The 2020 election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 3. With that in mind, Country Folks reached out to those seeking the highest offices in each of the states in our coverage areas, asking them for their goals and plans for the agricultural sector. Many did not respond to our queries; therefore, we sought out information from their websites. Responses directly from candidates will not include the “NO RESPONSE” disclaimer. Note: some information has been edited for space.
- New York Representatives: 23rd District, Tom Reed vs. Tracy Mitrano; 24th District, John Katko vs. Dana Balter; 25th District, Joe Morelle vs. George Mitris; 27th District, Chris Jacobs vs. Nate McMurray
- Reed – NO RESPONSE. His website states small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Western NY and their success is critical to ensuring economic prosperity for generations to come. Reed believes that low-cost energy is another key driver of job creation and economic growth. It’s why he supports an all-of-the-above approach to our energy needs to improve our nation’s energy infrastructure, incentivize energy exploration and promote the development of the workforce of tomorrow.
Mitrano – NO RESPONSE. She says, “A lack of support for our farms has made other challenges that farmers face more difficult, such as increased state regulations and high taxes, the absence of broadband connectivity and corporate consolidation. Extreme weather events and the failure to engage the EPA and the USDA to mitigate those impacts have in many cases resulted in record numbers of farms foreclosures. On the domestic front, I am greatly concerned by the lack of funding and support for the USDA, which provides our farmers with the latest research and agricultural strategies to survive and thrive in these turbulent times. We need to make it easier for young people and new farmers to get into farming and find mentors, to access affordable loans and get up to date research on climate change.” She supports incentives for the USDA to pursue more robust trade deals for our ag products; expanding the definition of “family” in the NY Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act to include more extended family; the passage of the Young Farmer Success Act, which would designate farmers as employees in public service jobs, making them eligible for loan forgiveness under the Federal Direct Loan program; fully funding, staffing and supporting the USDA; expanding the migrant program for dairy farmers to year-round cycles; increasing broadband connectivity to every farm; and finding an immediate end to the trade war and tariffs that are hurting our farmers and limiting their access to foreign markets while exploring other methods and approaches with allied partners around the world.
- Katko – NO RESPONSE. Katko knows different parts of the district have different priorities and needs. He has pushed for policies that help the region’s agricultural sector, worked to ensure funding for important anti-poverty and nutrition assistance grant programs, supported improvements to the region’s infrastructure and advocated for the region’s tourism industry.
Balter – The people of the 24th district need a seat at the table when the agriculture policy agenda is being set; that’s why I want to serve on the House Agriculture Committee in Congress. My primary focus on the committee will be to make sure small- and medium-sized farms – 97% of the farms in our district – have the support they need to thrive. Too often, our ag policies are dictated by giant agribusinesses and the lobbyists they hire to protect their interests, and that’s why I’ll prioritize the interests of small farms and family farmers to ensure that farming remains a viable way to make a living for current and future generations. In Congress, I will work to support our district’s farmers by breaking up “Big Ag” to end their stranglehold on ag policy. I will promote sustainable ag practices and ensure we provide assistance for our small- and medium-sized farms to adopt new technologies and practices. I’ll also work to help establish and support regional food hubs, so that our farmers have customers in their local region and direct access to markets to sell their products. These hubs would also help us combat food deserts in our region and guarantee that people in our community have access to fresh healthy food that’s grown in their local communities.
- Morelle – NO RESPONSE. During his first term in Congress Joe has been working tirelessly to advance laws that protect clean air, clean water, and preserve our open spaces. And he is fighting to reduce carbon pollution, increase our nation’s reliance on clean, renewable energies, and ensure that climate solutions do not disproportionately impact American workers and vulnerable communities. In Congress, Morelle co-sponsored HR230, the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act; HR1497, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act; and others focused on the environment.
Mitris – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- Jacobs – NO RESPONSE. Western NY is home to hundreds of farms that make up the largest economic driver and sector in our state. Jacobs knows our farms are a major employer and economic force in our region. They are also critically important to our regional identity. We not only must assure our farms survive but they grow and thrive for future generations. Jacobs has been a staunch advocate for our great farmers. He is looking to establish a regular congressional forum where he can meet with farmers and hear firsthand the issues they are facing every day.
McMurray – NO RESPONSE. He writes, “Family farms have always been the backbone of Western NY’s culture and economy. As your representative, I will support farming businesses and communities. As Grand Island Town Supervisor I have supported the expansion of Grand Island’s agricultural district and developed an Ag and Markets Comprehensive Plan for the town. As your representative I will find new markets for agricultural products and I will use my experience in international business to help local farmers sell their products at home and abroad. I will also pursue sensible immigration policies that ensure a robust and stable labor force in the USA.”
- Pennsylvania Representatives: 12th District, Lee Griffin vs. Fred Keller; 15th District, Glenn “GT” Thompson vs. Robert Williams; 16th District, Mike Kelly vs. Kristy Gnibus
- Griffin – Between severe weather, changes in market demand and trade wars, PA farmers have had eight rough years, and we need a representative who will stand by our farmers and address the issues they face and I am that person. Dairy in our commonwealth has been particularly hard hit in recent years, with a decrease in demand for milk and the introduction of alternative products. I support Federal Milk Marketing Order reform to help address issues in milk pricing and I will continue to support programs like the Dairy Margin Coverage program which helps farmers mitigate risks from changing market prices. This administration’s trade wars have resulted in a loss of market share that has hit our farmers hard. I will work to find new international markets and expand current international markets for our farmers’ produce. Farms and farmers also struggle with access to broadband internet, as many people in rural communities do. This is necessary infrastructure, not just for a farm’s business operations but for telemedicine which rural communities rely on, and for simply checking Doppler radar maps. I will vote for long overdue funding and accelerated deployment of broadband internet in rural areas. A changing climate is causing changes in growing conditions that negatively impact crop yields. Just this year, much of PA has been under drought, making for smaller harvests and less revenue for farmers. I will take climate change head on by voting to invest in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency programs and setting targets for getting to carbon neutral to avoid even more drastic impacts of climate change. I will continue to listen and learn from our farmers about the evolving challenges they face and work with my colleagues from both parties to pass legislation to support our farmers.
Keller – NO RESPONSE. Keller is committed to supporting PA agriculture and making sure the policies passed in the halls of Congress put our farming families first. Understanding how his stepdad managed his family farm, Keller understands firsthand the issues PA farmers face. He remains committed to always being available to help our farmers. In Congress, he maintains a strong record supporting PA agriculture. Whether in the halls of the Capitol, at the annual Farm Show or Ag Progress Days or meeting with farm families in the district, supporting local farmers and the commonwealth’s $7 billion ag industry has always been a top priority for Keller. He supports the president’s effort to renegotiate trade deals so that we have a free and fair trade system that allows American farmers and companies to be competitive in the global marketplace. He also supports rolling back excessive regulations and reforming our tax code, including repealing the “death tax,” so that farming can remain a generational undertaking.
- Thompson – NO RESPONSE. “As a descendent of dairy farmers, I am proud to be an active member of the House Agriculture Committee,” he writes. “Previously, I served as vice chairman of the committee and currently serve as ranking member of the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee.” Key issues Thompson plans to focus on are the Farm Bill implementation, rural development, promoting forest products and dairy. “With Pennsylvania ranking fourth in production among the states, dairy is the largest sector of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry. Unfortunately, many dairy farmers around the nation have endured great difficulties in the past decade due to depressed prices and lower consumption. The 2018 Farm Bill reworked the prior dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) and replaced it with the Dairy Margin Coverage Program (DMC). Along with revamping the safety net, more must be done to promote the nutritional value that dairy provides. In 2010, legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law that prohibited nutritious varieties of milk from being served in the National School Lunch Program. I have introduced legislation that would provide schools the option to once again serve nutritious whole milk to kids.”
Williams – NO RESPONSE. PA’s 15th District bridges, roads and transportation systems, airports and railroads need to be modernized to keep our travelers safe, our economy on time, and attract businesses looking to invest in the 15th District and the entirety of PA.
- Kelly – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
Gnibus – NO RESPONSE. Gnibus understands that climate change is real and in Congress she’ll take decisive action – because this is not an issue that can wait any longer. Transitioning to a clean-energy economy will help create jobs in PA and secure a healthy future for Western PA families.