|Cuccinelli (left) and McAuliffe (right)
Photos by Pam Wiley
The event was sponsored by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, the Virginia Forest Products Association and the Virginia Forestry Association and was open to those organizations’ members.
The candidates spoke separately, answering questions submitted by farmers and forestland owners.
McAuliffe said one of his major goals if elected will be to broaden markets for agricultural and forestry exports. While Virginia exports significant amounts of farm and forest products, “in some countries we are just scratching the surface,” he said.
When asked for his thoughts on regulating farms to protect natural resources, McAuliffe said, “I want everybody to be at the table” for “a constant interaction between us as we move forward on regulations, and maybe on regulations we no longer need.”
Asked how he might lessen negative effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on the state’s farms, McAuliffe noted that federal health care reform is now “the law of the land. We’ve got to work with it to find out what works for us” while ensuring that it does not hinder economic growth.
He said Virginia needs to take the federal Medicaid expansion rather than lose $26 billion it has paid into the system. “Why in green acres would we not want to bring that back? … I am not going to leave that money in Washington” to be spent on other states.
Cuccinelli questioned the affordability of the Affordable Care Act, calling it “an assault on the middle class.” If elected, “I will do everything I can to keep us unentangled with this new law as it unfolds,” he said.
As a state government, he said, “we have to obey the law of the land. We might not like it. It might be difficult. They’re making it more difficult.”
With regard to regulations proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Virginia farms and other businesses, Cuccinelli cited his track record for pushing back against EPA mandates and pledged to keep pushing back. He also said Virginia faces ongoing challenges to property rights, even after enactment of the constitutional amendment voters approved last fall.
The amendment’s opponents “want us all to say, ‘OK, we’re done!’” he said. “Well, we’re not done.”
The ability to take land using “quick take” procedures needs to be “reined in,” he said, and takings such as those by the Virginia Department of Transportation should be examined by state government “so we get consistency and what I expect to be better treatment of our citizens.”
Both candidates said they would ensure that 100 percent of state funds earmarked for transportation improvements would be spent on transportation.