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Obama, McCain not sweet on sugar?

Neither major presidential candidate appears to have a sweet tooth - at least when it comes to subsidizing the American sugar industry.

"I would stop subsidizing sugar," Republican John McCain flatly said the other day on "60 Minutes."

In 2005, Democrat Barack Obama wrote in the Chicago Tribune that he opposed "indefensible sugar subsidies that benefit a handful of wealthy growers."

While McCain is a strong opponent of most agricultural subsidies, Obama generally is a supporter.

"It provides a strong safety net for farmers," Obama recently wrote about subsidies, "and gives them the certainty needed in a sector that provides an important human resource - food - amidst the unpredictable dynamics of weather and markets."

Obama's campaign lately has been hard to pin down about his stance on subsidies to help make ethanol from corn. That process has been getting bad press of late, and the Obama camp apparently is not anxious to get into that debate.

McCain has not avoided the controversy. He famously walked into an Iowa meeting - in the middle of corn country - and declared he is against corn ethanol subsidies. Period. End of conversation.

Obama groups thriving

Obama's supporters in North Dakota may have lost the luxury of more than 50 paid campaign staffers in 11 cities - who were pulled out a week ago - but are mushing on, grassroots-style.

In at least three cities - Fargo, Bismarck and Minot - efforts continue apace. In Fargo and Bismarck, the offices that the campaign rented remain open, thanks to volunteers.

Volunteers statewide are using the "Find Events" tool on and other means to spread the word about what they're doing.

In Fargo, supporters list plans for phone-bank work and are continuing door-knocking in the community under "Canvass for Change: Fargo Revival."

"Howdy folks," the Fargo volunteers write, "After a slight bump in the road, we're back up and running in downtown Fargo."

The Obama Web site has Bismarck supporters plugging a "North Dakota Grassroots for Obama Organizational Meeting" this Tuesday. "We are refusing to give up on North Dakota! We have formed our own grassroots organization and need help more than ever," they write.

Obama fans are urged to bring their own chairs to the meeting because they ran out during a previous gathering of the new volunteer group.

Farm group says 'no'

The Minnesota Farm Bureau has come out against a constitutional amendment that would boost the state sales tax to support outdoors and arts programs.

Farm Bureau President Kevin Papp joined former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams in opposing the plan to slightly raise the sales tax for the next 25 years. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce also opposes the proposal.

"If this measure passes, it will result in a tax increase of over $11 billion over the next 25 years," Papp said.

The Minnesota Taxpayers League, leading the vote-no campaign, has $100,000 to spend on its first round of radio commercials and lawn signs against the amendment, which voters will decide in the Nov. 4 election. League President Phil Krinkie said more ads are on the way, but he will not have nearly the $4 million-plus amendment proponents likely will spend.

Debates and more debates

The Democrats' insurance commissioner candidate, Rep. Jasper Schneider of Fargo, sent out a news release last week with the headline, "Schneider urges Hamm to respond to debate requests."

His opponent, incumbent commissioner Adam Hamm, found it curious. He said Friday that they have eight debates either scheduled, in the planning stages or already completed, and wondered if any other political race this year in North Dakota has anywhere near that.

Great Seal controversy isn't

State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, a Republican seeking re-election this year, has caught some grief from Democrats who think she illegally uses the state's Great Seal on a non-state Web site.

The issue is a link on her office's Web site,, that goes to

The Tomorrow's Money site and material actually comes from the Bond Market Foundation, but there is the state's Great Seal at the top of the page, along with Schmidt's name.

State law greatly restricts who can use the Great Seal and how. It can't be used for commercial purposes.

But Schmidt said Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who by law is the official custodian of the seal, told her it is OK.

Schmidt's Democratic-NPL opponent is Mitch Vance of Bismarck.