SUN PRAIRIE — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is out hard on the campaign trail, 14 months before he will face the man he beat to assume the Senate post five years ago — former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.
Johnson said if he had his druthers, he wouldn’t be gearing up a campaign more than a year before the election, but it wasn’t his choice to get such an early start.
“First of all, it was not my choice to do this,” Johnson said during an Aug. 25 interview at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. “When I first ran I didn’t decide until May of the election year. I think that was more than enough time.
“I wasn’t the one in charge of choosing to start the campaign so early. It’s unfortunate that that’s where we’re at in this country.”
Feingold, a Democrat, announced his plans to challenge Johnson in May of this year, although he was on the campaign trail even before that.
Johnson visited with FTD attendees and reporters during a brief stop on the Statz Brothers Farm.
He said he believes the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. rule is “getting to the point of absurdity” as to what the EPA is trying to regulate.
“I think it would be very unworkable — it’s just going to increase the cost of business in general and the cost of farming,” he said. “I think we need to be very concerned about that. I think every regulation needs to have a very rigorous and accurate cost-benefit analysis done on it and then in the end, do we have enough benefits that actually offset the costs.
“I have not looked at the detailed analysis of this, but it’s my guess that the WOTUS rule would not stack up very well in terms of cost-benefit analysis.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require the administration to write a new WOTUS rule in consultation with state and local governments. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced a similar bill in June on an 11-9 vote.
Trade Promotion Authority
Johnson said while there is some opposition to the Trade Promotion Authority that was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in June, he agrees with the premise of the legislation.
TPA, also referred to as fast-track, allows the White House to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. Congress is not allowed to filibuster or amend the deals.
“There are a lot of people saying there were some nefarious motives in terms of keeping the trade negotiations secret, but how else are you going to conduct this?” Johnson said. “There are some pretty sensitive issues from all the countries involved, so until you have a final deal, you really can’t be revealing what is happening in the midst of those negotiations. So once the deal is complete, if it is complete, there will be total transparency.”
Johnson said negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement — a trade deal involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations — have been ongoing since 2010. He said he will be anxious to see the details of the trade deal once it is completed.
“I’ll certainly be reaching out to really every interested party to see how these provisions — which might be pretty complex — affect their particular businesses and their ability to create better-paying jobs,” Johnson said. “I’m for free trade but it’s got to be fair, and I think that’s what this administration is dealing with right now. How do you complete a deal that keeps markets open and opens up additional markets with trade partners that represent 40 percent of the world’s economy? That’s something that we don’t want to be on the outside of looking in.”
Johnson said he is concerned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t have a good reimbursement program for the farm operators who don’t own the chickens housed on their farms.
“The reimbursement goes to the corporate interests and what we really need to do is make sure that those individuals that operate those farms are also properly compensated so they can continue in the future,” he said.
With the fall migration of birds about to begin, Johnson said the USDA has to be in a “better position” to deal with the disease if it rears its ugly head again.
“The USDA did react pretty quickly in the spring, but probably not quickly enough,” he said. “We’ve got to get greater authority to testing labs locally so we can get those flocks destroyed as rapidly as possible so it doesn’t spread. I think that’s probably the No. 1 consideration in the fall months.”