of blocking disaster aid to farmers.

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Obama named the Wisconsin congressman, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, as "one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way of the Farm Bill." The 2012 bill, which includes disaster aid programs, is stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Rural communities

"So if you happen to see congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities," Obama said in remarks to be delivered in Council Bluffs, on the Missouri River on the western edge of Iowa.

"It's time to put politics aside and pass it right away."

As the House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan has demanded large cuts in Farm Bill spending, including food stamps for the poor. He was also campaigning in Iowa on Monday, two days after being chosen to be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate for the Nov. 6 election.

Ryan voted for a $383 million livestock disaster aid bill that the House passed on Aug. 2 before a five-week recess. A Romney campaign spokesman said "no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket."

U.S. farmers are suffering through their worst drought in a half a century as concern mounts that livestock producers can't afford the soaring cost of corn, a staple for feed.

Money from emergency fund

Under the plan announced by Obama, the Agriculture Department will buy pork, lamb, chicken and catfish with money from an emergency fund for responses to natural disasters. The food will be sent to assistance programs, such as food banks.

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