The NYS Farm Bureau sponsored a debate in Great Valley, NY this past Tuesday night between Assemblyman Joe Giglio, challenger Linda Witte, Warren Schmidt (representing Rep. Randy Kuhl), and Joe Meisch (representing Eric Massa). Below are my notes from the debate. The following is not fully verbatim. Due to the length of the transcription, I have divided it into three separate posts.
Joe Meische: Eric Massa is strongly for putting farmers back to work, especially in the bio-diesel field. The money generated by this industry should stay in the community. He’s a strong supporter of local communities and the military, and will fight hard for the VA. The budget process going on (for the VA) is being played with. Veterans are the last group that should be having funds cut.
Warren Schmidt: Randy Kuhl knows and has delivered $250 Million for the district. He has held the promise of holding townhall meetings (290 total). It proves he is accessible to the public. He is on the Agriculture, Education and Transportation committees. He has been named to the Farm Bureau’s Circle of Friends. He has supported many types of reforms and tax cuts, supports guest worker programs, families, small businesses, and an increase in the minimum wage. He is at the forefront in support of veterans – Canandaigua VA Hospital “Center of Excellence”/funding for vets. He supports first responders, a comprehensive energy plan, and authored a bill to give the federal government full responsibility for the West Valley Demonstration project. “Its great to hear that Eric Massa supports what Randy Kuhl has proposed” (regarding VA).
Joe Giglio: He ran to bring common sense and common good back to government. Albany is out of touch. We have lost jobs, children who must go elsewhere for work. His experience as Deputy Inspector General gives him a working knowledge of how government works and to make recommendations. He brings this knowledge with him to make things better. The farming industry in NYS is a $3.6Billion industry; 35,000 farms. The average age of a farmer is 54 yrs. Farming is the leading industry in NY and it must be protected.
Linda Witte: She is a County Legislator and is running to speak out and support in the Southern Tier. The frustrations in the district reflect what she feels are the problems and must be addressed loudly in the assembly. Linda knows what its like to spend time on farms. Its hard work and something that farmers should be proud of. She has farm experience and appreciates what farms do.
She told of knowing what its like to live paycheck to paycheck, and as a single mother. The policies made in Albany don’t reflect reality. It is difficult for people who don’t have a clue for rural NY that tell us how to run our business. Healthcare and the economy – includes farming; we can improve on the healthcare system and Medicaid system. It is unacceptable when people fall through the cracks. The young are leaving because of the lack of economic opportunities. Future farmers may not be here; why stay when they can’t make a living?
She proposes a Regional Board for the economy. If we don’t start now, it will become worse.
Joe Giglio: We agree that there is something broken in Albany; Medicaid system with the fraud. The first bill he wrote addressed $45Billion in fraud. The focus will remain there until we give you property tax relief.
Linda Witte: Healthcare system and economic concerns, agriculture – we have failed; we compete with big cities – NYC’s ports – another hindrance for our products. The healthcare insurance system – small farmers and businessman cannot compete. We need to preserve our open spaces and put in place policies.
Energy Use for Farm Production
Warren Schmidt: The cost of fuel is starting to go back down. Development of alternative fuels would help to relieve the dependency.
Joe Meische: The question is related to the War on Terror. Deprive them of funding that goes to the terrorists; the money stays in the community. Additional benefit of biofuel can be the growth and production with no leftover waste by-products. 99% of farm equipment is diesel powered. The initiative Eric Massa strongly supports creates businesses in many industries – equipment manufacturing, mechanics, etc., when transferring over to biofuels. It would decrease operating costs for farms. Organic farms – for every $1 spent, $7 is brought back. This cold rejuvenate communities at the core level.
Would you work to support Agricultural Education, FFA’s
Linda Witte: Yes. There is interest, and we’ve had meetings in the Southern Tier to educate the public. Some kids don’t understand about farm products. There are proposals to take them on tours to farms to show what farmers do. When you educate them to how valuable that work is, you may inspire them to become farmers.
Joe Giglio: “Assembly Task Force”; He has spent time at the Telaak Dairy Farm. The knowledge you get from watching them operate gives you the idea of how hard it is to operate a farm.
(Healthcare) Some doctors are not accepting insurance that the hospitals are accepting.
Joe Meische: We all know that there is a problem with healthcare and it needs to change. We can have a program to get everybody healthcare; more covered than it is right now. We should not be falling down on this. Insurance companies are accepting monthly payments and then (when a claim if filed), telling the client that it is not covered. Work needs to be done on this issue, and it needs to be done in a bi-partisan way.
Warren Schmidt: The system isn’t working. We need to take a look in revamping insurance and the healthcare system so people don’t fall through the cracks. Medicare D does need more work. Need to fix the system to make sure it works better for everybody.
Linda Witte: In working as a nurse – insurance has loopholes and hurdles. We need a single-payer system; the system is broken. Reimbursement in NY state is terrible. It is beyond any sense to magically explain why they do what they do. Medicare D is not working the way it is supposed to. It is unacceptable.
Joe Giglio: It is a tragedy that insurance companies decide who and how those are treated. It is not an easy system to fix … to fill that hole for NY residents. Land it at the feet of the insurance companies.
End of Part 1