Sen. Makes Valley Stops
DAYTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner addressed many issues facing Virginia in two Valley stops Friday as part of a tour through the state.
Warner, a Democrat and former Virginia governor, will face Republican candidate Ed Gillespie and Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis in the Nov. 4 general election.
One of those stops was at the Cargill turkey plant in Dayton, where he toured the facility and met with Virginia Poultry Federation members.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week released new voluntary poultry plant inspection rules that would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors, but increase the focus on testing for safety rather than quality.
Hobey Bauhan, the poultry federation’s president, praised the new rules, as did Warner. But both focused more on the corn-based ethanol mandate they say hurts the industry by inflating the grain’s price.
“I think it’s a dangerous policy when you’re using our food-producing crops as fuel,” Bauhan said.
Warner said he’s been supportive of the federation’s push to end to the mandate, and continues to fight against it.
Bauhan also raised concerns about India’s ban on U.S. poultry imports, imposed several years ago to prevent avian flu. Bauhan he said allowing exports to India could potentially be worth $300 million to poultry growers.
China recently ended its ban on Virginia poultry, a move that state and industry officials say will boost sales around the state.
Virginia and Rockingham County in particular have a major stake in the poultry industry nationwide and could stand to gain significantly if the ban were lifted.
Poultry is Virginia’s largest agricultural commodity and Rockingham County is No. 1 in the state for poultry production. In 2012, broilers alone were a $649 million business.
As chairman of the Senate India Caucus, Warner said he is aware of the issue and will press Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his staff on the ban when he visits the United States in September.
“We’ve raised this issue with the Indians,” Warner said. “My hope is that this could be one of the areas where, with the prime minister coming, we can show real progress.”
Warner also addressed the legislation he introduced on Wednesday to combat sexual assault on college campuses, called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
He called the issue heartbreaking and referenced the testimonies of survivors during a Thursday press conference.
Some colleges may be trying to sweep the problem under the rug, he said, adding that he thinks action on the bill may be taken by Congress as soon as this year. He anticipates broad bipartisan support.
The bill does not indicate any source of funding for colleges to carry out the proposed mandates of annual surveys, new positions and staff training.
“Having an appropriate system of reporting is more a question of changing the culture than a question of money,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Warner began his tour in Woodstock at the Fort Valley Nursery and Café.
More than 100 people met the senator, including Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ferguson and Woodstock Town Manager Reid Wodicka.
The crowd asked him about Medicare spending, income inequality, and tax reform and corporation tax loopholes, to which Warner said he favored a progressive tax code with fewer corporate loopholes that discourage off-shore inversions.
“We need a tax code that’s actually simpler. I think you can do tax reform that actually will lower the corporate rate,” Warner said.
The former telecommunications executive and venture capitalist was named the richest U.S. senator in 2012, with an estimated $257 million net worth, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Warner spoke largely on changes to scheduling and claims filing by Veterans Affairs hospitals, specifically his initiative within the VA reform bill to create an information technology task force of private sector firms to improve the department’s system.