By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
Candidates vying for the Republican Party nomination to run for the 6th Congressional District share similar views on agriculture and the economy.
U.S. Representative Robert W. "Bob" Goodlatte faces challenger Karen U. Kwiatkowski in the Republican Party primary on Tuesday.
Goodlatte, 59, lives wth his wife in Roanoke. He was first elected to congress in 1993. The couple have two children.
Kwiatkowski, 51, has lived in Mt. Jackson with her husband since 2003. The couple have four children.
The 6th Congressional District covers all or part of Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and Staunton, and the counties of Shenandoah, Alleghany, Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Highland, Rockbridge and Rockingham.
Kwiatkowski describes herself as a Constitutional Conservative. She is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, worked as an officer in the Pentagon and operates a cattle farm in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, according to her website.
Goodlatte runs a private law practice in Roanoke. The congressman serves on several committees, including the judiciary and agriculture panels.
In recent phone interviews the candidates spoke about their views on several issues, including the proposed five-year farm bills. The U.S. Senate is looking at its version of the proposed legislation. The House of Representatives agriculture committee takes up its version later this month, according to Goodlatte.
Both Goodlatte and Kwiatkowski say they oppose subsidies to farmers. As Kwiatkowski noted, subsidies also benefit some dairy farmers and, while she wants their votes, the conservative said she favors more the free market.
"I have a huge problem with the way that the farm bill and all the farm bills -- and actually a lot of the other legislation -- move through the congress because they are pushed by the big, agricultural interests, pushed by the big, agricultural corporations," Kwiatkowski said.
Kwiatkowski noted one of her main concerns in the farm bill is how it pertains to the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. The way GIPSA is being rewritten benefits the larger producers in the agriculture industry, Kwiatkowski said. Under the farm bill, Kwiatkowski argues many of the country's poultry and hog farmers own little yet remain in debt, working as "serfs" for larger corporations in the industry. But the GIPSA rules are being shaped in a way that would do much the same to cattle farmers such as those in the 6th District, according to Kwiatkowski.
"I'm not only against subsidies; I'm not only against socialized agriculture; I am against --particularly I'm concerned about what is going on and how they're writing those GIPSA rules and who they're listening to, and I'll tell you Bob Goodlatte I know who he's listening to -- it ain't us."
Goodlatte and Kwiatkowski agree that less government can only help the country move out of the beleaguered economy.
"I'm pessimistic on the economy and I think the government needs to get out of the way," Kwiatkowski said. "I think we got too much government borrowing and spending."
"Government doesn't create jobs," Kwiatkowski added. "People and private capital create jobs."
She also opposes over regulation by the federal government. Kwiatkowski spoke about the "adulteration" of gasoline with ethanol which she called a "bad idea." Kwiatkowski noted the federal renewable fuels mandate created an artifical market for ethanol, driving up the price of corn and resulting in sending approximately 40 percent of the harvest to gasoline rather than to feed animals or people.
"It's all government in my way and I want it out of my way and I think that's what people in the 6th District want, too," Kwiatkowski said.
Both candidates agreed federal spending has not helped the national economy. Congress needs to reign in spending as it works on the federal budget and surmounting debt, according to Goodlatte.
"It's gonna have to be tightened and, therefore, we're going to have to reduce spending for all our national priorities, including the farm bill," Goodlatte said, noting 80 percent of the legislation covers the nation's food stamp and nutrition programs while the remaining 20 percent goes to agriculture. "We're going to have to root out areas where there is waste, where there is abuse, where there's fraud, and to cut back on spending on those programs."
Goodlatte said he wants to see farmers move toward buying crop insurance rather than depend on subsidies.
"With regard to the farm programs, we need to move more toward a more free-market, agricultural program," Goodlatte added. "Over the last two farm bills we've been moving in that direction but because of the very sizeable cutbacks in the amount of money that will be available, I'm hoping that that will create an even greater incentives to move away from these big commodity programs ..."
Agriculture in the Shenandoah Valley consists mainly of crop producers in the free-market arena who don't usually receive farm subsidies, according to Goodlatte. Subsidies go mainly to the farms which produce crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans. While the valley does produce corn, Goodlatte noted most of that harvest goes to the livestock and other animals.
Goodlatte introduced legislation to end a mandate requiring a certain amount of the corn crop to go to ethanol production. The congressman said the proposed legislation is popular with farmers in the district.
"Out-of-control government spending" as do increased mandates keep the economy from recovering fully, Goodlatte said. Private firms with capital to invest remain unwilling to do so because of the uncertainty surrounding increased costs of doing business, acccording to Goodlatte.
The congressman claims the executive order signed by President Barack Obama concerning the Chesapeake Bay has hindered economic investment. Goodlatte also questions the legality of the order which he says reversed decades of legislation under the federal Clean Water Act.
"Our efforts are not targeted against the Chesapeake Bay," Goodlatte said. "We want the bay to continue to get healthier but we want to do it in a way that makes economic sense for the communities and the farmers and the small businesses in the Shenandoah Valley and elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and what the president has done is given all the power to the EPA and started mandated things to be done without doing any cost-benefit analysis, without any consideration of whether or not the health of the bay is going to improve as a result of these efforts."
The president's administration pulled its support for legislation the congressman had introduced which would have opened up Virginia to off-shore oil drilling operations, according to Goodlatte. Such an initiative would have created jobs, revenue from royalties and helped lower the cost of oil and gasoline, Goodlatte argued.
"To me the No. 1 issue in this election is are we going to elect a new president of the United States who can work with the congress and roll back the power of the federal government and create more incentives for the private sector to invest and create jobs," Goodlatte said.
Kwiatkowski claims she once supported Goodlatte but several years ago didn't receive a response from his office. Kwiatkowski said if elected to represent the 6th District she would improve relations between the office and the constituents.
Goodlatte said he is very proud of the work that his staff and he does in communicating with his constituents and listening to their concerns.
"We pay very close attention to what they have to tell us. We have offices where they can get help if they're having problems with governing agencies," Goodlatte said.
Goodlatte said his office receives more than 7,000 requests from constituents each year asking for help. The congressman noted his office also receives more than 50,000 letters, emails and other correspondence each year regarding legislation he has introduced. Goodlatte said his office makes "a very intensive effort to respond promptly and thoroughly and give them really meaningful information about what's going on with these issues."