Two New York farmers and another volunteer campaign worker for Sen. Hillary Clinton, Dem-N.Y., recently visited the Tarheel State to talk to farmers here about the support they feel the Senator has given to farmers in New York. On April 14, the three volunteers visited farmers in the Wilson, Tarboro, Nashville, Louisburg, Henderson, Raeford, Lumberton, Kenansville and Smithfield communities.
Mark Nicholson, a fruit farmer and owner of Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, N.Y., says, as a senator, Clinton has worked hard to promote and distribute farm products in his state.
"We wanted to let farmers here know our experience over the past seven years with Sen. Clinton in New York and let them know some things that I can tell you they are not going to see in the national media," Nicholson said. "She has worked diligently for farmers and rural communities in New York. Like it is in North Carolina, the number one industry in New York is agriculture - a lot of people don't realize that.
"The other part of what we are doing on this trip is getting some feedback from the North Carolina farmers we've talked to. There have been some rather striking similarities between agriculture here and agriculture in New York. We have a lot of the same challenges such as the cost of fuel. Rising inputs are a big concern in both states. And the labor situation is critical, given that we (in N.Y.) have a lot of specialty crops and labor intensive crops."
Jay Biba is Sen. Clinton's regional director in the Central N.Y. area. He noted the cost of energy is a big factor currently limiting the profitability of farming, both in terms of the fuel needed to drive tractors and in increased inputs for products like fertilizers. Sen. Clinton, he said, wants to lower or at least cap the federal gas tax. Obtaining labor, he added, had been mentioned by many Tarheel farmers in discussions.
"If there is a top concern for farmers down here in North Carolina, I'd definitely say it is the labor issue and I believe you could say the same is the case in New York," Biba noted. "We have a lot of people who are active in the H2A program and while it has been working for some, a lot of others are taking issue with how much it costs per man in the H2A program as well as the problem with the amount of paperwork in the process and the way that someone has to be worked through the system."
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