PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES George W. Bush and Al Gore agree that the country's farms and ranches must be supported to assist rural communities and preserve an important American way of life.

Vice President Gore has told the American Farm Bureau Federation that his agenda "goes beyond farming, however, to create opportunity for everyone in rural America, both inside and outside the agricultural economy."

Texas Gov. Bush responded to Farm Bureau by saying, "America has long been the agriculture center of the world, and many just assume it will always be so. But, this will not always be true, unless we support American farmers as they have supported us."

Both candidates recently responded to questions from the nation's largest farm organization. Their responses are posted on AFBF's web site at http://www.fb.org/issues/legact/candidates.html.

Bush and Gore expressed their views on wide-ranging farm and rural issues, from development of the next farm bill and negotiating new trade agreements to the safety of biotech products and the agricultural labor shortage.

"The Republican `Freedom to Farm' law has failed and needs to be replaced," said Gore. "Long-term U.S. farm policy should be based on countercyclical income assistance that attempts to stabilize farm income on a year-to-year basis and complementary federally-backed insurance policies that attempt to achieve revenue stability within the growing year."

Bush said the 1996 farm bill "unleashed U.S. farmers to plant in response to market demand, not government programs." He believes "the government should help farmers adapt to a global marketplace by providing them with a strong safety net and the means to manage the cyclical downturns in the farm economy."

The vice president said he should be elected in order to "help farmers and ranchers keep their farms and ranches in the family, sustain self-sufficiency and preserve an important part of the American way of life."

The Texas governor said farmers and ranchers should vote for him since he understands "clearly the importance of the farming industry to individuals and families all across America."