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Attorney General

 

John RaffertyAttorney General Candidate

John Rafferty (R)

 

What is your opinion of how the Attorney General’s office has administered the Agriculture Communities and Rural Environment Act of 2005 (ACRE Law) and what changes, if any, would you make?

First let me start by saying that I am proud to have voted in support of the Agriculture Communities and Rural Environment Act of 2005 (ACRE). I believe that government has a responsibility to protect our rights and ACRE protects an individual’s right to farm. While there are many areas of the Office of Attorney General that have been tarnished and ignored during the last four years, I have not received many complaints regarding how the office is administering the ACRE law. Historically, I believe the office has provided the proper balance between farmers and restrictive ordinances as most ACRE cases settle before they go to court. As Attorney General I will make sure that the lawyers and staff are in constant communication with farmers to reduce conflicts and unnecessary costs and lawsuits.

 

Do you believe there are other aspects of the Office of Attorney General that should be of particular interest to Pennsylvania’s agriculture and rural sectors?

 

There are many areas within the Office of Attorney General that should be of interest to the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and its members.

 

Heroin Crisis - The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer within the Commonwealth. As such the Attorney General has concurrent jurisdiction with District Attorneys on a variety of issues including drugs. The Attorney General oversees state drug task forces that target mid and upper level drug dealers. We are currently in the midst of a heroin crisis and I believe it is important to have an attorney general that has criminal law experience along with an ability to work together with law enforcement to help combat this epidemic.

Environmental Crimes - The Attorney General also has an environmental crimes section, which investigates and prosecutes environmental crime cases referred to it by a District Attorney or the Department of Environmental Protection. I believe that it is important to have an Attorney General who understands the difference between a mistake and a criminal act. In a time when more and more liberal activists are pushing for government to crack down on legitimate industries like agriculture, the farmers should want an Attorney General who will be fair, not one looking to make a political headline to impress their activist friends.

Environmental & Regulatory Overreach – During the last 10 to 15 years we have witnessed a significant movement of regulatory overreach by environmental agencies in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. The Attorney General has the ability to sue on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also join lawsuits that other State’s have filed against companies and the Federal Government. During the Obama administration we have witnessed many circumstances in which State Attorneys General have sued the Federal Government including the Affordable Care Act and the EPA’s war on coal via the Clean Power Plan. Farmers should want an Attorney General who appreciates their commitment to the environment and understands that regulatory overreach only makes farming less affordable.

Food Labeling – For years there have been efforts by liberal activist groups to have the states initiate special food labeling of ingredients and products. This issue has increased recently as it relates to biotechnology and food production. Many states have blindly listened to the activists groups resulting in a mish-mash of state laws with no uniformity or scientific evidence. This type of process leads to confusion and increased costs for farmers and food producers. As Attorney General I will work with farmers, elected officials, concerned groups and other states to come up with a solution that works for all sides and not just a political stunt to grab headlines like my opponent.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

I currently serve as a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate representing the 44th District, which includes parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

 

As a former Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General, I have an extensive background in public service at the state and local levels. My top legislative priorities include improving Pennsylvania’s transportation system, lowering the property tax burden, protecting the environment, reducing health care costs, providing quality care for senior citizens, fighting drunk driving, combating prescription drug abuse and ensuring that our police, firefighters and emergency responders have the resources and tools they need to do their jobs.

 

I currently serve as the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. One of the most lauded accomplishments during my tenure to date was spearheading the passage of Act 89 of 2013, which created a multi-billion, multi-modal transportation funding plan for Pennsylvania. Following decades of underinvestment throughout the state’s transportation system, I helped to gain bipartisan support for one of the most robust transportation funding solutions in the country by increasing investment by an additional $2.3 billion. This critical level of investment is helping to repair structurally deficient bridges and poorly-rated roadways to ensure the safe, efficient and competitive movement of people and goods throughout the Commonwealth. Act 89 also provides a sustainable funding solution for non-highway modes of transportation, including, aviation, rail freight, ports and bicycle/pedestrian.

 

Prior to running for the Pennsylvania Senate, I served as an attorney in private practice focusing on education, real estate, zoning, business and estate law. As Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth from 1988 to 1991, I was assigned to the Criminal Law Division where my primary duty was investigating and prosecuting Medicaid fraud.

 

I earned my bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, my master's degree from Beaver College and my law degree from Temple University.

 


 

Josh ShapiroAttorney General Candidate

Josh Shapiro (D)

 

What is your opinion of how the Attorney General’s office has administered the Agriculture Communities and Rural Environment Act of 2005 (ACRE Law) and what changes, if any, would you make?

Pennsylvania’s ACRE law has given farmers a more cost-effective mechanism than court challenges to contest municipal laws that infringe on their right to farm. As Attorney General, I will improve this successful program by making the outcomes of resolved disputes more readily available and easily accessible. Municipalities will then be able to quickly reference this information when considering the legality of proposed or existing ordinances. Likewise, farmers could consult these results when thinking about expansion projects.

 

Do you believe there are other aspects of the Office of Attorney General that should be of particular interest to Pennsylvania’s agriculture and rural sectors?

I’ve laid out a four-part agenda to protect the future and safety of rural Pennsylvania. In addition to enhancing the ACRE program, I’ve called for:

Protecting landowners from deceptive practices. Landowners throughout Pennsylvania have benefited from the shale gas boom as income earned through royalty payments has helped many families through tough economic times. Unfortunately, some companies have used unfair and deceptive practices – like charging undisclosed fees, making improper deductions from royalties or using below-market prices to calculate payments. As Attorney General, I will protect landowners from unscrupulous companies and will aggressively prosecute companies found to be duping their lessees to protect rural incomes.

Promoting regional problem-solving courts. Problem-solving courts for non-violent offenders have played an important role in diverting people in need of help away from prison, encouraging them to seek the treatment they need and save taxpayer dollars. These specialized courts—focused on veterans, drug and alcohol offenders, and those battling mental health issues—have been proven to reduce costs and reduce recidivism without compromising public safety. For smaller counties it can be difficult to cost-effectively provide this service. I will work with counties and Pennsylvania’s courts to establish regional problem-solving courts. These courts could both serve and be funded by multiple counties, lowering costs and offering the same system of justice to people no matter they live in our Commonwealth.

Taking a comprehensive approach to tackling on Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioids crisis. Overdosing is now the number one accidental killer in our Commonwealth. This scourge attacks every kind of community, though its effects have been felt particularly acutely in rural areas. Based on my experience in Montgomery County, I will take a comprehensive, recovery-based approach to fighting this epidemic. I’ll work to lower the cost of life-saving overdose-reversal medication so all first responders can carry it, a barrier in many small towns strapped for resources. I’ll treat addiction as a disease, not a crime and will reduce barriers to drug treatment. I’ll work with the medical community to stop over-prescription of opioids and prosecute any deliberate over-prescription. And I will aggressively crack down on interstate drug trafficking and focus resources on community policing, taking a smart-on-crime approach to stopping illegal drugs.

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

I’ve devoted my career to public service. As a state representative for seven years, I took on the powerful interests and led the effort to reform the way the Legislature does business, passing the toughest ethics law in a generation. As the first Democrat elected to lead Montgomery County, I turned around a fiscal and ethical mess, leading a bureaucracy four times larger than the Office of Attorney General. I turned years of deficits into surplus, strengthened our pension system and led in a bipartisan manner. I also serve as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, where I’ve worked to support victims and keep our communities safe. My experience, including my 13 years in private legal practice, make me uniquely qualified to be the people’s Attorney General.

 

 


   Auditor General

 

John Brown webAuditor General Candidate

John Brown (R)

 

What do you believe are the primary responsibilities and objectives of the office of State Auditor General?

The Auditor General must be responsible for identifying waste, fraud and abuse in every agency or program that spends taxpayer resources. I also believe that if the Auditor General can help to identify programs that are working and how additional funding may help these programs become more successful.

 

The Auditor General can work to identify programs and how additional resources can make a greater impact on our communities. The legislature too often spends money on new programs and there is little follow-up from the Auditor General's office to determine if those programs are working. Auditing a program shouldn't always be conducted to point out a negative. There are circumstances where an audit may help determine when a program is working and how additional funding may be beneficial.

 

Do you believe there are other aspects of the Office of Auditor General that should be of particular interest to Pennsylvania’s agriculture and rural sectors?

The Department of the Auditor General can play a major role in the agricultural industry and rural sections of the state. In fact, the biggest issue I am running on is how I can help keep taxes down for all Pennsylvanians by auditing programs to ensure that we root out waste, fraud and abuse in government. When I find savings for taxpayers, something I have been successful in doing in both the private and public sector, we can avoid costly tax increases that hurt all small business owners and Pennsylvanians, particularly farmers.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

Currently, I serve as the Northampton County Executive, a position I won by defeating a popular opponent who had a 4-1 fundraising advantage and a significant voter registration advantage. I am the first Republican to win election as the Northampton County Executive since 1997.

 

During my term in office, I have worked with county council to reform county government by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse to cut $17 million from the county’s annual budget and tripled the county’s general fund.

 

Before my election as Northampton County Executive, I served as the Mayor of Bangor, where I managed a budget of $3 million, eliminated deficit spending and cut taxes. In 2015, during my term as County Executive, Northampton County was awarded the Government Conservation Leadership Award for demonstrated leadership in conservation of our special landscapes and critical natural resources.

 

I spent most of his career working in the private sector turning around unprofitable businesses by making them more effective, efficient and successful.

 

I am a lifelong Republican, pro-life and I support the 2nd Amendment.

 

I graduated from Bangor High School and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame.

 

My wife, Tina, and I live in Northampton County and have a son, Zachary.

 


   

 

Eugene DePasquale webAuditor General

Eugene DePasquale (D) Incumbent

 

What do you believe are some of the most critical national issues confronting PA Agriculture?

I believe the primary responsibilities and objectives of the office of State Auditor General is to be a steward of taxpayer dollars to ensure those dollars are spent properly and state programs are being run according to the law.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

The aspect of the Office of Auditor General that is of particular interest to the state’s agriculture and rural sectors is the commitment to making sure the Department of Agriculture is promoting farming through their role. This includes ensuring that programs designed to help farmers and the agricultural community are working as intended.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

Having served three terms in the state legislature and one term as Auditor General, as well as earning a MPA and law degree through night school, I believe my qualifications and background provide a unique perspective to the office that allows me look at the costs of state programs but also look at their impact. Under my first term, I have identified over $200 million in waste, fraud, and abuse in state programs but have also found important issues in them including 42,000 missed calls to the Childline child abuse hotline and thousands of untested rape kits. I plan to continue to protect taxpayer dollars by making sure programs are running as intended by revisiting our audits in my first term.

 


  Treasurer 

 

Joe TorsellaTreasurer Candidate

Joe Torsella (D)

 

What do you believe are the primary responsibilities and objectives of the office of State Treasurer?

I believe the primary responsibilities and objectives should be (1) restoring integrity and accountability to the office; (2) serving as an effective fiscal watchdog for Pennsylvanians; and (3) providing economic opportunity and financial empowerment for all Pennsylvanians.

 

To restore integrity, I will appoint a Chief Integrity Officer for the Department of Treasury. This officer will ensure that the Department of Treasury will operate with fairness and integrity, uncompromised by conflicts of interest, political affiliation, favoritism, or other unfair considerations. Importantly, I will push for a ban on the use of third-party marketers involving Treasury and investment funds controlled by the Commonwealth, including the state pension funds. Third-party marketers can be paid commissions totaling millions of dollars and not all of the costs are clearly and universally disclosed to Pennsylvania taxpayers. Taxpayers lose by paying the unnecessary fees and causing the public fund to possibly make investments based on political relationships rather than the appropriateness of the strategy for an investment fund.

 

To serve as an effective fiscal watchdog, I plan to make greater use of the Treasurer’s pre-audit approval process. Next, I plan to build a portal that tracks Pennsylvania’s expenses and is modeled on the successful and award-winning Open Checkbook site developed by Ohio’s Treasurer. It will make monitoring state spending as intuitive as consulting a bank statement. Just as many Pennsylvanians go online to review monthly bank and credit card statements of expenditures, make adjustments to their budgets, detect irregularities, and prevent fraud, Pennsylvania Sunshine Checkbook will facilitate a new era of real-time transparency in state spending. Additionally, we need to make greater use of low-cost index funds in the management of Pennsylvania’s investments. Pennsylvania currently employs, according to published testimony, over 500 active money managers, and is among the states with the greatest use of high-fee “alternative investment” products. I will push for fewer managers and greater use of lower-fee approaches.

 

I plan to help provide economic opportunity and access for all Pennsylvanians by establishing universal, automatic Children Savings Accounts for vocational training or college. Studies show that kids who have bank accounts at birth are up to seven times more likely to make it to college. And those kids can earn up to a million dollars more over the course of their lifetimes. There are 150,000 kids born in Pennsylvania every year. I want every single one to grow up saving money, participating in the financial system, and planning for a bright future.

 

Do you believe there are other aspects of the Office of State Treasurer that should be of particular interest to Pennsylvania’s agriculture and rural sectors?

 

Personally, I think it’s important that the Office of State Treasurer has a background in advocating for all of Pennsylvania. I grew up in Berwick in Columbia County. It’s a rural community. Many issues touch upon the agriculture and rural sectors including: supporting Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, upgrading Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, and making sure Pennsylvania has an energy policy that includes stakeholders’ voices.

 

There’s opportunity in the Treasurer’s office to bring stakeholders together to work towards investing in upgrades, cleaner energy, and infrastructure. We live in the state with the highest number of structurally unsound bridges in the country. Pennsylvania’s deteriorating infrastructure effects every community and our overall economic development. Now there’s finally been some good news on this front, with Act 89 and the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project here in Pennsylvania. But the fact is that our infrastructure needs still dramatically outstrip our infrastructure resources. Which is why, around the country, treasurers are finding ways to get the job done. Rhode Island just created a sizeable state infrastructure bank. Other states have earmarked some of their pension funds for infrastructure investments. And three treasurers on the west coast have partnered together to form the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, to catalyze new investments and new approaches, and make their region more competitive.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications

I have spent most of my life in public service, helping public institution at all levels do a better job of managing public resources, making them more efficient, more accountable, more transparent, and more innovative. I have a record of delivering exactly the kind of reform needed in Harrisburg right now. I was an honors graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Economics and History, and a Rhodes Scholar from Pennsylvania. I came back to Pennsylvania and served as a Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia. As Deputy Mayor, I helped turn around the city’s finances, closing a $1.25 billion shortfall to save the city from bankruptcy. I was the founding CEO and President of the National Constitution Center, taking it from virtual bankruptcy to national treasure. I served as Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. And I was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations for Management and Reform, where I was praised for bringing real reform to a vital international institution and saving millions for American taxpayers.

 

I grew up in Berwick, Pennsylvania and I now live in Flourtown with my wife Carolyn and we have 4 children.

 


 

Otto VoitTreasurer Candidate

Otto Voit (R)

 

What do you believe are the primary responsibilities and objectives of the Office of State Treasurer?

The Office of the State Treasurer primary responsibilities is to safeguard and manage the state's public funds. It invests state money to generate income on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania, reviews and processes payments for state government agencies, and administers several programs related to state finances, among them the Unclaimed Property Program, the PA 529 College Savings Program, and others.

 

The State Treasurer serves as Chief Executive of the Treasury Department and oversees an operating budget of $40 million and a staff of approximately 325 employees. The Treasurer’s duties involve the receipt and disbursement of funds, as well as the deposit, investment, and safekeeping of monies and securities belonging to the Commonwealth.

 

The Treasurer serves as custodian of the funds of virtually all State agencies. Such funds totaled almost $100 billion including the unclaimed property program with $2.3 billion in assets and the $4 billion PA 529 College Savings Program.

 

The Treasurer is also the Chair of the Board of Finance and Revenue, which selects banks to serve as state depositories; sets interest rates paid on Commonwealth deposits; and hears and decides state tax appeals.

Given these responsibilities and duties, Otto W. Voit III pledges as Pennsylvania’s next State Treasurer to provide integrity and accountability/transparency for the operations of the Treasury, and $1 billion in taxpayer savings in his first term in office, or he will not seek reelection.

 

Do you believe there are other aspects of the Office of State Treasurer that should be of particular interest to Pennsylvania’s agriculture and rural sectors?

Treasury Investment and Advisory Committees Initiatives: The Pennsylvania Treasury currently has a Treasury Investment Committee that advises and recommends to the Treasurer on investment matters--where, when, and how to invest, etc. While the Treasury Investment Committee is important and should continue to focus on advising Treasury investment matters, the Investment Committee does not represent the diversity of the Commonwealth, including ignoring agricultural/rural, minority and/or veteran owned investment vehicles. In addition, there exists no vehicle for all Treasury stakeholders to have a voice on Treasury administration matters.

 

Otto Voit’s solution as Pennsylvania’s next State Treasurer is to expand the outside appointments on the Investment Committee to reflect the diversity of the Commonwealth, including the agricultural/rural, minority and/or veteran population; and to create a new Treasury Advisory Committee consisting of ethnic, agricultural/rural, manufacturing, small business, etc. to advise and assist the Treasurer and the Treasury senior management on Treasury non-investment administration policy and functions.

 

Treasury Simplification: Over the years, Pennsylvania businesses and individuals are facing an increasing burden to correctly follow Pennsylvania Treasury’s administrative provisions. Otto Voit’s solution is to enact Treasury simplification by repealing or simplifying treasury laws, guidelines and forms, and repealing obsolete treasury laws and administrative provisions. A successful simplified treasury system is when treasury laws, guidelines and forms are easy to understand; a limited number of rules for each treasury instruction; and limited exceptions resulting in relatively low compliance and administrative costs that promote a high degree of voluntary compliance among treasury stakeholders including agricultural and rural stakeholders.

 

Promote Economic Development: In instances where Treasury’s prudent investor responsibilities are considered, additional strategic factors are not routinely included within a traditional fundamentals analysis. Otto Voit’s solution is to implement a Treasury Investment Program for Economic Development, which will be a joint effort of the Treasury, which funds it, with another government or non-government agency to administer it. Loans will be leveraged and combined with other loans available to post-venture firms willing to establish agricultural, commercial, or service business operations within an underdeveloped economic area including rural areas of Pennsylvania.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

Otto Voit has the experience and unique qualifications to be the next Pennsylvania State Treasurer. Otto is the current Treasurer and Member of the Governing Board for the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA): a non-profit state-wide association of public school boards.

 

Otto Voit has over 30 years of experience in the fields of finance, accounting and operations. His experience includes serving as President of the Keystone Dental Group, CFO for an Inc. 500 company, CFO/partner in a software company, CFO/General Manager for Keystone Industries, General Manager for a retail home goods chain. In addition, Otto is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants.

Otto has the educational background to advance the Pennsylvania State Treasury in a positive direction. Otto received his Executive Masters of Business Administration, Beta Gamma Sigma, from St. Joseph’s University and his Bachelors of Science degree in Operations Management from Penn State University.

Otto Voit will use his knowledge, skills and the following Board leadership positions to provide expertise to State Treasurer office:

Treasurer and Member of the Governing Board for the Pennsylvania School Board Association
Vice President of the Muhlenberg School District Board of Directors
Past President of the Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation
Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Pennsylvania School District Liquid Asset Fund and Cash Management Program
Member of the Board of Trustees for the PSBA Insurance Trust Investment Committee


Otto is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and a Selective Service System Local Board Member.

Otto Voit pledges as Pennsylvania’s next State Treasurer to provide integrity, accountability/transparency, and $1.1 billion in taxpayer savings.

Otto will bring integrity to the office of Treasurer that has been plagued by scandal. The day Otto takes office, the unconstitutional and illegal payments will stop. Otto will post on the Treasury website exactly what will and will not be paid in the event of future budget impasse along with the legal rulings that support his position.

Otto will bring accountability and transparency to Harrisburg. Otto has announced PACheckbook.com to show every Pennsylvanian where our revenue is coming from, where it is going, it will show all government contracts and salaries - at all levels of government.

Otto pledges to save the commonwealth $1.1 billion in his first term or will not seek reelection. Otto will generate savings by realigning investments to provide safer and better returns and with less fees and by enhancing the pre-audit function to weed our waste fraud and abuse.

 


   US Senate

 

Katie McGinty webUS Senate Candidate

Katie McGinty (D)

 

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

Farming is a critical industry in America – employing millions while providing the nation with food security. But for many farmers, their work and livelihoods are dependent on factors beyond their control, like weather or pests. Providing avenues for those in the agriculture industry to deal with a bad year through the Farm Bill is one of Congress’s most important responsibilities. Time and time again, Congress has let partisanship get in the way of that duty. In the Senate, I’ll always be a voice for timely and responsible passage of the Farm Bill.

 

Ensuring that farmers always have the resources they need means more than just passing the Farm Bill. Businesses throughout Pennsylvania—and farms in particular—depend on immigrant populations to increase the size of the labor pool and fill much-needed positions. I believe that a lack of balanced immigration reform with farm-specific provisions is seriously harming Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, and without it farmers will continue to be at a disadvantage.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

For many reasons, it’s critical that the U.S. produce a workable solution to immigration, and quickly. I will always stand with the agriculture community in the Senate, ensuring that Farm Bill reauthorization is a priority. The Farm Bill, which is so important for certainty and stability in the agriculture community, should be above petty partisan squabbles. Initiatives like expanding the kinds of tax credits farmers are eligible for are also within the power of Congress, and can really make a financial difference. As a longtime advocate of clean energy, I believe farmers should be given the opportunity to receive tax credits for choosing to convert to renewable sources of energy—reducing their tax burden and contributing to preserving our environment.

 

I would also support balanced immigration reform, because it’s a necessary step if we are going to move forward as a nation. That reform should consider the needs of our agricultural communities. In the Senate, I would support legislation like the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act—legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship, addresses guestworkers, and outlines a legal, flexible way for seasonal workers to enter our country for work.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications

I was born the 9th of 10 kids in Philadelphia to my dad who was a police officer and my mom who worked nights in a restaurant. I went to college at St. Joseph’s and law school at Columbia, after which I won a fellowship to work in then-Senator Al Gore’s office in Washington. I’m proud of what I have accomplished since then—serving as President Clinton’s chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and as Governor Rendell’s Secretary of Environmental Protection, where we fought to protect our environment while also growing our economy. Most recently I served as Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff where we were able to ensure access to healthcare for 500,000 Pennsylvanians by expanding Medicaid.

 

While at the Department of Environmental protection, I was able to work hand-in-hand with Pennsylvania’s agriculture community to find ways to balance the needs of farmers while encouraging energy innovation. The Energy Harvest program provided grants that farmers could use to help finance and implement renewable energy technologies—which helped farmers reduce costs, increase profitability, turn unwanted farm byproducts into resources, and protect the environment at the same time.

 

I’ve proven, in Washington and Harrisburg that I’ve got what it takes to get results. I believe my experience in public and private sectors and unique perspective of a working mother would bring an important voice to the U.S. Senate. For more than twenty years, I’ve worked to find common ground and bring people together to solve problems. In the Senate, I will fight for Pennsylvania’s families to get them the support they need today and the opportunities they’ll need tomorrow.


 

Headshot Pat ToomeyUS Senate

Senator Patrick Toomey (R) Incumbent

 

What do you believe are some of the most critical issues confronting PA agriculture?

Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s top industry. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with thousands of hardworking farmers, and talking with them about their concerns. Farmers face tremendous uncertainty, from weather to the ups and downs in the markets. That is why providing stability through the regulatory process and the tax code is especially important to farmers across Pennsylvania.

 

Unfortunately, the current administration has inundated farmers with an avalanche of heavy-handed regulations. For example, in 2011, the administration proposed limiting the ability of children to work on their families’ farms. I ardently opposed this intrusion into family life on the farm and helped pressure the administration into dropping its proposal.

 

Now, farmers across Pennsylvania are confronted with the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation that was promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If permitted to go into effect, WOTUS would expand the definition of what is considered a navigable waterway to include water sources such as intermittent streams and ditches which are often found on pastures and farmland.

 

Not only are these small streams already regulated at the state level, but, in many cases, they only contain water following a heavy rain storm. In an illegal power grab, the EPA is working to expand its regulatory scope at the expense of farmers and overall economic growth.

I’ve been proud of my work with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and other federal and state lawmakers to combat the WOTUS rule through the Congressional Review Act and other avenues. Fortunately, a federal court has blocked the implementation of WOTUS for the time being.

 

Providing farmers with tax certainty is another issue I’ve heard a great deal about. Take, for example, the expanded Section 179 deduction, which allows farmers to deduct the cost of new equipment. For years, farmers were forced to endure the uncertainty of whether this provision would be renewed by Congress. I was proud to lead the successful effort to ensure that the expanded Section 179 deduction became a permanent provision of our tax code. However, there is still more work to be done, such as repealing the Death Tax, which often forces surviving family members to sell portions or all of their farms in order to comply with this onerous tax.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am able to help shape the tax laws of our country. In this role, I have led multiple successful efforts in support of pro-growth tax reform, including my aforementioned work to make the expanded Section 179 deduction permanent. In the coming years, I will continue to pursue comprehensive changes to our tax code to benefit farmers and taxpayers as a whole. This includes lowering rates and simplifying the tax code, which will allow farmers to re-invest more in their businesses while cutting compliance costs. I will also continue to work to repealing the Death Tax, which hits our agricultural community particularly hard and threatens the future of American farms.

 

In addition, Congress can and should take authority back from unelected, unnamed bureaucrats. I am a proud cosponsor of the REINS Act, which seeks to stop federal bureaucrats from imposing job-killing regulations by requiring Congress to approve any major regulation that raises costs for consumers or impacts the economy by $100 million or more. With the REINS Act in place, unelected bureaucrats will no longer have the ability to sidestep Congress and impose costly regulations on our farmers.

 

Finally, I believe the best way to change agricultural policy is through bipartisan cooperation. Whether it’s regulatory or tax reform, progress is only possible when legislators from both sides of the aisle come together for the common good. I’ve been proud of my work with Democratic senators tackling many of the issues facing farmers in Pennsylvania. For instance, I teamed up with Democratic senators to ease federal regulations that made it difficult for farmers operating near state lines to transport crops and farm equipment. And when the European Union tried to prohibit American dairy producers from using dozens of common cheese names, I organized a group of over 50 bipartisan senators to oppose this preposterous proposal.

Clearly, there is more work to be done. I look forward to continuing this work for another six years in the Senate so that we can pass measures that help Pennsylvania farmers as well as the rest of our economy.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications

As a former small business owner, I created hundreds of jobs and understand the responsibility that comes with operating a successful business. These experiences provide me with a unique understanding of what policies are needed to help entrepreneurs, including farmers.

As a small business owner, I had first-hand experience with the negative impact overregulation has on our economy. Excessive red tape stifles economic growth and crushes innovation. And in some cases, excessive red tape can single-handedly kill farms and businesses, and threaten the viability of entire industries.

 

I also learned that a complicated, inconsistent tax code makes it very hard for individuals and businesses to plan for the future. My personal experience as a small business owner has driven me to take an active role on the Senate Finance Committee in crafting a tax policy that simplifies the tax code and allows families and entrepreneurs to plan ahead and succeed.

 

Finally, the most important lesson I learned was the importance of bringing people together to get things done. This is why I have actively worked across the aisle in the U.S. Senate to tackle some of the most egregious regulations facing our farmers today.

 

I’ve also enjoyed my work with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, both in Washington and in Pennsylvania. I appreciate the Farm Bureau’s support of my work, and am honored to have received the “Friend of Farm Bureau” award. I look forward to working with the Farm Bureau for another six years.

 

 

 


   PA 2nd Congressional

 

Dwight EvansUS District 2

Dwight Evans (D)

 

What do you believe are some of the most critical national issue confronting PA agriculture? 

I believe that Agriculture funding, Immigration Reform and Transportation are 3 of the most important national issues that the PA Ag community currently faces. Congress has had tremendous difficulty addressing these issues like the Farm Bill, Highway Transportation funding and comprehensive Immigration reform. The status quo helps no one and we must work together in congress to find compromise on these issues.

 

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters? 

Both sides in congress must understand that solutions to transportation infrastructure, immigration policy and agriculture funding help not only the Agricultural industry but countless other industries throughout the United States. Passing comprehensive transportation funding legislation and immigration reform will have a tremendous impact on our nation's economy for decades. I will work with both democrats and republicans in the house to find common ground to agree on and then build legislation to reflect this. We can and must work together to move our country forward.

 

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualification 

During my 36 years as a state legislator and 20 as appropriations chair I have dealt with many different constituencies and the issues that they face. I know the importance of the agricultural industry in PA. I worked with my republican counterpart in the senate to find funding for both the CHIP program and farmland preservation using the cigarette tax in the 90's. I also introduced and helped steer the passage of FFFI in early 2000's to help fund grocery stores in food deserts throughout the commonwealth. In 2013 I worked with longtime Transportation and Agriculture lobbyist George Wolff to help pass the landmark $2.3 billion comprehensive transportation funding bill in PA. All of these could not have been accomplished without bipartisan support and I will continue this approach in Washington D.C.

 


 

James Jones webUS District 2

James Jones (R)

 

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

I believe that some of the most critical and national issues are confronting Pennsylvania agriculture industries.

North American agriculture has become increasingly industrialized, placing ever-greater demands on fossil fuel, water and topsoil resources from mechanized feedlots to automatic irrigation systems to agricultural machinery. Now, petroleum serves as a base for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and it ties the cost of growing food increasingly closer to the price of oil and also fuels trucks and mechanized farm equipment.

In much of North America, especially in the United States and Pennsylvania, land management techniques have been draining the soil of nutritional value. Monoculture, which is a practice of continually planting the same solitary crop on one plot of farmland, removes nutrients from the soil that must be replenished with additional fertilizers. Understandably, many corn, soybean, and wheat farmers have switched to rotating crops from year to year to replenish the soil naturally.

 

Surprisingly enough, the United Nations estimates that one-third of the world’s food goes to waste, either during agricultural production, post-harvest handling and storage, processing, distribution, or consumption. American consumers are accustomed to an abundance of food often purchase more than they actually eat and tossing spoiled food out at the end of every week. There is a serious problem, whereby on average, each individual in North America wastes between 200-250 pounds of food per year.

 

North American has brought a major cultural shift that has removed consumers further away from their food sources. Bulging cities and their surrounding suburbs form an ever-thickening barrier between farming communities and consumers. So often, when young children are asked where food comes from they will say, “From the grocery store.” In urban sprawl, farmers receive increasing pressures from encroaching developers and communities to sell their land as farming is squeezed out of existence. Land has become so valuable to developers that farmers cannot afford not to sell, and would be farmers cannot find affordable land. Furthermore, there is a large disconnected public who translates into intolerant neighbors.

 

Government policy bears just as heavily on the industry since consumer habit has a profound effect on food. In Mexico, NAFTA has had an outsized impact on farmers and played a major role in battering the agriculture sector in the country. NAFTA was supposed to boost development in Mexico and creating enough jobs to stem the flow of workers crossing over the border in search of work. Now, we need to support schools, training and workforce programs for these jobs opening up.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

Throughout all of my analysis, a consistent picture of agriculture in central Pennsylvania has emerged. The interconnected nature of agriculture perceptions of the assets and issues related to maintaining agriculture as a profitable business in central Pennsylvania paints a clear picture of the challenges facing the industry overall. Many issues are identified and a great need for open dialogue within communities, political parties, special interest groups and agencies to assist in identifying strategies to help keep agriculture a viable component in Pennsylvania.

 

We need to look at and evaluate ever changing agriculture production rates as a national security issue. Urban expansion has increased farmland value yet the need for Pennsylvania’s agriculture is equally important. Even with an ever globalizing world, the earth will always be the greatest provider of nourishment and life on this planet. And so it follows, the role of the people who tend to Mother Earth, such as farmers and agriculturalists, will always be of greatest importance to this planet and to the inhabitants who are blessed to call it “home”.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

James Jones is an American politician, businessman and a retired U.S. Navy Vietnam Disabled Veteran. He ran as a republican candidate for the PA 08 Congressional District in 2010, with a passion for solving local problems and serving the local community. Jones, out of great love for God, family, and country, is currently running for PA-02 Congressional District. The district includes portions of North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, and West Philadelphia along with Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County.

 

Jones was born in Luxora, Arkansas, 4 of 7 children, to a son of a sharecropper. As an Arkansas sharecropper, Jones learned many invaluable lessons in continually planting the same crop on one plot of farmland. Neither Jones, his family, nor land lease owners understood how this practiced actually removed nutrients from the soil that must be replenished with additional fertilizers. Eventually, Jones and landowners logically embraced that many cotton, corn, soybean, and wheat farmers began switching to rotating crops from year to year to replenish the soil naturally. This approach is a value in farming, which Jones saw growing up in rural America and now supported by the USDA.

 

Jones joined the United States Navy in March of 1972, under the delayed enlistment plan in the Navy’s Brother Duty Program. He was deployed onboard the USS Prairie AD-15, a destroyer tender in Subic Bay Philippines, when he was temporary assigned duty with the USS Denver, LPD-9 during a national crises in Vietnam. In April 1975, Denver participated in Operation Frequent Wind, in the evacuation South Vietnamese officials and civilians who scrambled to leave Saigon, Vietnam.

 

Jones has 3 adult children and 8 grandchildren. He holds a MBA in Business Administration and a BS in Education, Training and Development. He attended John Marshall Law School but not a graduate.

 


PA 3rd Congressional 

 

mike kelly webUS District 3

Representative Mike Kelly (R) Incumbent

 

What do you believe are some of the most critical national issues confronting PA Agriculture?

The most pressing issue facing the Pennsylvania agriculture industry is the EPA’s final rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act. The new waters of the United States definition (WOTUS) would extend federal jurisdiction over streams and ponds to the point where 99% of PA would be determined to have a “significant nexus” to downstream waters. The WOTUS ruling will significantly impact the federal government’s reach over our most indispensable resource at a time when farmers can’t afford additional economic hurdles.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

While my colleagues and I in the House have voted to repeal and withhold funds from the implementation of the EPA’s WOTUS rule, this decision is now ultimately in the hands of the courts. Fortunately, Congress can still act to provide much needed relief to Pennsylvania farmers and those in our agriculture community by passing comprehensive tax reform. While we have made strides in the last year, with the passage of the PATH Act which made permanent the R&D tax credit and Section 179 expensing, there is still much work to be done. Addressing estate taxes, capital gains taxes and biodiesel taxes would have long term positive effects on our farmer’s ability to be successful and grow their business. I will continue working to enact a simpler and fairer tax system in the 115th Congress.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

I’ve been honored to serve Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District since 2011. Prior to that, I owned and operated several family owned car dealerships in the Butler area. I know as well as anyone the challenges of dealing with an over-aggressive government and have spent my time in Congress speaking out on those issues. I also served in many capacities in my community including my local school board, city council, and both housing and redevelopment authorities.

 

 

 


 PA 4th Congressional

 

Scott Perry official photo sm webUS District 4

Representative Scott Perry (R) Incumbent

 

What do you believe are some of the most critical national issues confronting PA Agriculture?

The biggest threat to PA Agriculture is the regulatory burdens placed on our farmers by the Executive branch. Regulations such as "Waters of the U.S." rule would make it more difficult to farm or change a farming operation to remain competitive and profitable. Since I came to Congress, much of the work we've done in the House is designed to keep the Executive branch in check. Government regulations cost the average American family more than $15,000 each year. I'll continue to be a voice for PA agriculture in the fight against burdensome regulatory actions. Farmers in my district also seek immigration reforms that give them the ability to rely on a stable, legal workforce.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

I've helped lead efforts in the House to confront excessive government regulations that act as barriers to stronger private sector growth and job creation. I've strongly opposed rules like the "Waters of the US" and voted for bills that ensure our regulatory system is fair, takes economic impacts into account and respects our freedoms. With regard to immigration reform, our system clearly is broken and forces farmers to confront a tangled, outdated bureaucracy that’s almost impossible to navigate. The American people clearly have demanded, however, that the first step in any reform effort must be securing our borders, and I agree with them. Once we’ve made significant progress on border security, we can work towards real, long-term solutions that strengthen and modernize the rest of our immigration system.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

I've signed both sides of a paycheck. My experience as a business owner allows me to understand the challenges bad regulatory and tax policies impose on small businesses, including farms. Unreasonable environmental regulations impacted my bottom line and I carried those experiences with me to Congress. I have and will continue to be a common sense voice for PA farmers. Whether it's reforming our outdated tax code, preventing costly regulations, or ensuring our transportation system can adequately move goods and services across the country, I've fought for the issues important to our farmers. I remain committed to strengthening the lives of our farm families and building strong, prosperous agricultural communities.

 

 

 


 PA 5th Congressional

 

 

GTformal sm rgbUS District 5

Representative Glenn Thompson (R) Incumbent

 

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

 

There are several issues facing Pennsylvania's agriculture producers, the most prevalent being dairy pricing, trade and expansion for new market access, regulatory threats including Waters of the United States (WOTUS), the potential for new endangered species listings, including the Northern Long-Eared Bat, and constant over-reach from the EPA under the Clean Water Act.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

 

We must increase dairy exports in order to compensate for the losses as a result of Russia's embargo and Europe's flooding of traditional U.S. dairy export markets. I believe making corrections to the MPP program before the next Farm Bill, including regionalizing feed costs and setting new triggers, would be helpful. I have authored legislation to promote domestic milk consumption, by returning milk fat to the dairy items offered in school lunch programs. Per the U.S. Constitution, Congress has sole power of the purse. We must use the annual appropriations process to deny the executive branch funds for implementing regulations that serve little purpose for the public good. We must also continue to pursue comprehensive tax reform that will make our country more competitive and our family farms more successful.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications

 

I have been honored to serve on the House Agriculture Committee as Pennsylvania's only member. I currently am in my third term as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. Additionally, I serve as co-chair of the bipartisan Career & Technical Education Caucus, which focuses on our ensuring there are viable education programs for the next generation of farmer and ranchers. Through this work, I have been honored with the Farm Bureau's Golden Plow Award. Despite these achievements, I believe there is much more we can do to continue to promote agriculture across the commonwealth. I look forward to our continued partnership, in order to make these goals a reality.

 


PA 6th Congressional 

 

Ryan CostelloUS District 6

Representative Ryan Costello (R) Incumbent

 

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

The most critical national issue confronting Pennsylvania farmers is regulatory overreach and the unprecedented intrusion of executive branch agencies such as the EPA. In addition, Pennsylvania farmers need an economic environment that provides them with greater certainty to continue to invest in, build, and grow their farm businesses.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

As a Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I supported legislative efforts to rein in regulatory overreach by working to prevent the EPA’s harmful “Waters of the U.S.” rule from taking effect. This overbroad and unprecedented regulation intrudes on the private-property rights of farmers, interjects the EPA into private land-use decisions, and dictates how farmers are to best use their land and carry out their business. In addition, I cosponsored and supported committee efforts to advance H.R. 3473, the Local Farm Vehicle Flexibility Act, which would provide relief for farmers from certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.

 

To provide a stronger and more consistent economic environment for our farmers, I have supported provisions to repeal the federal estate or “death” tax (H.R. 1105) and have voted to pass legislation to make permanent critical tax provisions that benefit farm businesses (i.e. Section 179 expensing, bonus depreciation, incentivizing food donations). In addition, I have joined my colleagues in calling upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help Pennsylvania dairy farmers through offering cost-sharing assistance, and I have joined in efforts to support recognition of the critical role that farm credit plays in assisting farmers across Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

As a result of my service and legislative record in the U.S. House of Representatives during the current 114th Congress, I was privileged to receive the “Friend of the Farm Bureau” Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation.


Further, as a lifelong resident of Chester County, I understand the important role that agriculture plays in our communities. Our local farms add an invaluable element to our local economy, our heritage, and our cultural identity as Pennsylvanians. In addition, I have worked at the local and county levels as a Township Supervisor and County Commissioner on efforts to preserve open space, protect the private property and land use rights of farmers, and empower farm businesses to grow and thrive.

 


 

Mike ParrishUS District 6 Candidate

Mike Parrish (D)

 

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

As one of the largest agricultural economies in the country, and certainly in the northeast United States, PA needs representation and real leaders. I am committed to standing up for our farmers and their families.

 

Agricultural Workforce - Congress has failed the farming community by refusing to pass comprehensive immigration reform. This has lead to a critical shortage of agricultural workers.

 

Reliable labor is necessary to allow farmers to run their business, and comprehensive immigration reform is needed to accomplish this goal.

For the most part, farmers have had to rely on guestworker programs to create a legal workforce, but guestworker programs are not responsive to market demands. As a result, U.S. agriculture has become less competitive in the global marketplace.

 

Over-Regulation –The agricultural community is threatened by federal regulations which are unnecessarily broad in scope. I know that nobody understands the need to protect the environment more than the agricultural community, and the federal government needs to work in partnership with agriculture to protect the environment in a way that makes sense for everyone.

 

An example of this type of overly broad regulation is the expansion of the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The definition of WOTUS under the new rule is so broad that it only serves to create confusion and acts as an impediment to environmental protection on the part of agriculture. This is no way to achieve our common goals of a clean, safe and healthy environment.

 

Lack of Investment – Congress has failed to invest in the basic things that will build our economy from the ground up and benefit businesses large and small, including agriculture.

 

We need investment in infrastructure, which is the backbone of our economy, including a substantial investment in clean and renewable energy.

 

Investments of this type would benefit agriculture in countless ways, from increasing its ability to bring products to market, to diversifying revenue streams for farmers by subsidizing the deployment of wind and solar energy in agricultural areas, which carries the added benefit of increasing domestic energy production and protecting the

environment by cutting harmful emissions

 

We cannot allow partisan bickering and the influence of special interests to stop Congress from taking action on critical issues like comprehensive immigration reform.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

Agricultural Workforce – Partisan gridlock and the influence of special interests has blocked comprehensive immigration reform. This is unacceptable for many reasons including the agricultural community’s reliance on migrant workers to reliably operate their business.

 

In Congress, I will be an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship and allows farmers to create a reliable and competent workforce that will allow them to operate their farms and remain competitive in the global marketplace. I support measures to include a commitment to agricultural work as a legitimate path to citizenship for those who are already here and working.

 

Over Regulation – I will oppose burdensome and arbitrary regulations that create confusion and harm farms and farmers without a clear objective to serve the interests of our communities and our country.

 

As a business owner, I have extensive experience in developing innovative solutions to the problems posed by water runoff and other environmental concerns associated with a host of commercial practices, including farming. In Congress, I will be an advocate for innovative solutions that continue to address environmental concerns without overregulating

the agricultural community.

 

In the case where common sense regulation is necessary to protect our environment, I will work with the agricultural community to create regulations that make sense for everyone. I know that the agricultural community values environmental protection as much as, if not more than, everyone. I am committed to giving the agricultural community a voice and seat at the table when it comes to regulatory concerns.

 

Lack of Investment – As a businessman, I know that growth requires investment. Investing in our communities from the ground up, including investment in our national infrastructure is vital to growing our economy and supporting businesses large and small across all economic sectors.

 

I will fight to increase our investment in infrastructure. Improving our infrastructure will benefit the agricultural community in countless ways, from connecting agricultural communities to public utilities and services like mass transit, to increasing the ability of farmers to move products to market efficiently and at lower cost.

 

In addition, our investment in infrastructure needs to include renewable energy. An investment in renewable energy will not only create jobs, grow the economy and increase domestic energy production, it will create opportunities for farms to increase and diversify revenue streams while reducing energy costs. For instance, according Wind Energy trade groups, each 100 MW of wind development in southwest Minnesota has generated about $250,000 per year in direct lease payments to landowners. This is an innovative approach to providing increased revenue which agricultural communities desperately need.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

I am not a career politician. I am West point graduate, and Army Veteran who served 14 years on Active Duty, and another 16 years in the Army Reserves. I will soon retire as a full Colonel. I went on to receive my Masters in Astronautical and Aeronautical Engineering from Stanford and my MBA from Wharton. Following my Active Duty service, I started my career in business where I have been an executive with GE and an entrepreneur in the environmental services sector.

 

From personal experience, I know that every small business faces unique challenges, and agriculture is no different. From workforce development and retention, to juggling finances to make ends meet, being a small business owner is rewarding, but it is also often difficult. Having faced many of these issues myself, I am in a unique position to represent the priorities of farmers and farming families in Washington.

 

In addition, my background gives me a proven track record of leadership, and a history of seeking innovative solutions to overcome difficult challenges. Again, this puts me in a strong position to be the leader and advocate the agricultural community needs in Congress.

 

Beyond the issues unique to the agricultural community, we are all concerned about the lack of leadership in Washington. Partisan bickering and the influence of special interests has prevented Congress from making progress on addressing the issues that matter to our nation.

 

I am not running for Congress to serve special interests or to put party loyalty before my duty to our community and our country. I am dedicated to a lifetime of selfless service to our country, and I am running for Congress to continue that service. I will bring wide ranging experience and a track record of proven leadership to Washington. I will use my experience to work across party lines to get real results on the issues that matter to the agricultural community, and to all Americans.

 


PA 7th Congressional 

 

Patrick MeehanUS District 7

Representative Patrick Meehan (R) Incumbent

 

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

There are a number of important issues facing Pennsylvania producers in today's tax and regulatory environment. Whether it's the Endangered Species Act, Waters of the United States or other federal mandates, I have worked hand-in-hand with PA farmers through the PFB to deliver results for our state's thriving agriculture industry. With that said, there are a number of important issues facing PA's producers. Important issues like WOTUS, Agriculture Tax Reform and GMO Labeling require Congress' diligent focus as we move forward into the 115th Congress.

 

WOTUS

The rule provides no protection from enforcement over farming activities, such as weed control, fertilizer applications or any number of other common farming activities. It’s safe to say that the Waters of the U.S. is going to be a huge burden on the agriculture industry around the country. Depending on how the rule is interpreted by the EPA, up to 97 percent of the State of Pennsylvania could be considered “water of the United States” and subject to the Clean Water Act.

I have voted multiple times to stop the rule from going into effect. Most recently, in the 114th Congress I voted for a bipartisan solution which would stop the rule from going into effect until the EPA discusses the impact of the rule on local municipalities and farmers. The bill is now in the Senate awaiting action. I have also signed letters directed to the EPA and the Army Corps asking them to completely stop the rulemaking process from going forward – before the final rule was announced.

On October 9, 2015 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision to completely halt the new WOTUS rule nationwide, not just in the 18 states that sued the federal government. On November 16, 2015 the EPA and the Corps announced they would comply with the stay and resume using the 1984 definition of “navigable waters.”

This remains the top issue that I hear about from farmers and concerned property owners in the 7th Congressional District. I remain committed to preventing this burdensome rule from moving forward.

Agriculture Tax Reform

At the beginning of the 114th Congress I was selected to serve on the Ways and Means Committee. This assignment allows me the opportunity to go to bat for Pennsylvania farmers on several important tax issues. The agriculture industry is, by nature, capital intensive. My work on the Ways and Means Committee has focused on cutting through red tape for our producers.

I worked with my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to ensure that Section 179 capital expensing was permanently extended in the 2015 extenders package. The provision allows farmers to deduct the full purchase price of a piece of farm equipment up to $500,000. In the capital-intensive agriculture community, this provision is an important one that allows farmers to make bigger investments on new equipment.

Bonus depreciation was extended by five years in the extenders package that I worked on. Although I pushed for a permanent reauthorization, I was happy to deliver for our farmers a longer term reauthorization to ensure some certainty. The provision that passed permanently extends and modifies a temporary provision that provides 50 percent bonus depreciation. Like Section 179 expensing, Bonus depreciation is an important financial tool to the agriculture community.

Failure to extend these provisions would have resulted in a tax increase for our nation’s farm and ranch businesses. This longer term reauthorization will give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to make long-term business decisions that will grow and expand their operations.

GMO Labeling

The President recently signed into law the Senate Amendment to the House Amendment to S. 766, GMO labeling Requirements legislation. The bill requires the USDA to create a national GMO labeling requirement that will preempt all state and local labeling requirements. I supported this legislation because farmers from all around the 7th Congressional District have explained to me their difficulties of navigating the patchwork of state and local regulations when it comes to what information needs to be on product labels.

While I do have some concerns that the legislation included a mandatory labeling component – and not voluntary – this legislation represented an important step for PA farmers that have been frustrated with the different laws and regulations in different states and different municipalities.

I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to ensure that the implementation of this federal standard does not pose any impediments for our Pennsylvania producers.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Pennsylvania famers in a variety of different capacities over the course of my career, and I’m always moved by their diligence, their work ethic and the pride in the products they grow and produce. The district I have the honor of representing in Congress is a diverse one – from the inner ring suburbs of Delaware County to the rolling hills and farms of Lancaster – but I’ve greatly enjoyed the chance to get to know our farmers, listen to their concerns and learn more about the challenges they face.

Pennsylvania’s farmers are the best in the country, and they play a critical role in our regional and national economy. With sound agricultural and environmental policies, we can keep our farms thriving for generations to come. I humbly ask for your support and partnership as I work to ensure we can do just that.

 

 


PA 8th Congressional 

 

 

Brian FitzpatrickUS District 8

Brian Fitzpatrick (R) Candidate

 

What do you believe are some of the most critical national issues confronting PA agriculture? What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

Agriculture is the lifeblood that sustains our communities, our Commonwealth and our country. Bucks and Montgomery county family farms are the original small businesses and the hard work and ingenuity of those responsible for our food production has defined our region for generations. While times have changed in many ways, the importance of local agriculture has not. And, as such, issues impacting this vital industry must be discussed, debated and advanced in order to provide support and stability for its continued success.

At the national level, many issues have presented themselves as important to Bucks and Montgomery county famers, and, as such, important to myself – including: the Environmental Protection Agency’s massive regulatory overreach, tax reform, energy policy and infrastructure development and maintenance.

 

As a member of Congress, I would work with local agriculture leaders – including the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau – and likeminded lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to advance common sense agriculture policy that supports family farmers and our nation. This includes working to push back against regulatory overreach by federal agencies who, while well intended, are burying the industry in red tape, supporting reforms to our tax code to remove the penalty on family farms being passed from generation to generation, supporting an all-of-the-above energy policy that can fuel our food-producers while respecting our environment, and funding an infrastructure system that support a 21st century agriculture economy.

 

These aren’t Republican issues or Democrat issues; the advancement of our local agriculture economy is an American issue and must be treated as such.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications:

After dedicating my professional life to the service and protecting of others, I’m running for Congress to keep our families safe and to ensure that anybody who works hard and plays by the rules can achieve the American Dream.

 

I am Levittown, Bucks Co. native and graduate of Bishop Egan High School, as well as a graduate of LaSalle University and Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law. I am a licensed Certified Public Accountant, Emergency Medical Technician as well as an attorney, having previously served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney where I prosecuted violent drug and gun offenders to stem the tide of abuse and violence.

 

For the last nearly a decade and a half, I have served our country as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent where focused on fighting political corruption and supporting global counterterrorism efforts – including as part Operation Iraqi Freedom, the largest of several active fronts in the War on Terror. Working to promote freedom and democracy, I also served as National Director for the FBI’s Campaign Finance and Election Crimes Enforcement Program and as a national supervisor for the FBI’s Political Corruption Unit where I was recognized as an expert in restoring integrity to governmental institutions. For my work, I was proud to be recognized as the inaugural recipient of the FBI Director’s Leadership Award in 2015 and named “Investigator of the Year by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation.

 

With the challenges our nation faces, my unique set of experiences are exactly what we need in Washington to restore security and opportunity for all Americans. The time is now

 


 PA 9th Congressional

 

Bill ShusterUS District 9

Representative Bill Shuster (R) Incumbent

 

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

When I speak with farmers across the 9th Congressional district one of the most critical and common issues they are facing continues to be harmful government regulations. The fight to stop the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule has been one of my top priorities since the administration crafted it and has worked to fully implement it. This power grab significantly impacts the agriculture industry, which is one of the backbones of Pennsylvania’s economy. The rule is misguided and while it will continue to face major legal challenges I’m committed to doing everything I can to permanently stop it as I’m concerned that if we don’t many family farms will not be passed down to future generations and the high costs associated with the rule will make it harder for the agriculture industry to thrive here at home.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

As Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure, the committee that has jurisdiction over this issue I’ve fought day in and day out to block the EPA from implementing such a terrible regulation. The House has passed legislation authored by me, H.R.1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act that would protect farmers from this government overreach and both the House and Senate have sent legislation to the president’s desk disapproving of the rule. Instead of listening to the concerns of farmers and others working in the agriculture industry across the country President Obama’s vetoed the legislation.

I’ve worked so hard to help elect Donald Trump because he has made stopping this EPA rule one of his top priorities, and I know that when he is president efforts like this and many others that are good for agriculture will not be blocked.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

I am proud of my deep roots in central and western Pennsylvania and my record of service to our community. I know what issues matter most to this region because I grew up on our family farm in Bedford County and raised my two children in Blair County.

Prior to being elected, I owned and operated my own small business in East Freedom, Pennsylvania.

I have been honored to have the opportunity to serve the 9th Congressional District- a place that is made up of my lifelong friends, family and neighbors.

During my time in Congress, I've been fighting for policies that are good for our farmers and the thousands of lives in Southwestern Pennsylvania that they impact. I also believe that in my role as Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee I’ve been able to provide the leadership and voice that our agriculture industry needs in Congress.

 

 


PA 10th Congressional 

 

 

Thomas MarinoUS District 10

Representative Thomas Marino (R) Incumbent

 

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

-Under the Obama economy, farmers are struggling and relief seems to be nowhere in sight. Crippling regulations like the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule threatens all of our nations farmers and they constantly worry that the federal government will come in a regulate the way their farm is run. We must open up new markets to our farmers so they can stay competitive in the global market. For our dairy farmers, milk prices are stagnant and show no signs of rising in the immediate future. Finding both long-term and short-term workers is becoming increasingly difficult under the current immigration system. Finally, common sense tax reforms to reduce tax burdens for our farmers need to be implemented.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

-In the 114th Congress, I was appointed as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust law. My goal as Chairman is to reduce the number of costly regulations that are putting taxpayers on the hook for billions dollars every year. One piece of legislation that I introduced and has passed the House is the REVIEW Act. My bill would stop “high impact rules” with costs over $1 billion dollars annually from taking effect until all court challenges to the regulation in question are settled. When agencies such as the EPA propose these regulations, they do so knowing that they can become effective while the legal process is underway. It is time we change the way that agencies propose regulations and it must be left up to Congress and not unelected bureaucrats to enact policy. The American people are unable to hold these bureaucrats accountable the same way they can hold Members of Congress accountable.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

-Since coming to Congress in 2011, I have fought hard for not only farmers in Pennsylvania, but farmers across the United States. In the 114th Congress, we have passed countless pieces of legislation that benefits farmers such as The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which sets a federal standard for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) ingredient disclosures. The Death Tax Repeal Act, which ensures that the American dream can stay alive by allowing businesses and farms the ability to be passed down from generation to generation without an immense tax bill owed to the government. We recently pushed for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to act swiftly to help those dairy farmers who are struggling with low milk prices and because of our efforts the USDA recently purchased 11 million pounds of cheese, valued at $20 million. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, I will continue to fight against burdensome regulations that place farmers at risk of fines, or even losing their farms. To address WOTUS, Congress passed the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would require the EPA to withdraw the rule and start the development process from the beginning. Additionally, we passed a Resolution of Disapproval which cleared both the House and Senate but was vetoed by President Obama. Rest assured, as long as I am a member of the United States House of Representative, I will continue to fight for our nations farmers and I will always put the needs of my constituents and the American people above my own.

 

 


 PA 11th Congressional

 

Lou Barletta webUS District 11

Representative Lou Barletta (R) Incumbent

 

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


Pennsylvania is a world leader in agriculture, a critical industry to both our national security and national economy. In order to maintain this position, our elected officials must ensure farmers have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

 

Excessive government regulation continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the agriculture industry. Time and time again I hear from working farmers and local businesses throughout the 11th Congressional District about how overregulation in Washington is impacting their ability to produce goods and provide services.

 

One recent example is the Obama Administration’s Waters of the U.S. Rule, which redefines federal waters in a way which will force property owners to prove that large mud puddles and ditches on their property should not be federally regulated. The rule will lead to increased operations costs and legal fees for local farmers and presupposes that states lack the ability to monitor and enforce environmental regulations. While it might be difficult for unelected, federal environmental bureaucrats to understand, sometimes a mud puddle is just a mud puddle.

 

Another challenge facing Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry is the sharp decline in milk prices. This crisis was caused by a number of factors, including the strength of the U.S. dollar, higher milk production in the European Union, and over production here at home. Dairy is the largest segment of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry and a strong economic driver across the country. The federal government must take any and all actions necessary to manage this crisis and assist our dairy farmers, especially when feed prices are high.

 

Finally, tax reform is an important issue for our farms. Taxes, particular the federal death tax and the Section 179 Expensing tax provision, have a major impact on Pennsylvania’s farms.

 

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

I have consistently pushed back against regulatory overreach that harms farmers. I voted for a resolution, which President Obama vetoed, that would have vacated the administration’s Waters of the U.S. Rule. I am also a cosponsor of legislation that would force the administration to withdraw the rule and develop a new, workable rule by consulting with local and state governments as well as with stakeholders. I have held several roundtable events in the district with farmers to discuss this issue.

 

In response to concerns voiced to me by local farmers and related industries that their vehicles would be held to the same safety regulations as long-haul commercial trucks traveling across the country, I authored the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau-supported Local Farm Vehicle Flexibility Act, or H.R. 3473. The legislation allows states to permit farmers to operate “uncovered” vehicles from one point to another on a farm or nearby processing facility, even if they cross public roads in the process. This commonsense legislation is rooted in the idea that farmers using their trucks to local supply stores and markets should not be subject to the same requirements as commercial trucks crossing the country. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I was able to negotiate the bill’s language into the 2015 highway bill, which was signed into law.

 

I have also taken several steps in Congress to aid our dairy farmers. I voted for the five-year Farm Bill, which was signed into law in 2014. That bill enacted a new risk management program, the Dairy Margin Protection Program, for dairy farmers. While this was a step in the right direction, any new policy may take time to realize its intended effect. To further combat the impact of declining milk prices on dairy farmers, this year I signed a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to use the existing authorities available to him to aid struggling dairy farmers. In response to that letter, the USDA announced that it will buy approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the country.

 

Finally, I voted for the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, which made permanent many tax provisions, such as Section 179 Expensing, which helps farmers invest in new property and equipment. I also voted for and cosponsored the Death Tax Repeal Act, which passed the House last year.


Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications.

Before running for office, I started a small line-painting business with my wife, Mary Grace, on $29.95. Within five years, we grew the business into the fifth largest of its kind in Pennsylvania. And by the time we sold the business when I became mayor of Hazleton, we grew it into the sixth largest of its kind in the country. As a small business owner, I experienced how excessive government regulation and taxes affect the bottom line. I ran for office to help create an environment in which businesses can grow and hire employees.

 

As a member of Congress, I am always thinking about how legislation or rules coming out of Washington will affect small businesses and local farmers. I have been honored to consistently receive the American Farm Bureau Federation’s “Friend of Farm Bureau” award.

 

Protecting our agricultural industry is a matter of both economic security and national security. We need to be able to grow and produce as much as possible here in America without our government regulating every aspect of our farmers’ lives.

 

Since coming to Congress, I have toured farms throughout the 11th Congressional District and held many discussions with farmers about issues they face every day. I am proud to stand up for their interests in Washington and support food security for America’s consumers.

 

 


 PA 12th Congressional

 

Keith RothfusUS District 12

Representative Keith Rothfus (R) Incumbent

 

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

Agriculture is the number one employer in Pennsylvania, and our farmers provide food and economic vitality to our entire region. The Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to expand federal regulation of dry land areas as “Waters of the U.S.” poses a significant threat to farmers. The Clean Water Act is intended to regulate navigable waters, but the EPA is attempting to expand their jurisdiction to regulate intrastate water including puddles. I oppose this attempt by unelected bureaucrats at the EPA to expand their power. I voted for the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078) because the EPA’s proposed rule would place an excessive burden on farmers who are trying to irrigate their land, dig ditches, build fences, and manage their property.

 

The Federal Estate Tax also known as the “Death Tax” poses a threat to family farmers who want to pass their assets and farming heritage to future generations. President Obama called on Congress to return the Death Tax to 2009 levels, which is a tax rate of 45 percent. I oppose the Death Tax and I will continue to fight against President Obama’s attempts to raise taxes.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

I will continue to oppose regulatory overreach by federal bureaucracies including the EPA, and I will vote against any tax increase including President Obama’s proposed increase in the Death Tax. I voted for the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act to protect farmers from a regulatory power grab by the EPA.

Pennsylvania farmers and small business owners are burdened by red tape and excessive regulations imposed by an out-of-touch federal government. We need to unleash the economic potential of hardworking Americans so that our economy can boom again.

 

I voted for the Regulations of the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require Congress to vote on every major rule proposed by the Executive Branch if it has an annual economic impact over $50 million. I also added an amendment to the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERTT) Act that would force federal regulators to consider the impact of their regulations on jobs and wages.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications:

I've spent most of my life in the private sector where I focused on helping businesses take steps to grow their companies, add jobs, and prosper in Western Pennsylvania. Washington has forgotten the meaning of “public service.” As your employee in Congress, I work every day to be accessible and accountable to the 705,000 people I represent. My motivation to serve comes from my commitment to my family. We must keep the Medicare and Social Security promises made to our parents’ generation and leave our children with a country full of opportunities. I introduced the Congressional Pay for Performance Act, which will require Congress to pass a budget and appropriation bills on time or members of Congress will not get paid. I support term limits. I have refused the Congressional pension and I refused to take the unauthorized healthcare subsidies for members of Congress granted by the Obama Administration. I wrote and passed an amendment that bans senior executives at the VA from receiving bonuses and redirects that money to care for veterans.

 

 

 


PA 15th Congressional 

 

DENT Headshot 113th Congress croppedUS District 15

Representative Charlie Dent (R) Incumbent

 

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

The Administration's burdensome regulations are a critical national issue, and one that is especially confronting Pennsylvania agriculture. The current's Administration expansive and burdensome regulations are negatively affecting agriculture. The expansion of the Clean Water Act through the Waters of the United States regulation is a prime example. The rule would significantly expand the government's ability to regulate privacy property, with especially detrimental effects for agriculture, by imposing new permit Clean Water permit requirements and liability for farmers conducting their businesses. Almost all of the land in Pennsylvania is potentially impacted under this rule, showing the large impact this rule would on our state.

 

What are your thoughts action actions that should be taken to address those matters?

Broadly, we need regulatory reform. The EPA's WOTUS rule is just one example of how burdensome regulations are hurting Americans and hurting businesses. Congress needs to continue its federal oversight of the rule making process. Congress has been working on bills to improve the regulatory process, and that's work Congress should continue to do. Regarding the WOTUS rule specifically, I think that we need to continue the work in Congress we have been doing to put pressure on the Administration regarding it rule, and showing its negative impacts. I have been a consistent advocate to show this rule's negative impacts on Pennsylvania. Congress passed a resolution repealing the WOTUS rule, which I voted for, but then President Obama vetoed it. Now that this matter is winding its way through the court system, we need to see how the courts rule. I think it's important to continue to the conversations.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications:

My legislative experience, both at the state level and now at the federal level, helps me better serve my constituents. As a public servant, I’m someone who is proud to work across the aisle to achieve results. I appreciate the importance of ideology, but I recognize the importance of practicality as well.

I’m a strong supporter of promoting economic growth and curbing government overreach. I am currently a member of the Appropriations Committee, which oversees funding for agricultural and food programs and my position means that Pennsylvania’s agricultural community has a strong voice representing them.

 

Finally, I have always worked to promote the best interests of the people of my district, to act with integrity and to be a public servant my constituents can be proud of supporting.

 

 


PA 16th Congressional 

 

Lloyd SmuckerUS District 16

Lloyd Smucker (R)

 

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

What I hear from folks in the agricultural community is that they just want to be left alone to do their job, which is no different than any other small business owner. What they see from Washington is regulatory overreach run amok. Case in point, the EPA rule which significantly expands the definition of “waters of the United States.”

 

The bureaucrats’ reinterpretation of the rule expands the definition of “navigable” water to include everything from ditches, ephemeral drains or low areas. That’s unprecedented and frankly, out of control. The word “navigable” has a clear definition to me and anybody with common sense. Ditches are not navigable. We need regulations premised on common sense, not on growing the government and providing work for bureaucrats.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

I support legislation like the REINS Act, which would require Congressional approval for any regulation that would cost our economy more than $100M. Regulators must be held in check, and, farmers need the government out of their way to succeed.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications

Lloyd Smucker is running for Congress to make certain that anybody who works hard and plays by the rules can achieve the American Dream. Recognized as a thoughtful problem-solver by our community, Lloyd has never backed down from a fight to stand up for our beliefs.

 

As our Congressman and small business owner, Lloyd will put Americans back in the driver’s seat of our economy by making sure it works for everybody, not just a privileged few. He will change the culture in Washington by staying focused on solutions without ever losing sight of his principles and our values.

 

Understanding that radical Islam must be destroyed, Lloyd will not back down from defining the enemy. Lloyd will support clear, comprehensive plans to destroy ISIS, Al Qaeda and any group that threatens our way of life. To stop the flow of illegal immigration into our country, Lloyd will champion policies to secure our borders and deport criminals.

 

Lloyd supports the repeal of Obamacare and will champion legislation to uphold the patient protections that have wide support, like covering pre-existing conditions and allowing children under age 26 to remain covered under their parents’ health insurance plan.

 

In our community, Lloyd surrounded himself with skilled men and women to build a local construction company. His team grew to over 150 hardworking people, who labored daily against red tape and government overreach. That experience shaped his belief that government is best which governs least.

 

Elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 2008, Lloyd quickly rose as an educational reformer focused on restoring local control and holding failing schools accountable to parents. Believing that all children should have access to a world-class education, Lloyd championed reforms to ensure schools are adequately funded while stemming the skyrocketing cost of education.

 

Understanding that manufacturing is central to a healthy economy, Lloyd is a champion of trade and vocational-based education to make sure that students and families are well positioned for rewarding, family- sustaining careers without crushing debt.

A strong proponent of local control, Lloyd was a 4-year member of both the West Lampeter Township Planning Commission and the West Lampeter Township Board of Supervisors.

 

Lloyd attended Franklin & Marshall College and Lebanon Valley College part-time while managing his business. Lloyd and his wife Cindy have three children: Paige, Regan, and Nicholas. They attend Zion Lutheran Church in Leola and reside in West Lampeter Township.

 

 


PA 17th Congressional 

 

Matt ConnollyUS District 17

Matt Connolly (R)

 

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

Agriculture is the biggest industry in PA, yet it is being continually assaulted by an onslaught of regulations that do nothing to increase productivity. The ACA is one of them that has made keeping full time workers very costly. There are also DOT regulations that restrict who can drive equipment and require paperwork for such activity. Then there’s the EPA. With pesticide permits and other rules about equipment emissions that will add costs to farmers without added production, and you are breaking the back of the farmer.

 

What are your thoughts about actions that should be taken to address those matters?

My actions would be simple and decisive. Let the farmers work in the most practical and productive way they can, without the federal government meddling and regulating. They should be exempt from the ACA and federal emission regulations, and work with state and local government. An Amish farmer is very different from a California farmer, and the federal gov’t should recognize and respect that.

 

Please provide a narrative about your experience and qualifications

I’ve been a small business owner for over 30 years. I’ve seen how gov’t intrusion has made commerce harder everywhere. I’ve worked with the EPA, DOT, Historic Preservation groups, and many other entities. It has become clear that they have no idea how they hamper the growth and prosperity of citizens trying to earn a living. My real life experience will allow me to free the farmer from the bureaucrats who have no concept of how their actions hurt the industries they are trying to regulate.