Ohio congressman wants to shift more government farming subsidies to family farms
MANCHESTER, N.H. —U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, the latest Democrat to formally enter the presidential race, wants to not only modernize the nation’s manufacturing base, but he also has an aggressive plan to restore the family farm as the base of the nation’s agricultural production.
Ryan, a nine-term U.S. House member from Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, discussed in detail his plan to move the nation toward “regional and sustainable farming” — and ultimately toward eating healthier food — during an appearance Thursday on WMUR’s “Conversation with the Candidate” series.
The program airs from 7-7:30 p.m. on WMUR-TV and continues for an additional 30 minutes on WMUR.com and our mobile app.
Ryan is a native Ohioan who received a law degree from the former Franklin Pierce Law Center, which is now the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He is basing much of his candidacy on what he views as his ability to restore the nation’s manufacturing dominance.
But he has also worked on the agricultural issue, authoring a 2015 book titled, “The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm.”
The book focuses on making the nation’s food supply healthier by creating “a new kind of food system — the family farm, 21st century-style.”
During the program, Ryan told an audience of New Hampshire voters, “We have to have agricultural policies that move to regional and sustainable farming because it’s better for the environment, it produces real food, not crops that go into really highly processed foods.
“I think we need to reward farmers for growing real food, growing real produce. Pay them for the transition out of where they are, and we’re going to save the money in health care costs in the long run.”
Ryan has said that billions of dollars spent by the federal government on crops that are ultimately turned into substances found in processed foods should be instead spent on family farmers to encourage them to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.
He said Thursday that encouraging farmers to grow more fresh crops would also help the environment “because they don’t use all the pesticides.”
“We have algae blooms in the middle of the Great Lakes,” he said. “There’s a dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River because of all the chemicals running down and going into the Gulf of Mexico. We’re destroying our environment.”
“We need to pay farmers to sequester carbon,” Ryan said. “Farmers can be a big part of reversing climate change because they can help with some regenerative agricultural techniques, such as no-till farming, cover crops.” No-tillage farming is a technique that reduces erosion and cover crops are planted to also manage soil erosion, fertility and quality.
“All these methods can actually, in the long run, help us put more carbon into the soil, and we should pay farmers to do that as well,” Ryan said.
“If we come together, sit down with farmers, sit down with public health people, sit down with people in the food industry and say, ‘How can we do this?’ it can be good for the environment. It can be good for our health care system.”
He said children “will be healthier, have better cognitive functions. Our kids will be more focused and concentrating, which is what we need them to do.”
“Win, win, win, win, win,” Ryan said. “And if Monsanto” — a major agricultural corporation that receives large federal subsidies — “loses in the process, so be it. But most of us are going to win by breaking down this current system.”
Ryan, 45, began his career in politics as an aid to the late U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant before serving in the Ohio state Senate and then being elected to the U.S. House. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, co-chair of the Congressional Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus, a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic and co-chair of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus.
“I can win. I can beat Donald Trump,” Ryan said. He noted that he was reelected in 2016 while Trump won in three counties in his congressional district.
He said that as his party’s presidential nominee, he will move key states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin back into the Democratic column.
“I really understand the old economy because I come from the old rust belt,” Ryan said. “I’ve seen it unwind over the past 30 years.” He said he also understands “the future economy.”
“The middle class is eroding,” Ryan said. He said the next president must have “a big vision.”
“I will get them back in our camp,” he said.
“We just lost 1,700 jobs at a General Motors facility,” while Trump is “race baiting, starting culture wars,” Ryan said. “We don’t’ need a superstar, we don’t’ need a reality TV star. We need a grinder.”