MIAMI COUNTY — Speaker of the House and Ohio’s U.S. House of Representative 8th district John Boehner was candid as always as he addressed the local farm community on the state of the nation’s new Farm Bill as well as a wide range of national issues on Saturday.
During the traditional question and answer session with members of the local agriculture community, Boehner answered questions ranging from tax reform and its affect on local farmers, immigration and even who he’d like to see run for U.S. President in 2016 at Edison State Community College in Piqua Saturday morning.
TAX CODE REFORM
“This week, Chairman Dave Camp, from Michigan, the chairman of the ways and means committee, unveiled a discussion draft of overall tax reform — both corporate and personal,” Boehner said. Boehner said more information about tax reform will be coming in the future on the issue and be widely discussed in 2014.
“When you try to take on something as complicated as overhauling the tax code, you can’t pass the bill and then ‘we’ll find out what’s in it,’” he said as the audience laughed. “It’s really important that the American people understand this, the members of Congress understand it, because whenever we pass a law —whether its the Farm Bill, tax reform — we always know we’re always going to have the law of unintended consequences.
I’ll guarantee you as this year goes on, you’re going to find a half a dozen issues in the Farm Bill, either that were written poorly or they were implemented poorly, that we’ll have to go back and address.”
When you are dealing with the tax code, let me tell you what — there are a lot of decisions that have been made in terms of big investment in our economy based on what the tax code says as opposed to some economic reality,” Boehner said. “I expect this conversation to go on — no timing, no bill yet, but the conversation is underway.”
FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS
Boehner then answered a question in reference to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its current free trade negotiation agreement. Boehner said Europe is also in free trade agreement talks as well. He also noted President Barack Obama does not have trade promotion authority, which Boehner believe he should have.
“Which means, if there’s an agreement, Congress can just pick it a part and make changes. I’ve tried to explain to the President now for a year and a half, two years probably, that if he had trade promotion authority, he could actually get to a bottom line and actually get to an agreement,” Boehner said. “No country is going to come to an agreement with us if they think Congress can mess around with it. The President, because of his own political issues, has been reluctant to push for trade promotion authority. But I do expect it will happen. We will not get any trade agreements though, until TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) is passed by the Congress. But I do expect sometime this year, that we will get to this issue.”
Boehner answered a question from an audience member who stated they stopped providing health insurance to its employees due to the Affordable Care Act.
“Listen, we passed 44 bills to repeal, modify, change Obamacare — none of them have been taken up by United States Senate,” he replied. “This is (President Obama’s) pride and joy. He has unilaterally made 22 changes to Obamacare. Some which I think he had the ability to do. Others, I’m not so sure. But, I think we’re going to see higher prices, see more problems.”
Boehner said a recent report from the congressional budget office stated that for employers of 50 or less employees, 65 percent of those employees are going to see higher premiums as a result of the ACA.
Boehner also stated the Medicare Advantage programs is being threatened by the ACA.
“They are trying to do everything they can to get rid of Medicare Advantage,” he said. “Why? Because the private sector offers it. What they are doing is they are providing a better value for seniors and taking people away from traditional Medicare and its got the bureaucrats in Washington all worked up.
This means our seniors are going to lose their choice in their doctor, lose their choice in their hospital, or frankly, in many cases, lose their plan,” Boehner said. “Because what will happen is the big insurance companies, their prices isn’t right, they’re just going to pull out of certain markets.
“They only thing we can do today, at this point, is to provide oversight to make sure the American people know exactly what’s happening — or you can just listen to (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid, ” Boehner quipped.
Boehner addressed the issue of immigration reform and the E-Verify system to document workers.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
“I think if we actually are to broaden immigration reform, we have to have E-Verify,” he said.”In the current, fragmented system, we have some states are using E-Verify effectively, some industries using it very effectively, but I’m not sure we’re ready for nationwide E-Verify until we get in to substantial immigration reform.”
Boehner said he has tried to move a series of immigration bills in the House of Representatives in the last 15 months.
“We are a nation of immigrants and this issue has become a political football,” Boehner said.
Boehner said the day after the Presidential Election 2012, he called for Congress to deal with the immigration issue.
“I didn’t suggest it was going to be easy, I know it’s going to be hard that’s why it’s still hanging around,” Boehner said. “So for the last 15 months I’ve been trying to move the ball down the field, only to be tackled by people that just don’t want to deal with it.”
Boehner said immigration reform can be achieved in a common sense, step-by-step way. Boehner said immigration reform must start with border security, the ability to enforce the law and to fix the nation’s visa programs.
“I’m still working with the President, working with my colleagues in a bipartisan way, and the Congress to move this issue along,” he said.
GOLFING WITH OBAMA AND THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE
One question Boehner candidly answered was whether or not he still golfed with President Barack Obama.
Boehner said he and the President only played golf one time.
Boehner and Obama beat Vice President Joe Biden and his partner Ohio Governor John Kasich during their outing at Joint Base Andrews’ golf course in Maryland in June 2011.
“And I get to remind Kasich of this all the time,” he replied.
Another question from the audience asked Boehner who the 2016 President of the United States should be?
Boehner referred back to his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno where he publicly stated he’d like to see former governor of Florida Jeb Bush run for U.S. President.
“If you saw me on Leno, I’m a big fan of Jeb Bush. I’ve been pushing him to do this. He’s a great guy, smart, articulate. He can talk about our party and who we are better than almost anybody that’s out there … and he’s one of my best friends,” he said.
It was the 23rd year for Boehner’s annual Farm Forum which featured a panel discussion of the 2014 Farm Bill and how the bill will help Ohio’s agriculture community. Members of the panel included Congressman Bob Gibbs, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Craig Butler, Professor of Agricultural Economic at Purdue university Otto Doering III, Ph.D. and Alan Kozak, vice-chair and founding member of the Dairy Policy Action Coalition. The panel was moderated by James Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
MEIJER KEYNOTE SPEAKER
Keynote speaker Hank Meijer, co-CEO and co-Chairman of Meijer Inc. shared his experience owning and operating the retail grocery chain started by his grandfather Henrik Meijer.
Meijer spoke about the challenges of selling fresh produce, immigration issues and government regulations which affect his business.
Meijer also spoke about the recently announced plan to build a $100 million dairy facility in Tipp City. The dairy is expected to create 100 new jobs producing milk, cottage cheese, sour cream and organic dairy products with 50 million gallons of raw milk per year.
“This summer, Speaker Boehner, we’ll be groundbreaking on a new dairy, now our second dairy, but a much larger one,” Meijer said. “It will be a new opportunity, I hope, for some of the dairy farmers in this region as we gear up to process 50 million gallons of locally sourced raw milk per year.”
Mejier said the company hopes to complete construction of the Tipp City facility by early 2017.
Meijer said he appreciated all the help from state and local officials to open the new dairy facility.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Meijer said.
Mejier ended his speech by thanking Speaker Boehner for his leadership and commitment to Ohio agriculture.
Melanie Yingst can be reached at (937) 440-5254 or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews