With the November vote still weeks away, polls show that Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s re-election bid remains a tough slog. Rep. John Boozman, a veteran legislator who represents northwest Arkansas’ Third District and wants Lincoln’s Senate seat, intends to make it even tougher.

Lincoln may be suffering whiplash after weathering a challenge mounted by progressives during the spring primaries and then abruptly facing Boozman, an unabashed right-winger.

However, any voter trying to draw out differences won’t find much rhetorical space between the candidates on several key agricultural issues. Both candidates fawn over agriculture, both sound the alarm about the dangers of agricultural imports, both claim the estate tax is wrong, both are for trade deals and push reforms on U.S./Cuba policy.

Will agriculture-steeped Arkansans push aside Lincoln’s undeniably valuable role as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee for Boozman’s drum-beating and promises regarding spending controls, radical tax reform and cultural issues? If current polls and anti-incumbency fervor hold up, the answer is “yes.”

Boozman spoke with Delta Farm Presson Sept. 17 and touched on his ties to state agriculture, studying up on row crops, funding for agricultural bills (including the recently announced 2009 disaster payments), immigration and his support for a national sales tax. Among his comments:

On ties to agriculture in Arkansas…

“I represent the Third District of Arkansas and we have a tremendous amount of agriculture in that part of the state. There are lots of beef cattle and poultry, although not as many row crops.

“For the last nine years, I’ve worked very, very hard to understand the row crop industry. Stanley Reed, former president of (Arkansas) Farm Bureau, is a good friend and has been instrumental in helping me in that regard.

“The other thing is — and I understood very quickly when I came into office — agriculture is so important to our state. Because of that, again, I’ve been very, very supportive (of agriculture) and will continue to do that…

“I used to have a bunch of cows and my family was very active in showing cattle. That was a big part of our lives. Next to church, probably the biggest influence on my family was 4-H. My girls were very active and all state record-book winners in 4-H. They showed cows all over the place.”