By TIM HEARDEN
REDDING, Calif. -- Former presidential adviser Karl Rove said farmers have "moral authority" when it comes to political advocacy and that their work is "part of the American ethic."
Though only 2 percent of the American population is directly involved in agriculture, "they can have a big impact" by telling their story to friends, relatives, people they worship with and do business with, he said.
"Even if you live in a big city, a small town or a medium-sized community, the idea of a family farm or family ranch resonates heavily," Rove told the Capital Press before headlining a political fund-raiser on May 10. "It's part of the American ethic."
Rove is touring the country to promote his book, "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."
His comments about agriculture come as many farmers and ranchers complain of feeling as though they are under siege by regulations and potential legislation, including the proposed cap-and-trade climate change bill, and an increasing number are using social media to present their views.
Rove said he doesn't expect cap-and-trade legislation to pass this year.
"Congress is unlikely to take up contentious issues like this," he said. "There are House members who are already suffering badly in their re-election efforts because they voted for the cap-and-trade energy tax, and as a result I think the Senate has little appetite for taking it up."
Rove also has low expectations for immigration reform, another hot-button issue for farm groups. Cattle and grazing organizations have called for stepped-up border patrol efforts on public lands after 58-year-old rancher Robert Krentz of Douglas, Ariz., was murdered in March by a suspected illegal immigrant.
Farm groups have been pushing for the AgJOBS bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which would make it easier for farmers to import guestworkers and allow undocumented farmworkers to gain legal status.
The Bush administration's immigration reform was voted down in the Senate in 2007 after critics said it providing amnesty to illegal immigrants.
Rove lashed out at President Barack Obama's handling of the immigration issue, particularly his criticism of a controversial Arizona law mandating state enforcement of federal immigration law. Obama said recently the state law would cause immigrants to be singled out based on how they looked and spoke.
"The president has done nothing to prepare the ground for comprehensive immigration reform," Rove said. "If he were serious about this, he would not be saying some of the things he did."