Stefanik talks ag issues, trade deal, climate change

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

A farmer near Watertown said he’s discouraged Rep. Elise Stefanik would defend the president after he has differed with her on some issues important to farmers, but the congresswoman said working with people she disagrees with is part of the job.

Many farmers in Northern New York say Rep. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, defends them well in Congress.

John Peck owns Peck Homestead Farm in Carthage. He said the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which Ms. Stefanik said is long overdue, was absolutely huge for farmers. Mr. Peck said the agreement will allow for more exports into Canada and Mexico, which will help since dairy farmers are producing more milk domestically than the nation consumes. And the over 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which UNMCA replaced, didn’t represent the evolution of food production and exporting, he said.

“Her support there has been tremendous,” Mr. Peck said in an interview with the Times. “If you don’t modernize these trade agreements then we’re just falling behind.”

Ronald F. Porter is another farmer in Jefferson County. He owns Porterdale Farm in Adams Center and also supports the new trade agreement. He said Ms. Stefanik brings common sense to the table in these negotiations.

“She has been a real friend of agriculture,” Mr. Porter said. “She understands the importance of the farmer in rural America. I tip my hat to her.”

Another Stefanik supporter is John Ferry, who owns Milk Street Dairy in Tylerville. He is proud of how Ms. Stefanik has voted over the years. He said her vote against the final tax bill in 2017 was a vote for New Yorkers. He said he appreciates her efforts to highlight climate change and the need for farmers to be responsible stewards of the land. And he said her bipartisanship to cosponsor an agriculture worker visa proposal allowed farmers to have the work force they needed.

Although Mr. Ferry said he’s discouraged that Ms. Stefanik would defend President Donald Trump after the two leaders have disagreed on the issues Mr. Ferry is glad she supported.

“I’m not thrilled she has been a soldier for the president,” Mr. Ferry said.

In an interview with the Times Tuesday evening ahead of the State of the Union Address, Ms. Stefanik said she has to work with the president to deliver for her district. She said the impeachment process was partisan and that she chose to focus on the facts and follow the Constitution.

“You have to be able to work with people even if you disagree on certain policy issues,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I do have an independent record in my district, and the president respects me because of that.”

And as far as climate change, Ms. Stefanik said she has visited apple orchards in the Champlain Valley and has seen the impact of out-of-season hail storms. She acknowledges it to be a problem, but she does take issue with what she says is governmental overreach and regulations by federal agencies like the EPA.

“Climate impacts farmers,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I’m a leader when it comes to being an independent voice when it comes to environmental issues.”

Ms. Stefanik’s guest at the State of the Union address was David Fisher, a seventh-generation dairy farmer from St. Lawrence County who was recently elected president of the New York Farm Bureau. Mr. Fisher said farmers are taking climate change seriously. They are watching their carbon footprint, he said, especially since technology has allowed farmers to produce twice as much milk as they did 50 years ago, with one-third the amount of cattle.

“We have been doing our jobs when it comes to climate change,” Mr. Fisher said. “We just haven’t gotten the credit for it.”

Ms. Stefanik said she chose Mr. Fisher because the union address is an opportunity to highlight community leaders and people who do extraordinary things. And she wants to continue listening to the challenges facing farmers in her district — whether that be trade, reducing regulations, labor or making sure export opportunities continue to grow. And she’s proud she does it using common sense.

“I never ask constituents ‘are you Republican, Democratic or independent?’” she said. “If you have a good idea that will help the community that I think is interesting and will improve the lives of hard-working families, we’ll absolutely follow-up on those ideas and see if we can put them into action.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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