JOHNSTOWN - U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, was in campaign mode Monday, visiting two different locations in Fulton County as he prepares for an election rematch with Republican Matt Doheny.
Owens started his day with a small business tour of the Northville area with Northville Mayor James Groff. Owens then went to Johnstown to tour and visit with workers at the Euphrates Cheese plant, where he was joined by fellow U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
At Euphrates, Owens and Tonko discussed a variety of subjects, including local economic development efforts and the Farm Bill with Euphrates' National Sales Manager Lisa Miner.
From left, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, listen to Lisa Miner, national sales manager for Euphrates Cheese, at the company’s plant in the Johnstown?Industrial Park on Monday.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
The current Farm Bill doesn't expire until the end of the month, but some farmers are already feeling the effects of Congress' inaction.
The Milk Income Loss Contract, a program that compensates dairy farmers when milk prices decrease below a certain point, began providing reduced coverage Sept. 1.
Owens is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, which passed its version of the Farm Bill in July. So far, House Speaker John Boehner R-Ohio, hasn't brought it to the floor for vote.
While Owens and Doheny disagree on many things, they have both said Congress needs to pass the Farm Bill.
"The yogurt and cheese plants are industries that employ people ... and also are very helpful to farmers," Owens said. "If it is helpful to farmers, it means it is helpful to all the industries that surround agriculture."
"There is a real recognition by many that work with Bill and myself that the agriculture business is a huge part of our regional economy," Tonko said.
Euphrates Cheese ships out around 60,000 to 90,000 pounds of cheese a day from its Johnstown factory that employs 92 people. The company receives 20 to 24 truckloads of milk over the course of every week, said Miner.
However, Miner said, the need for higher grade milk has required the company to receive some of its supply from out of state.
"Short supply of your single most important ingredient makes things tough," she said.
Miner suggested the only way to change that is for farmers in the state to increase their herd size, which would be easier for them to do if the Farm Bill was passed.
Owens stressed that industrial companies, such as Euphrates and Greek-yogurt manufacturer Fage USA, can flourish in this region. Owens also said he believes Fulton County can rekindle the logging industry in Northville and take advantage of the many distribution centers along the Thruway.
Owens also addressed negative remarks from Doheny that he is weak on defense because he voted to cut $500 billion in the defense budget.
"As a veteran myself, clearly I understand that we must have a strong defense," Owens said. "Supporting that ... means you're weak on defense, because it means you are not willing to do the hard work to negotiate the kind of compromise we need to protect sequestration from going into effect."
Owens is facing Doheny for the new 21st District, which will include all of Fulton and Hamilton counties.
Tonko is running to represent the new 20th district, which includes only part of Montgomery County. Tonko faces Republican opposition from Bob Dieterich in the general election.