By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
PALMYRA, Mo. -- U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has come out swinging after last week's primary election.
During her third day of a statewide "Fighting for Our Farmers" tour, McCaskill was on offense against Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Todd Akin.
"I'm not sure Congressman Akin understands how bad the situation is" with the drought and prolonged heat wave, McCaskill told a group gathered at the Lowell Schachtsiek farm near Palmyra.
She said Akin is among the U.S. House members who have stalled the Farm Bill passed by the Senate that would cut $23 billion in spending but sustain a protective net for farmers. She said this year's drought makes it important to move the Farm Bill forward so that farmers know what protections are in place.
"It's the tea party that's blocking it, and my opponent is part of that," McCaskill said.
McCaskill has been touring rural areas of the state since Monday, seeking the support of Missouri's farmers and rural residents who have been more inclined to support Republicans in recent elections. It also comes on the heels of Friday's vote by the Missouri Farm Bureau Political Action Committee to support Akin after meetings with both candidates.
In Schachtsiek's machine shed, McCaskill stood in front of a banner from the National Farmers Union -- which generally supports Democrats -- and said if farm groups compared her voting record to Akin's and didn't consider their names or party affiliations, she would win the endorsements.
"If I didn't have a D behind my name I'd be doing really, really well," McCaskill said.
She said Akin, who has served a suburban St. Louis House district for 12 years, has never supported a Farm Bill.
Akin has pledged his support for farm-related portions of the House and Senate versions, but opposes the Food Stamp program taking up 80 percent of the program's costs.
During a question-answer session, a man thanked McCaskill for voting in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He recently got more than $800 back from his insurance company.
McCaskill said the refund was due to a rule that insurance companies must spend 80 cents of every dollar on health care claims, and limits overhead costs. If those conditions are not met a percentage of the premiums must be returned to customers.
Janice Schnitzler of Monroe City urged McCaskill to find a better way to explain the Affordable Care Act, saying she often hears from those at the Monroe City Senior Nutrition Center that they don't like the law.
"I think people don't understand it. You need to put it in simple language ... so people can understand what it does," Schnitzler said.
McCaskill said people who oppose health care reform often object to it being "a government program." McCaskill then tells them it's offered through private insurance companies. In her opinion that beats the "current mandate program" that forces hospital emergency rooms to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay and spreads out the cost among patients that are insured or paying their own bills.
"I think people are going to be shocked when this goes into effect and see ... it gives us a place to go and share our risks," McCaskill said.
McCaskill told one farmer there are both state and federal programs to help farmers drill wells for farm uses. The state program offers a 90-percent cost share, but must be used in a limited amount of time. The federal program offers a 50-percent cost share, but is not facing such tight time constraints.
Schachtsiek had a number of small corn cobs on display that he believes are a fair representation of what corn farmers all over Missouri will find during harvest.
"We've got one field that was planted on March 18. A month ago, I thought it would make 100 bushels per acre. Now I think it's going to be closer to 50 or 60 bushels," he said.
McCaskill said that's why she wants to see a Farm Bill and its programs in place.
"Most Missourians don't understand that this (drought) is a crisis. They can't see the damage like we see if there's a tornado," McCaskill said.