Meet the Candidates

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Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has reached out to US Senate and Governor primary candidates to respond to questions on issues of importance to agriculture. Their responses are posted below as we receive them to assist you in making informed decisions when heading to the polls this spring.

Governor Candidate Questions

Nche Zama

What are your top priorities for strengthening the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania?

I grew up on a farm. As a child I owned my own farm. The challenges in the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania resonate with me. I believe my job as governor will be to eliminate constraints which prevent this very important industry from explosive growth, and to provide the resources it needs to attend the highest level of excellence and efficiency to excel in domestic and global commerce. Nothing less would be satisfactory.In my travels across the counties, many have complained about cumbersome regulations. I believe the leaders in this industry will guide my administration in addressing their needs, cumbersome regulations, and constraints because I want our agriculture industry to excel at the highest level possible. Therefore I will immediately convene a meeting with agriculture leaders to craft relevant sustainable strategies moving forward.

While we have close proximity to major markets, and ability to grow a wide variety of commodities, Pennsylvania seems to struggle in attracting new processing plants for our products. What steps would you take as governor to attract expansion in the agriculture industry?

Clearly Agriculture is one of our most outstanding industries. I will work with its leaders to open up new markets for our products around the world. I have traveled extensively and I speak six languages fluently. Agriculture is near and dear to my heart. I believe we should stop thinking provincially and work aggressively to build within Pennsylvania the infrastructures we need for our products and open many more global markets for them.

Pennsylvania farmers are committed to preserving and protecting the environment through their conservation practices. How will you help farmers meet future conservation goals without excessive permitting and regulation?

First of all I am a scientist with a PhD in chemistry and Masters in management. Preserving the environment and fostering meaningful conservation practices is something I understand well. Additionally I am not a disciple of political hubris. I believe that the best decisions about these matters can only be made if the men and women in agriculture are involved in the process. That is what I intend to do as governor. I believe in high-performance teams.

Tell us about your experience and qualifications (please no narrative related to opponents).

I was born on a farm to illiterate parents who were subsistence farmers. At five years of age I was allocated a piece of land to grow my own crops. By the time I was 10 years old, revenue from the sale of my pineapples, peanuts, and corn helped defray my secondary school tuition and other expenses. Farming is in my DNA. I contributed to building an academy in Africa(Good Shepherd Academy for Sustainable Learning) and to establish a department of agriculture with a curriculum designed to train future African leaders in sustainable farming.

Senate Candidate Questions

Ron Johnson

What do you believe are the most critical national issues confronting agriculture?

Drama in Washington is a key factor. The trade war and farm financing.

What actions should be taken to address those issues?

Get rid of the rhinos in Washington that don’t care about the farmers, stop importing goods that are or can be grown here. Lighten up on the finance charges

Tell us about your experience and qualifications (please no narrative related to opponents).

My experience is simple I know what it’s like to stretch a dollar. I’m a America first Pennsylvania first type of man. My qualifications simply that I’m a Pennsylvanian not a politician.

Mehmet Oz

What do you believe are the most critical national issues confronting agriculture?

Farmers and Agribusiness professionals work tirelessly to ensure safe and nutritious food are available in abundant supply for consumers. With no days off, farmers have a tough enough job of keeping America and the world’s economy afloat. However, bad policy and neglected issues have burdened our farmers and the growth of agriculture

First, some lawmakers have called for an end to stepped-up basis. This would result in a capital gains tax in addition to the estate tax levied on a farm after the owner passes away. This tax would force many family farms to sell assets in an attempt to keep their family business afloat. This often results in the farmland being sold off thereby enabling the farm to remain profitable and operational. This is not a viable solution. Our farmers also have to navigate a complex regulatory environment. Many times, our regulations do not reflect the fact that farmers are able to be both profitable as well environmentally sustainable. Members of Congress and the EPA must understand this principle to legislate and regulate responsibly.

In addition to harmful policies, farmers must confront long unaddressed issues such as the lack of affordable broadband in rural areas. Lack of broadband in Pennsylvania is affecting our ability to utilize new technology that can improve a farm’s efficiency as well as environmental efforts. Also, without being able to communicate with their customers or partners, it is increasingly difficult for farmers to operate in a new world economy with outdated technology. In rural areas where broadband is available, the cost levied to the farm to run the fiberoptic lines is cost prohibitive. We need to ensure all have access to technology.

Lastly, two national trends that are especially affecting the agriculture industry: lack of skilled workers and inflation. A shortage in labor leads to inefficient operations, increase in workplace accidents and sometimes forces farmers to rely on foreign workers. The issue of workforce development needs to be on the forefront of our minds. Without action now, we could be facing food insecurity in this country, as the average age of our farmers is 58 years old. Who will be our next generation of food producers and providers? On the issue of inflation, farmers are price takers and not price makers. The rising cost and availability on items such as productive land, equipment, feed, fuel and fertilizer are eating into farmers profits. Farmers are working on a minimal margin. These stressors to the farm family are an additional burden which we need to address to ensure farmers and agribusinesses can continue to operate within the United States.  As we do not want to dependent on importation of our food.

What actions should be taken to address those issues?

Legislators must do everything they can to keep stepped-up basis. I applaud Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson for standing in the way of the Biden administration’s proposals to eliminate this policy. We must ensure a path of progress is in place for farmland and assets to be transferred for continuation of the farm without interruption and without being saddled with taxes.

In addition to this policy, Congress must work to create a sensible regulatory structure which is adaptive to the agriculture business model. Eliminating burdensome permit requirements which are merely exercises in paper and yield no benefit to the sustainability of the environment, decreasing wait time for permits and streamlining permit language to prevent self-serving/agenda-based lawsuits. Create a tax structure that reflects the uncertain nature of agriculture. Continuing improvements to environmental policies such as NEPA are a handful of many policies Congress must work on.

We can improve broadband through public private partnerships with technology providers, USDA funds and competitive, fair grant programs. We must encourage and incentivize broadband development in rural areas to help our farmers and agribusinesses keep our rural communities alive.

It is critical that we work to get inflation under control. This starts with stopping the reckless spending that has occurred under the Biden administration. Instead, we must unleash the power of American capitalism- clearing our ports, opening the Keystone Pipeline, stop the payments which have incentivized people to stay home and not return to the workforce, while also getting out of the way of our small businesses and making America open for business again.

Tell us about your experience and qualifications (please no narrative related to opponents).

I have fought on the biggest stages on the most important issues. For thirteen years, I had the number one health show in the world where I empowered individuals to take charge of their lives. I have performed thousands of heart surgeries and invented a medical device that has saved thousands of lives. My time on the President’s Council on Sports, Nutrition and Fitness gave me an inside look at how bureaucracy and heavy-handed regulation stifle American innovation. As your U.S. senator, I am prepared to fight to empower you and get Washington out of our everyday lives.