Conflicted in Kansas

Garden City, Kan. – It was one of the best years ever for Greg Stone. The third generation farmer was wise to fill his family’s 4000 acres with corn. Higher corn prices, fueled in part by booming ethanol production and the government subsidies that help it grow, have been a blessing this year for Midwestern farmers like Stone in an otherwise gloomy economy.

But the future of ethanol production, and the corn that is used to make the fuel, could change dramatically depending who’s elected to the White House. John McCain opposes subsidies to ethanol producers. Barack Obama vows to continue them.

And here lies the dilemma for farmers like Stone, who are examining Obama’s policy on ethanol.

“He would probably be better, you know, for me with my farmer hat on,” Stone said.

But Stone describes himself as a conservative Republican. He voted for George Bush twice and still supports the president. He’s a “values voter” and that means he almost always sides with Republicans.

This year, however, could be different. In addition to supporting the ethanol subsidy, he likes Obama because he’s from Illinois, a farming state, which means he might have a better appreciation for farming than McCain, who is from a less farm friendly Arizona.

But Stone has other qualities that he’s looking for in a president. Security, he says, is the most important issue.

“If I put my United States citizen hat on, John McCain, I would probably be more comfortable with him protecting this country,” said Stone.

And as a business owner, he says that he prefers McCain’s tax plan for businesses.

Stone remains undecided; balancing the candidate he thinks is best for farming against the one he thinks is best for the country.

“I’m probably leaning towards John McCain and if I had to guess today, that’s probably the way I’d vote,” he said.

By Travis Fox  |  October 21, 2008; 1:29 AM ET  | Category:  In-Depth
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Greg Stone thinks McCain will protect America better. The truth is all these terrorist are AFRAID of Obama.

Not because Obama will take military action but Obama will bring together other countries and groups to fight terrorism together as opposed to Bush/McCain doctrine of shoot first ask questions later. No more big, bad, imperialistic USA to rally against.

Terrorist organizations will be castrated if Obama wins

Posted by: thenotoriousflavio | October 21, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Having grown up in Topeka, I know that most of the Republican propaganda is all that anyone will hear in Garden City. None of the GOP abuses of power and corruption have ever been broadcast there. Where as, all the negative ads about the democrats, any democrat, will be the only (widely known) information they will have heard about Obama. It's not surprising that this might be the attitude. You would get the same answers in any small town in Kansas, (Hello, Glasco and Concordia)

Posted by: branedy | October 21, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, One issue voters have always been a problem in a many issue world. That's why all those slick one liners catch so many votes.

the comment below- yes, Obama IS and will make USA a World Leader again not just the troops sent in to kill and die.

and Dear Mr. Farmer,

Obama will help make sure decisions on ethanol and all new energies are fro The People First, not the elite few.

not wrapped in it or profiting off of it.

join the discussion on

many are sad to need to leave their party but they are doing it for THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY


Posted by: macdoodle1 | October 21, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Okay growing up in Topeka doesn't give you the least bit of knowledge about Garden City. Garden City is a farming and factory town. It is filled with illegal immigrants and left wing liberal propaganda.

Posted by: lindseyli | October 21, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Greg Stone's conflict is between voting for what he thinks is his self-interest as it relates to ethanol production subsidies or voting what he thinks is his interest and responsibility as a citizen of the U.S. Following the latter is what make a responsible citizen. Following the course of self-interest is what the candidates pander to and what most voters (in my mind's eye) actually do, because they have never been taught otherwise. This results in millions of voters focusing on single issues (many different ones and frequently self-interest related) and is a disaster for our governing process.

Posted by: BobThompson | October 21, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Ethanol was/is a big scam. It take nearly a gallon of gas to produce a gallon of ethanol, it reduces mileage, and it pollutes. Besides helping drive up the cost of grain-based products, why are we even considering the continued use of ethanol?

Posted by: BeanerECMO | October 21, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Farmer Stone rolled the dice on ethanol. This was unwise. Alcohol from corn is wildly inefficient and a real waste of energy and billions of dollars. What kind of nation have we become when we are so easily captured by special interests? Obama is going to continue this farce? Lord help us!

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | October 21, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Stone is the model Kansas citizen of Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" He is willing to vote against his own self interest for a false belief. And what evidence is there that Senator McCain can protect this country better than Senator Obama? Because the Arizona senator wants to keep our troops longer in Iraq.

Posted by: mytake1 | October 21, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Nice watch, Grig. Rolex?

Posted by: raypipkin | October 21, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Nice watch, Greg. Rolex?

Posted by: raypipkin | October 21, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how this guy qualifies as a "conservative Republican". He's all in favor of big government spending when it benefits him, but I guess he favors small government when it comes to other folks? Well, on second thought I guess that actually is the Republican platform: more for me, the hell with everybody else; the government shouldn't tell me what to do, but it should sure impose my personal morality on everybody else.

Posted by: jpaulb | October 21, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow. He opposes McCain because, unlike Obama, he may actually be a reformer.

Posted by: Peejay | October 21, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

WOW! They deleted my earlier comment. These posts are censored. Not a real legitimate blog site.

As a lifelong KS resident, KS is on the verge of going Democrat because the GOP has urinated in the face of KS voters so badly.

They say people will vote for thier financial interests over what they believe is right.

As far as big govt, no one has made it bigger than GW Bush. To argue that Democrats want big govt and Republicans want small govt after witnessing Clinton balanced the budget and Bush subsequently a making a huge mess of of it is a totally irrational argument.

Posted by: Libertarian1 | October 21, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Setting aside the efficacy of ethanol subsidies, poster mytake1 is right that this is Thomas Frank's book "What's The Matter With Kansas" in a nutshell. Republicans have bamboozled these well-meaning folks with the culture wars while killing their programs and diminishing their standard of living. It'll change. Perhaps. Someday.

Posted by: keller1 | October 21, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Hello all,

The question presented was "will Obama or Mccain be better for your bottom line as a farmer?". The country must be put ahead of one's self interest in all cases, if I did not articulate this, than shame on me!

The watch is a Breitling - resists all fertilizers, chemicals, and baby calves that pee on it.


Greg Stone

Posted by: gdstone | October 21, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

My cousin has about 1,100 acres in southern Wisconsin. My uncle, his father, was a gentleman farmer, buying it as a retirement fantasy and losing money for 30 years. For the first time in decades the farm is finally making a living income so my cousin doesn't have to work on a county road crew and depend on his wife's office job.

It's still not a viable business model.

Perhaps you could help us understand. I see a Stone Acres Inc in Garden City in the Farm Subsidy Database. It looks like Stone Acres has drawn about $1,183,263 in subsidies from 1995 to 2006. (2007 data isn't available).

In your zip code the database reports 2,501 land owners (I hesitate to call them all farmers) received $206,550,075 in direct subsidies from 1995 to 2006.

Why aren't farm subsidies considered socialism?

You see, I'm an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. I don't grow food or fuel or hold land out of production, but I do invent and create jobs. I don't get government subsidies when I create jobs or file a new patent. When I bootstrap a new company with my own dollars, I put it all at risk, paying others and going without pay. If I raise outside capital from investors or venture capitalists I trade my equity and invention for a possible future payoff. I've won a couple times through acquisition/sale, and narrowly avoided bankruptcy a couple times.

Why should my tax dollars support the land owners in 67846 rather than other productive business models?

Posted by: boscobobb | October 22, 2008 3:18 AM | Report abuse

Hello Boscobobb,

The farm programs have indeed been a good example of socialism or rather our government engineering a policy of a cheap food supply for this country. Most, if not all of any profit gained in grain production in the last 30 years has derived from government subsidization - like it or not. I would absolutely choose to gain or lose from a fair market system rather than the distorted model in place now. There are no easy answers. Thanks for your questions and thanks also for your hard work and taking risk in creating jobs and opportunity for this country.

Greg Stone

Posted by: gdstone | October 22, 2008 7:13 AM | Report abuse


Thanks for your kind and thoughtful response.

I agree that we rightly subsidize food production, but I don't think it's in our best interest, short of a complete loss of energy supply, to subsidize food to be converted to fuel. I advise a greentech startup and speak with entrepreneurs who offer more efficient alternatives than corn ethanol.

I find it a paradox is that you support Mr. McCain rather than Mr. Obama, and vice versa.

Perhaps I should explain why, despite some disagreements, I support Mr. Obama.

I frequently travel on business internationally through much of Asia and Europe. Some of my customers and investors are in the middle east. I am fortunate to deal with people from the guard at the front gate to international bankers and senior ministry officials.

When I step off a plane and walk through a neighborhood halfway around the globe, I behave like a polite guest in a midwestern home, as I was raised, rather than a swaggering rube. I want the world my children inherit to look forward to their travels as well as their cooperation.

We have done incalculable damage to our national credibility the last 5-6 years the undoes the trust and admiration we built over 6 decades following WWII. Our belligerent arrogance and inability to use intelligent cooperation and diplomacy - especially among our allies - has made the US an international pariah. I can find no other suitable word.

I don't see anything in Mr. McCain's selection of his campaign team or running mate that demonstrates he has a grasp of the depth and nature of our problem. His management of his campaign would get him fired in short order from the tiniest Silicon Valley startup. His willingness to poison the well of public discourse, should he lose, will leave this nation with ungovernable distrust. This is not the action of a patriot.

While there are many admirable aspects of Mr. McCain's character, he is not a man for these times. We do not need to "fight, fight, fight," a phrase Mr. McCain seems to relish, we need to listen, persuade and lead.

Over nearly two years I have read much about both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, have watched them in action, and believe that my children's future is in better hands with Mr. Obama.

Thanks again for having your story told.

Posted by: boscobobb | October 22, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Hi again, Boscobobb,

I would like to invite you and your spouse to Kansas for a 2 or 3 day vacation. I would pay half of your travel expenses if you agree to journey here in the next few months. I would ask you also to agree to enjoy some of the best prime beef produced here ( I will intercept some of the New York bound resturant steaks ) tour a typical grain farm, an ethanol production facility, and finally some great country lodging - all of course on me. Thanks for your time!

Greg Stone

Posted by: gdstone | October 22, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

As one who currently lives in Topeka and whose job takes him all over the state, I understand southwest Kansas better than many. It's a region whose entire economy is based on mining water from underground to irrigate semi-arid land in order to grow corn in what is essentially a desert. Then they use corn as a raw material to manufacture three things: red meat, ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup.

No part of that economy could survive for 10 minutes without a massive infusion of state and federal tax subsidies. And let's not even talk about how much additional subsidy it takes to run their schools, build their roads, or provide health care to the huge segment of their population (including many farmers) who can't afford private insurance. No way does that area generate the tax revenues needed to pay any part of their own freight.

And yet, that's the region that continually elects politicians at both the state and national level who live by the mantra, "Get government off the backs of the people." Of course, they exempt themselves from that rule, under the pretext that we need to support salt-of-the-earth farmers like them, because they (unlike the taxpayers who support them)are the ones who stand up for solid, middle-American values ... like independence and self-reliance.


Posted by: pqhancok | October 23, 2008 1:01 AM | Report abuse


Thanks for the generous invite.

I know you're a long way from Kansas City, where I worked with Sprint on a massive project 20 years ago and enjoyed quite a few pounds of fine Kansas beef, not enough of it from Arthur Bryant's BBQ.

Over 30 years ago I drove across a fair amount of Kansas on US 160, passing a bit south of Garden City, on my way to Colorado.

Last time I was in Kansas, about 10 years ago, it was 106 degrees when driving to visit relatives in Wisconsin. I suspect the next few months it will be a bit ...chillier. I usually fly to Wisconsin to see my 90+ year old aunt and cousin.

For the next few months I can't take time for a break because our company has some tough delivery deadlines to meet, but I will certainly remember your kind invitation. If I can eat duck tongues in Beijing I can certainly enjoy some decent steaks in Garden City and chat about ethanol. Have you looked into switchgrass?

best wishes

Posted by: boscobobb | October 23, 2008 2:59 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Stone,
Your responses to the comments posted have reconfirmed my faith in Kansans and, more surprising, renewed my hope for civil discourse on the internet.

Just wanted to say thanks for a couple things. First, for being willing to share your views so candidly. Next, for having the courage and work ethic to be a farmer. The rest of us depend on you folks.

About your U.S. citizen hat: when I put mine on, I found I had to support Obama. I trust you'll consider a range of issues as you make your choice this election. Whichever way you decide, thanks for showing how we can exchange views on important issues with respect, in good faith.

Best wishes and good harvest.

Posted by: MEppinger | October 23, 2008 3:53 AM | Report abuse

This is great discussion and is covering many issues which face our country.

Mr.pqhancok, you are very wrong about southwest kansas's economy. By far, our "freight" is carried by natural gas and oil production which dwarfs agriculture, and is a constant source of irritation of many in this area who believe the tax revenues sent to topeka are very unfair and should be kept and used here in sw ks.

Corn grown in the U.S. is almost all used for livestock feed in some manner. About 30 percent of the 2008 crop will pass thru an ethanol facility somewhere. 100% of the distillers grains left after the starch is removed is used for livestock feeding as a refined ingredient that contains all the protien, vitamins, and minerals that the corn began with. The protien supply in this country is not affected one bit, this is the part I don't believe most people understand. For beef cattle feeding, the sugar is undesirable in the diets fed. A very small part of the crop is used to produce corn syrup for human consumption, and again the good parts of the kernal are left for other uses!

Boscobobb, MEppinger, I would like to meet you folks someday! You sound very interesting and thoughtful. Please write back with any questions or comments.

Greg Stone

Posted by: gdstone | October 23, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Stone,

You are one to be admired, for your willingness to stand up for a candidate with thoughtful reasons. I also greatly respect your dedication to your land and state, although I believe that in the coming years you will discover that it will be President Obama who has better served not only your interests but all of those in Kansas as well. But to the main point of writing again, I want to say how encouraged I am of the tone this particular blog has taken since it was first posted. Unlike many such postings (in this series and elsewhere) it has been productive, positive and uplifting. I believe, you Mr Stone, by your articulate and reasoned response set that direction. You are a Kansasan through and through, but above all you also are a model of what a good American it a red or blue American. May your day be with cheer.

Posted by: mytake1 | October 23, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Dear mytake1,

To be mentioned a model American by you is an honor! It would be a pleasure to cross paths with you someday. A cheerful day to you as well.

Greg Stone

Posted by: gdstone | October 23, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I am SOOOOOOOOOOO glad to be out of Kansas after having been there way too long. And my point is not to bag on Kansas, my point is to bag on the backward, brain dead, inward simpleminded perspective that talks before it thinks - if it ever really thinks.
I know you mean well, but testosterone influence scare tactics and war mongered machismo is not using your brain - nor knowing you should.

Posted by: Bushlegacylies | October 23, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I was elated to hear McCain speak out against corn subsidies. I just wish however, that he would have explained it better---there just is not enough time (it would have been a great discussion in town hall meetings if Obama would have stepped up) The problem is that most Americans are clueless about their food supply. Almost every single thing we eat has corn in it--and that is no exageration!! Even shampoos and soaps and all kinds of products are made from corn---the body cannot stand too much of something--that is one way it becomes sensitized to it (and that is just with natural corn---which is replaced by the GMO monster) The fact that Obama is doing so well in Iowa and other corn growing states is should be an immediate clue as to where he really stands. Corn is the most subsidized crop--and most corn farmers are making around $200,000 a year so they don't need these subsidies anymore. But because they get tons of taxpayer money and no caps on their production, other crops suffer, like sugar cane. That is why we have high fructose corn syrup in sodas and not the logical better tasting real sugar. Despite recent TV ads, corn syrup is not healthy and natural--it is anything but--especially now that it is all GMO "Frankenfood" In fact, it is deadly to someone like me, and believe me, there are more and more of us. They know that GMO corn causes allergic reactions but the almighty dollar is worth more than lives. It is affecting children terribly, terrribly. It is such a major problem. The FDA won't recognize corn as the major food allergen it is because of politics and no one, except McCain has the guts to go up against the corn lobby- who is all-powerful. Corn ethanol biofuel is a total joke--take about corruption, and so is Barack Obama. I spend an absolute fortune on food--and it is very difficult to find food---meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables, iodized salt, natural and artificial flavors, all those ingredients you don't know what they are like mono and diglycerides, citric acid, lactic acid, maltodextrin, dextrose, etc. etc. etc. the amount of corn in our food it beyond astronomical. And voting for Barack will make it worse and also your price for food, not just mine worse because of the biofuel scam.

Posted by: shell_f | October 24, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

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