PLATTSBURGH — Congressional hopeful Matt Doheny kicked off his summer tour of the 21st District in Clinton County, hoping to learn more about the prevalent agriculture industry in the region.
“We wanted to focus on the agriculture sector to understand what the issues are from a government and a business perspective and learn from the people on the ground,” Doheny said after a visit to Amazing Grace Vineyard in Chazy.
Doheny, a Republican from Watertown, is challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Owens from Plattsburgh in the November election.
An easy winner in the Republican primary over Kellie Greene of Sackets Harbor on June 26, Doheny will also be on the Conservative and Independence party tickets.
He ran against Owens in 2010 and lost a close race that also featured Douglas Hoffman on the Conservative Party line. Hoffman received 6 percent of the vote even though he did not campaign after losing the Republican primary to Doheny.
Doheny embarked on his “50 businesses in 50 day” tour last week to highlight his campaign. In addition to the winery, he also visited Rulf’s Orchard in Peru and Park Family Maple Farm in West Chazy.
“We are finding that there are definitely challenges for each area of agriculture, whether it be labor or access to capital,” he said.
“People work hard and, unfortunately, they seem to be getting less return for their efforts, and we need to turn that around.”
Doheny said there are different issues for farmers, apple growers, maple producers and equipment dealers, and he wants to make sure he understand them all so he can offer help.
“It’s not a one-size fits all approach, and that is why we are taking the time to meet with people and make sure we understand what the challenges are,” he said.
“We want to make sure we know as much as possible and learn ahead of time and not learn while on the job.”
WAS FARM LAWYER
Owens, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said its recent passage of the 2012 Farm Bill could help the agriculture industry in several ways.
“Agriculture has played a foundational role in New York’s economy for generations,” he said in a press release.
“I am pleased Republicans and Democrats were able to come together to send legislation to the House floor that will support specialty crops and dairy in our region, improve program efficiency and provide farmers and growers the certainty they need to to improve our economy and maintain a secure food supply.”
One item of the bill would allow more smaller farms in the region to purchase crop insurance against disasters. Last year, several farmers lost crops to Tropical Storm Irene and did not have insurance.
“Those (existing) insurance programs were more tailored for farmers in the Midwest, but this will make it more inclusive and allow more smaller farms in the Northeast to buy insurance in a more affordable way,” Owens said.
He said he had an extensive background in agriculture before he was elected to Congress, as he was the attorney for several area orchards and dairy farms and a board member for the William H. Miner Agricultural Institute in Chazy.
“My learning curve was not that steep,” he said. “I knew a lot, and I didn’t learn it in just 50 days.”
Doheny has been touting his business background as a former Wall Street investor as a sharp tool that would help him improve the economy and create jobs if elected.
He has been critical of Owens’s record, especially his support of President Barack Obama’s health-care plan that was approved two years ago.
After Wednesday’s vote in the House to repeal Obamacare — as the bill has become known — failed, Doheny again criticized Owens for supporting the plan.
He said it will cut Medicare for seniors by more than $500 billion and raise $525 billion in additional taxes, penalties and fees.
“The law is a nightmare for working families,” Doheny said.
“Premiums continue to rise. People are losing the insurance they like. Jobs are being lost. That’s why I am committed to repealing this unworkable law and replacing it with common-sense measures that will cut costs while putting the patient first.”
Owens said that Republicans are quick to criticize Obamacare but have yet to offer anything to replace it.
“I haven’t seen anything yet,” he said.
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