U.S. Rep. Bill Owens wants to know where his Republican congressional opponent stands on the 2012 Farm Bill.
Watertown businessman Matt Doheny, who is challenging the Plattsburgh Democrat in the race for New York's new 21st Congressional District, said he doesn't want to chime in on the bill yet because the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate are offering "competing visions."
In a release issued earlier this week by Owens' campaign manager, James Hannaway, the candidate's campaign team noted that Doheny spent last week meeting with farmers across the 21st District and "still has no opinion on the most important bill affecting New York agriculture."
Rep. Bill Owens, left, and Matt Doheny
(Enterprise file photos)
The Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill last week 35-11, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, hasn't scheduled a vote on the bill, which would cost $500 billion over five years, a savings of $36 billion compared to the last bill The Senate has already passed a version of the bill.
Boehner will be in Lake George on Aug. 3 to raise funds for Doheny.
"Matt Doheny has a clear choice: New York farmers or John Boehner," Hannaway said. "He can either support a common sense, bipartisan piece of legislation that farmers need, or he can play games and shout political rhetoric from the sidelines. Doheny has said Boehner speaks for him. Does Boehner speak for Doheny when he says parts of the bill are 'Soviet-style?'"
Boehner said recently that a voluntary program for dairy farmers that would help stabilize the market when over-supply pushes the price of milk down is "Soviet-style."
Owens said the Agriculture Committee's bill would increase funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, consolidate more than 20 conservation programs into 13 at a savings of $6 billion, improve access to credit for family farmers and replace outdated subsidy programs for dairy farmers, among other things. The New York Farm Bureau has praised Owens and his colleague, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, for their work on the bill.
Doheny's campaign responded by claiming Owens is trying to mislead voters.
"He's trying to avoid talking about the issue that matters most to voters: the lack of jobs in this district due to my opponent's support for higher taxes, more regulations and more government spending," Doheny spokesman Jude Seymour said in an email.
"Here are the facts: Several farmers told Matt last week that they have adopted a 'wait-and-see' approach to Farm Bill legislation because there are competing visions between the Senate bill and what emerged from the House Agriculture Committee," he added. "Matt believes that is also appropriate and will provide a thoughtful opinion on the version that comes to the House floor."
Regarding Doheny's support of Boehner, Seymour said Owens' campaign took a comment made at a campaign event in Plattsburgh, during which Lake Placid accountant and former rival Doug Hoffman endorsed him, "grossly" out of context. On repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Doheny said Boehner "speaks for the entire Republican conference, as well as candidates like myself around the country."
Seymour said that particular comment didn't apply to the Farm Bill.
"Matt agrees with Speaker Boehner that a repeal of ObamaCare is necessary because it kills jobs, increases our deficit and does not lower the cost of health care," Seymour said. "We're glad to contrast Matt's support for repeal with our opponent's repeated attempts to defend a bill that's bad for working families."