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Congressional candidates discuss 2012 Farm Bill

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Congressional candidates discuss 2012 Farm Bill
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It's election season and over the next few months, we'll hear a lot from lawmakers and challengers for their seats. One of the races that's sure to get national attention is the North Country's congressional seat. And with agriculture being such a big part of Northern New York, both men running in what will be New York's 21st district spoke with our Brian Dwyer about the 2012 Farm Bill and the politics behind it.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- The federal government uses the Farm Bill to decide on agriculture and food policy. The current version is set to expire in September.

The Democrat heavy Senate passed a new version, but the GOP led House may not even let it get to the floor. And because the bill passed through the House Ag Committee with bipartisan support, Democratic Congressman Bill Owens says the holdup is all about dissention inside the GOP.

Owens said, "They don't want to bring the bill to the floor and need democratic votes to pass it. I want to emphasize that. Need democratic votes to pass. They don't consider that a good way to do business."

And while he won't have a say in the bill, the man running against Owens this fall doesn't see it that way, saying agriculture is bipartisan by nature and it requires tough calls.

"I'm not in Congress. I don't know all those fancy legislative techniques and all that stuff. What I do know is if we give our family farms an opportunity to be successful, they can continue to grow and get people to work in all those industries," said 21st Congressional Candidate Matt Doheny.

One big disagreement is about the $75 billion food stamp program. Owens says he's willing to meet the GOP halfway, increasing cuts above the three percent proposed by the Senate.

Doheny saying that's not enough with a near-record number of users showing people rely on it too much for too long. And creating jobs will make up for the loss.

"Unemployment is unfortunately 10 percent here. If unemployment is four percent, by law of numbers, we have a lot fewer people who need the public assistance and you get down to that number where people are just having a hard time,” Doheny said.

"What I'm hopeful is that we'll come to a compromise when we have the reconciliation and we'll see something in the 20s in terms of total cuts, which would mean a six or seven billion dollar cut to food stamps," Owens said.

House republicans proposed $15 billion in cuts in this bill.

Congressman Owens says the bill would help the North Country stabilize the milk pricing system, support specialty crops and allow farms to opt-out of insurance programs.

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