The Times
  • Hanna addresses farming issues at campaign stop

  • Dairy farmers for almost two years have steadily attended rallies and appealed to their elected officials.

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  • Dairy farmers for almost two years have steadily attended rallies and appealed to their elected officials.
    Calls and e-mails have been sent to representatives, demanding action on the crisis facing the industry: Milk prices do not reflect the cost of production.
    The issue is sure to be featured in the November race for the 24th U.S. Congressional District, held by Democrat Rep. Michael Arcuri.
    Looking to appeal to the struggling dairy farmers, Republican candidate Richard Hanna visited a fourth-generation Schuyler farm Thursday as part of his many recent campaign stops.
    The area is at a “crossroads in terms of farming,” Hannah said. The people need to decide “whether or not they want their farms to survive,” he added.
    Hannah contacted Dale and Debbie Windecker and asked to hold a press conference at their 525-acre dairy farm that has 200 head of cattle.
    Debbie Windecker has over the last 18 months traveled as far as Iowa to attend dairy farmer’s rallies and events. She describes the industry as being on an “unsustainable course.”
    The solution sought by the Windeckers involves the federal government changing its regulations that play a role in setting milk prices. Ms. Windecker also said she wants better food quality standards and controls limiting outside countries’ ability to sell milk to the U.S., which she argues creates an unfair marketplace.
    Hannah said he supports creating a competitive market among U.S. processors for dairy farmers to sell their products. And he also spoke of limiting the ability for outside countries from unfairly selling inferior products that drive prices down.
    He was unclear on the government’s role in providing the pricing protections while maintaining fair trade standards, however.
    Subsidies are not necessarily the answer, Hanna said, and “it could be the government that’s making the problem.”
    Ms. Windecker, who works for the state Department of Transportation’s office in Utica to secure health insurance and a supplemental income for the family, said the answer boils down a few simple issues.
    The actual milk supplies have to be reflected in pricing and the cost to produce a high quality product has to be protected, she said.
    “Farmers don’t want handouts,” she said. “They want a fair price.”
    But, Ms. Windecker feels attempts to bring change have been ignored.
    “D.C. is just a black hole,” she said, “they don’t want to address the problems.”
    Arcuri’s representatives said the congressman has been working on the dairy farmers’ crisis. He frequently meets with agriculture advisory committees made up of regional growers, farmers, agri-business professionals, according to Mark Cornell, an Arcuri spokesperson.
    The Windeckers have served on the advisory committee, Cornell said, “it was surprising to see that Mr. Hanna was at their farm.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Cornell said Arcuri has acted on some of the suggestions that have come directly from the committees.
    The congressman has written letters calling for a program to be used to increase milk prices and cosponsored a bill that updates the program that sets a price floor for milk prices paid to farmers. Arcuri also introduced legislation that would transfer transportation costs, currently burdening dairy farmers, to the large processors. An issue that farmers have said is pushing dairy farmers’ production costs up, Cornell said.
    Carolyn Ehrlich, an Arcuri campaign aide, said Hanna chose to visit the farm to cover up his opposition of subsidies to help farmers in general. She called a “classic election-year move.”
    But when asked about why the Windeckers welcomed Hannah, Ehrlich referred the question to the source.
    During the campaign event, Ms. Windecker gave her reason.
    “We don’t have the political voice,” she said.