Ron Johnson visits Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Sun Prairie

The County Today
By: Jim Massey
August 31, 2015

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.”

Avian in­fluenza

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.”