Country Folks Eastern edition candidates’ guide on agriculture
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: 1st District, Lee Zeldin vs. Nancy Goroff; 2nd District, Jackie Gordon vs. Andrew Garbarino; 3rd District, Tom Suozzi vs. George Devolder Santos; 18th District, Sean Maloney vs. Chele Farley; 19th District, Antonio Delgado vs. Kyle Van De Water; 20th District, Paul Tonko vs. Liz Joy; 21st District, Elise Stefanik vs. Tedra Cobb; 22nd District, Anthony Brindisi vs. Claudia Tenney
- Zeldin – NO RESPONSE. Zeldin has cosponsored HR3232, the Young Farmer Success Act, which expands the public service employee loan forgiveness program to include certain farmers or ranchers as public service professionals who are eligible for forgivingness of federal student loans.
Goroff – NO RESPONSE. On her website, she states, “We need to protect our water supply. The federal government must take action to protect against contaminants such as PFAS and dioxane that threaten our groundwater.”
- Gordon – NO RESPONSE. “Here on Long Island, we’ve experienced firsthand the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation. Groundwater contamination, pollution of our Great South Bay and rising sea levels present imminent threats to our local economy and quality of life. As your representative, I will fight to preserve our clean water, combat carbon pollution and stop the dangerous rollback of environmental protections in Washington,” Gordon writes on her website.
Garbarino – NO RESPONSE. Garbarino says on his website, “The Great South Bay is one of our community’s greatest resources. Protecting the bay is in our best interest to both protect our environment and our economy.” He has voted to protect Long Island residents whose primary source of drinking water is from a federally designated sole source aquifer by providing new regulatory authority to counties and local governments over mining activities and eliminating current permit exemptions for mining relating to construction activities and agricultural activities.
- Suozzi – NO RESPONSE. Suozzi believes that climate change is real and requires bold solutions to leave a healthier and more sustainable world behind for future generations.
Devolder Santos – NO RESPONSE. Devolder Santos believes in reforestation to reduce urban heat islands – New York, like all cities, experiences heat retention which drives energy use; contributing to this issue is urban deforestation. The U.S. loses approximately 36 million urban trees every year. Reforestation would yield many positive benefits including urban climate moderation, improved air and water quality, and reduced CO2 and building energy use; property protection – the continued study and construction of barriers (berms, wetlands restoration, raised parks and sea walls) to protect our property against traumatic events like Hurricane Sandy; and moving past bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor which is a severe threat to human and animal life.
- Maloney – NO RESPONSE. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Maloney fights for family farms because farming is vital to the Hudson Valley’s economy and our way of life. Our farmers create thousands of jobs, boost our economy and provide good food to our community. Since coming to Congress, Maloney has championed policies that support our nation’s farmers. He lists key legislation he’s been involved with: The Creating Reliability for Our Producers (CROP) Act, a bill which reforms the specialty crop insurance program by investing in the development of new and improved plans that better protect small, diversified family farms; support for farmers in the Black Dirt Region – to address local flooding issues in important ag areas of Orange County, the bill includes language secured by Maloney directing the Ag Secretary to work with producers whose operations contain muck soils like those in the Hudson Valley; the Young and Beginning Farmers Act, which reauthorized the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and combined with Socially Disadvantaged and Vet Farmers program to create the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program with permanent mandatory funding; the Local FARMS Act, which created the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), combining the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and the Value-Added Producers Grant Program (VAPG) at $60 million/year; and the Whole Farm Crop Insurance Improvement Act, which requires the Risk Management Agency to develop a plan to cover more specialty and value-added crops and expands the definition of “beginning farmer and rancher” from a five- to 10-year qualification window for Whole Farm Revenue Protection.
Farley – NO RESPONSE. From balancing economic growth with environmental conservation and preventing overdevelopment, the Hudson Valley has unique needs. As a member of Congress, I will bring people together to solve these problems, not just talk about them. The federal government has a responsibility to address contamination in our local water supply as well as harmful algae blooms infesting area lakes. We also need critical investments in the region’s infrastructure to create … expanded opportunities for everyone in the Hudson Valley.
- Delgado – NO RESPONSE. The farmers in our district have been forced to endure the detrimental impacts of bad trade policies and an unfair Farm Bill. Our district is home to more than 5,000 farms and over 8,000 farm operators. Almost 20% of the land that makes up NY’s 19th is dedicated to farmland. We need to work together to protect our small and medium sized farms and the farming industry while also building out the necessary regional infrastructure to ensure that our farmers are able to have access to the $6 billion of unmet demand for local and organically grown food in New York City. I will work to protect our local farms, making sure that necessary subsidies reach the people who actually need it. Farmers I’ve talked with in our district have told me they don’t want aid, they just want to earn a livable income from their business. We should help them by passing legislation to conserve and protect our environment, provide access to credit and business training for small rural farms, invest in preparing the next generation of farmers in our community and fund programs like SNAP and those incentivizing purchases at local farmers markets. I am committed to listening to our local farmers and working hard to make sure their needs are put before those of any mega farm or big corporation.
Van De Water – NO RESPONSE. Van De Water agreed with President Trump’s statement, “USMCA is a great deal for all three countries, solves the many deficiencies and mistakes in NAFTA, greatly opens markets to our farmers and manufacturers, reduces trade barriers to the U.S. and will bring all three great nations together in competition with the rest of the world.” He believes we need to continue to open markets for NY-19 farmers. Farmers should not be forced to dump milk; instead, the demand should be so high that their farms grow and grow. The pandemic showed us how supply lines for food are disrupted. The farmers feed us. Keeping farms local means that the people of NY-19 do not need to rely on food sources outside of NY-19.
- Tonko – New York family farms and agricultural engineers are drivers of our economy and defenders of our national food security. In Congress, I will continue to work every day for dairy farmers to get a fair price for their product – including cost of production, supporting local organic farmers, tackling climate change, ensuring adequate foreign visas for harvest and broadband access to connect family farms with the 21st century economy.
Joy – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- Stefanik – New York’s 21st Congressional District is home to a vast, diverse and vibrant agricultural supply. Since my first term in Congress, I have made North Country farmers a priority and effectively advocated for their needs. I was able to successfully advocate for North Country farmers during the 2018 Farm Bill negotiations, including provisions for invasive species protection, expansion of rural broadband, specialty crops and dairy farms. Agricultural labor continues to be a challenge for our North Country farmers. I was proud this past fall to cosponsor and vote in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, bipartisan legislation that would modernize the H-2A process and give farms and employees more certainty, especially for dairy operations. I was proud to be a leading voice in Congress for the passage of the USMCA trade agreement. I have also advocated for expanding U.S. dairy market access in countries like Japan, who demand the high quality dairy products that our country can produce. I am a cosponsor and have voted in favor of bipartisan legislation to increase access to rural broadband, which is an issue that affects all North Country residents. Agriculture is increasingly reliant on advanced technologies to improve efficiency, and broadband is at the center of that effort. I successfully led the upstate New York Congressional delegation in advocating for direct payments to our dairy farmers through CFAP. Moving forward, I will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to combat government over-regulation, expand agricultural market access to free and fair trade, uphold important conservation programs, expand access to rural broadband and keep in constant contact with our farmers to meet their changing needs and effectively represent them.
Cobb – NO RESPONSE. Cobb has a vision that includes protecting the natural resources of air, water, land and forests; supporting innovation that connects environmental protection with economic growth; and preparing for future repercussions from climate change. She also aims to increase funding for research on sustainable and organic farming and forestry, strengthen public-private investment in environmental tourism and agritourism and support farmland conservation initiatives. Cobb knows that the environment is not a luxury for the farmers, families and small businesses that depend on pristine natural resources. She will fight to protect constituents from pollution, over-development and neglect. She also sees enormous benefits from connecting environmental sustainability with economic development initiatives.
- Brindisi – NO RESPONSE. I am proud to represent a community that is more than 50% rural, with thousands of small family farms that feed our nation and put food on our shelves. Too often, however, our small farming communities are left behind by a broken Washington that puts politics over solutions. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am working with members of both parties to support our farmers and producers. I am proud to work with my Upstate Agriculture Advisory Committee to focus on the issues that matter to NY farmers. One of the first bills I introduced in Congress was bipartisan legislation to make it easier for farmers to hire the workers they need to keep their doors open. In 2019, the House of Representatives passed my bill as part of a once in a generation compromise on immigration reform. This legislation gives more certainty to our farmers and strengthens the E-Verify system to make sure that workers are here legally. We have also worked to support our dairy men and women by cracking down on the false labeling of plant-based beverages as milk. We are supporting bipartisan legislation to get more whole milk in schools. We are also working to expand access to healthcare in rural NY. Tragically, the rate of suicide in rural parts of our country is 45% higher than in urban areas. We need to provide more support and outreach in small towns and communities. That’s why I introduced legislation to expand mental healthcare outreach in farming communities.
Tenney – I fought to get dairy farmers and other agriculture a better deal in the USMCA. We need to extend those successes further – to Europe, Latin America and Asia. Our tax reform cut taxes for businesses, especially farmers, and the REINS Act means burdensome regulations are eliminated. I worked to pass the 2018 Farm Bill which modernized the dairy support system and gives farmers and other producers greater flexibility. I advocated that Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue allow dairy farmers to apply for the MPP program in 2018 – he fully implemented this request. I co-sponsored the School Milk Nutrition Act, which allows schools the option to offer low-fat (1%) milk to students rather than just fat-free, establishes a pilot program to increase milk consumption and allows those in the WIC program to select reduced-fat milk (2%) for themselves or their children. I co-sponsored the WHOLE MILK Act to allow schools to offer whole milk in school lunches. The primary challenges facing farmers in Central NY and the Southern Tier are the business restrictions and resulting economic slowdown which are hurting our farmers’ ability to find a market for their goods at a fair price. I supported the original Senate version of the CARES Act, which allocated $50 billion to agricultural relief programs. When I return to Congress, I will work to ensure farmers have the resources needed to return to full production safely, efficiently and profitably. In Congress, I sponsored bipartisan legislation (The Ag and Legal Workforce Act) to modernize our farm worker visa program. It would expedite the process, provide visa quota flexibility for seasonal and year-round employees and cut red tape so farmers can focus on their businesses, not government paperwork. It also implements an effective and efficient system to verify the immigration status of prospective workers online.
- Pennsylvania Representatives: 8th District, Matt Cartwright vs. Jim Bognet; 12th District, Lee Griffin vs. Fred Keller
- Cartwright – NO RESPONSE. He supports investing in clean energy technologies to combat climate change, finding newer, better uses for older forms of energy production and making infrastructure more resilient against intensifying extreme weather events. He’s the leader of bipartisan legislation to clean up toxic acid mine drainage from rivers and streams.
Bognet – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- 12. 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.
- New Jersey Senate: Cory Booker vs. Rik Mehta
Booker – NO RESPONSE. Last year, Booker unveiled legislation to revitalize independent family farm agriculture and ensure a level playing field for all farmers and ranchers. The Farm System Reform Act aimed to strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act to crack down on the monopolistic practices of multi-national meatpackers and corporate integrators, place a moratorium on large industrial animal operations, sometimes referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements. More action was made on the act this May.
Mehta – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- New Jersey Representatives: 1st District, Donald Norcross vs. Claire Gustafson; 2nd District, Amy Kennedy vs. Jeff Van Drew; 3rd District, Andy Kim vs. David Richter; 4th District, Stephanie Schmid vs. Chris Smith; 5th District, Josh Gottheimer vs. Frank Pallotta; 7th District, Tom Malinowski vs. Tom Kean Jr.; 11th District, Mikie Sherrill vs. Rosemary Becchi; 12th District, Bonnie Watson Coleman vs. Mark Razzoli
- Norcross – NO RESPONSE. Norcross’s website says, “Thirty-five years have passed since the Superfund was created to enforce clean up of toxic sites across the country. New Jersey alone has 118 contaminated and abandoned sites, and all of them can be transformed into productive regions through the Superfund’s cleanup initiative, so I’ve worked hard to bring those resources back to our state. I’m proud to be a strong supporter of animal rights and organizations like the Humane Society of the U.S. that work to ensure dignity and respect for all animal life.”
Gustafson – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- Kennedy – NO RESPONSE. “Our farms and fisheries face enormous challenges. Labor shortages threaten production and have been exacerbated by the coronavirus. Reckless and irrational trade wars have cut off access to markets. Development threatens farmland. And it is too difficult to start a farm, and often too expensive to maintain one. In Congress, I will be a champion for our farmers, fishers and producers, partnering with them to protect, grow and sustain a strong and vibrant agricultural sector. New Jersey is the most densely populated state, making it important and difficult to protect South Jersey’s productive ag land. Our state does more than any other to preserve farmland, and in Congress, I will be a champion of these efforts. I will work to increase funding for USDA-NRCS … and I will fight for favorable tax policies for farmers and producers. Farmers also need access to a legal, reliable workforce. I will work to make the Farm Workforce Modernization Act law. I will work to increase investments in grant programs that support local markets and dynamic or emerging ag practices.” Kennedy also aims to help new and beginning farmers, promote fair competition, advance common sense trade policies and fight climate change.
Van Drew – NO RESPONSE. “New Jersey is the Garden State and that is because we have one of the biggest and best agriculture industries (valued at over $1 billion a year) in the country. Here in South Jersey, we have a strong farming history and these family farms work every day to put food on our tables. It is imperative that we promote policy that will protect this industry and its huge contribution to our economic success,” he writes on his website.
- Kim – Our district is home to hundreds of farms and agriculture makes up a huge segment of our economy. As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we need to do everything we can to support our farms and ensure they cannot just return to their pre-pandemic normal, but emerge stronger and more successful than before. In Congress, I’m working to do exactly that. Right now, I’m fighting for the direct aid our farmers need to get through the pandemic. Cranberry and blueberry farmers as well as those who sell direct-to-restaurant are facing huge obstacles as they seek to stay in business, and I’m working on the Small Business Committee to ensure they have access to the loans and grants they need. As we begin the long road to recovery, I’m also working to secure support for local agriculture markets so they can stay in business through the tough winter months fast approaching. Keeping our food chain running also means working to ensure those who work in our processing plants have the equipment and protections they need to stay safe while at work. We’ve already seen some plants emerge as hotspots for the spread of the virus, putting thousands at risk and causing huge problems up and down the system. We need to do everything we can to keep our workers safe and our processing centers running strong. Looking toward the future, we need to make sure our trade deals put American workers first. That’s why I was proud to vote for the USMCA last year, and why I’ve said I’ll work with anyone on either side of the aisle to support our working people.
Richter – NO RESPONSE. Richter intends to make sure that NJ remains the Garden State. From blueberries and cranberries to corn and tomatoes, the South Jersey ag industry produces some of the best farm products in the world. But our region’s growers face myriad regulations that reduce their profits while providing minimal public benefit. In Congress, Richter will push for regulatory reform and fight for trade legislation that benefits, not handicaps, South Jersey’s family farms and agricultural businesses.
- Schmid – NO RESPONSE. Schmid states on her website, “Climate change is an urgent threat to our community. I support efforts to re-enter the United States in the Paris Climate Agreement to reassert the U.S.’s leadership on combating climate change worldwide, and reinstate any environmental regulations that have been rolled back.”
Smith – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- Gottheimer – NO RESPONSE. Gottheimer has been involved in a number of ag-related bills, including HR4765, the Farm Support Integrity for Family Farms Act; HR3090, Farm and Ranch to School Act of 2019; HR7250, the Farm-to-Market Road Repair Act of 2020; HR4466, Farm to Table Safety Act; and HR1080, Fairness to Farm Workers Act, among others. Gottheimer has said, “So many of our farmers are struggling right now because of low dairy prices, the effects of tariffs and the high cost of living in New Jersey. I’m committed to making sure conducting business in agriculture here in Jersey is more attractive and affordable than it currently is. We need to cut taxes and red tape and ensure we have the backs of Jersey’s farmers.”
Pallotta – NO RESPONSE. Pallotta has called on the Freeholder Boards of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties to pass resolutions opposing Gov. Murphy and Sen. Smith’s Farmland and Forest Destruction Act (S-2605). He is calling for bipartisan opposition to replacing farmland and forests with solar power plants of 800 or more acres. Farmers, taxpayers and environmental groups like the Sierra Club all oppose this plan. “I am running for Congress to represent every resident of my District and to protect the natural landscape that is their inheritance,” he said.
- Malinowski – NO RESPONSE. While testifying in support of farmland preservation, Malinowski said, “There are upwards of 10,000 farm operations in New Jersey. We have a particularly dynamic and vibrant agricultural sector in the 7th district – our farms sold more than $130 million worth of products in 2017 alone. We’re truly lucky to have the farmers markets, the vineyards, the family farms that we do – they define the character of much of my district and I’m proud to represent them in Washington … On labor, there is considerable frustration with the H-2A program as it’s currently administered. Too few workers and an overly cumbersome application process are making it harder for our farmers to access the experienced labor that they need. I think if we’re going to be realistic, we have a choice here. We can go on as we have, with an unstated but very real policy, in which we as Americans, as producers, pay people to come to this country, including to work on farms, and then take their kids at the border if they try or we can try to craft legislation that is going to enforce our immigration laws, but treat people here like human beings. I’m very happy to see that the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act does that. On trade, our farmers don’t want last-minute bailout checks from the government. They want to sell the products they’ve devoted their lives to growing. On climate, unpredictable and extreme weather events pose grave risks to farmers’ livelihoods. We need bold action to confront climate change for a whole host of reasons – protecting our farmers’ harvests is one of them.”
Kean – NO RESPONSE. Protecting the environment has always been a passion for Kean. He began his career in public service working at the EPA. He has built a reputation as an advocate for clean energy and open space in the NJ state legislature. He has passed laws that ensure open space and conservation are well-funded.
- Sherrill – NO RESPONSE. On her website, she writes, “Climate change is real and addressing it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s an economic and national security issue that affects all of us. With 130 miles of coastline, New Jersey will pay a terrible price if we don’t take meaningful action to end our reliance on foreign fuels and transition to a clean energy economy. I have worked hard to bring people together to support our environment and clean energy economy.”
Becchi – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
- Watson Coleman – NO RESPONSE. Watson Coleman is involved in numerous bills tied to USDA’s SNAP program and HR961, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2019.
Razzoli – NO RESPONSE. No information available.
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