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UPDATED: McCains visiting Hudson; candidate opposes farm subsidies

HUDSON - Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk Express was speeding past Minnesota corn fields en route to a Wisconsin town hall meeting this morning when he said the federal government has no business subsidizing farmers who grow that crop, or any other.

"Let the market work," he said, adding that besides corn subsidies he opposes tariffs on imported sugar and all other agriculture commodities.

McCain spoke to five Minnesota reporters on his bus between the Oakdale, Minn., hotel where he stayed Thursday night and a Hudson meeting.

In the "straight talk" style he likes to use, McCain did not avoid saying things that could upset the very voters he was seeking in the Upper Midwest.

While supporting corn-based ethanol, he said the federal government should not pay farmers. Subsidies distort the market, he said.

But Washington cannot just eliminate farmer subsidies, the Republican presidential candidate added. International markets also must be opened up, he said, without going into detail about how he would do that.

"We have to encourage ways to make that (ethanol) product usable," he said.

All Brazil gasoline stations sell E85 gasoline - containing 85 percent ethanol - and the same should happen in this country, McCain said.

In preparation for McCain's Minnesota and Wisconsin visit, Democrats repeated their charge that McCain would give Americans a third President Bush term. On his bus, he said voters will not buy that.

"The American people did not get to know me yesterday," McCain said.

For instance, McCain added, he has opposed many Bush initiatives. McCain said little about Bush, but said plenty about his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, who he said would raise taxes while he would oppose new taxes, including the repeal of tax cuts a Republican Congress enacted but are about to expire.

When he arrived in Hudson, about 800 women greeted McCain at a town hall meeting dealing with women business issues.

"I am committed" to making sure women have more business opportunities, he said in opening remarks.

During his Minnesota and Wisconsin campaign swing, McCain repeatedly reminded voters that those states and others in the area would be battleground states in the presidential race.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.