Lindsey is joined in the studio at Radio Kingston by freshman Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19) to talk about his hotly contested race for office, representing the needs of beginning farmers in DC, and how he’s trying to reach across the aisle in an era of “political tribalism.” After the show, Lindsey and Jessica debrief.
National Young Farmers Coalition is proud to have our VP of Policy and Campaigns, Sophie Ackoff, as well as several member farmers on Rep. Delgado’s 19th Congressional District Agriculture Advisory Board, including Wes Hannah and Bryn Roshong, Solid Ground Farm; Hudson Valley Young Farmers Coalition, Tianna Kennedy, Star Route Farm; Greater Catskills Young Farmers Coalition, Ben Tyler and Greta Zaro, Unadilla Community Farm; Leatherstocking Young Farmers Coalition and Bari Zeiger, Frost Valley Farm.
Photo from left: Michelle Hughes, Lindsey Lusher Shute, Rep. Antonio Delgado, and Sophie Ackoff in Washington, DC.
Lindsey: This is the Young Farmers podcast. I’m Lindsey Lusher Shute. I live in a farm in the 19th congressional district of New York State. It’s a very large and very rural district that’s also a swing district. It was held by Congressman John Faso and before him, Chris Gibson for several terms. They were both Republicans. Last year we had a very contentious and very expensive race for Congress here. It was nationally watched because of the political makeup of the district and Antonio Delgado, a Democrat, eventually prevailed, he won. Like Faso and Gibson, he joined the Ag Committee to represent the many farmers in this district, like me. Congressmen Delgado came into the studio last month. We talked about the race, how he’s working to represent the range of political opinions and viewpoints here in this district, and how he’s hoping to help local farmers.
Emily: Hi, I’m Emily from Three Springs Farm in Oaks, Oklahoma. I’ve been a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition since 2011 because I believe in having representation in Washington for young farmers. For $35 a year, you can join too. In addition to being part of a bright and just future for agriculture in the United States, you’ll also get discounts like 10% off. So true seed and 10% off farm tech. To join go to youngfarmers.org
Lindsey: Today, I’m very pleased to have my own member of Congress, Antonio Delgado.
Delgado: Thank you for having me.
Lindsey: Thanks so much for being here and being on the program. Okay, so the first question I wanted to ask you is you ran an incredibly tough race here, right? And in the Hudson Valley in New York, 19, you had six other challengers in the Democratic primary, all very strong. It was really down to the wire and then you ran against an incumbent. This district has been held for many terms over by Republicans, and it was one of the most expensive races in the country and there were all of these attack ads on your character, on your former music career, and I just wonder, what was it like for you finally winning this district on election night?
Delgado: Yeah, it was an amazing feeling. You know, I had a rush of different kinds of emotions. You know, elation, relief, excitement, joy, you know, there was definitely lot of weight that came with it as well. Understanding the role that I now was going to be stepping into. You know, but I think more than anything, the strongest emotion that I felt was hope. I just felt that we overcame a lot. And by we, I mean the community, you know, the entire district and all the folks who volunteered and all the folks who came out to vote. You know, we leaned into our shared values and our principles even beyond politics. I think there was a moral call to action and in so many respects, and we answered the call. And I think for me to be a part of that process is incredibly meaningful and it’s something that lives in me to this day.
Lindsey: So you had moved out of the district before running and then of course moved back prior to the campaign, but I just wondered, did you, had you always intended to run for public office? Like why,
Lindsey: Why did you make this move and why was it so important to you? Because it’s, it’s no small thing to take on a race like this.
Delgado: Yeah, I’ve always been a politically inclined in that, you know, I’m a student of both philosophy and political science. I did my graduate work in political theory. You know, I was very active politically back in college. And even when I did my music, the reason why I felt compelled to do it was to make a political statement. So I’ve always been politically oriented, but for the vast majority of my life I’ve been turned off by, you know, traditional politics. Particularly at the federal level where you have so much money, so much superficiality, the influence of special interest groups. You know, it just felt like it was too much to stomach. And as I got older, I had a family and thought about, you know, where I was in my life. I was working at a law firm and I was happy there, but you know, it was a lot different than the work I was doing in the music space, provided a lot of good training for me. But I knew in my heart there was more for me to give in the public square. And as the election unfolded in 2016, I just thought a lot about home. My wife and I are from home and she’s from Woodstock. You know, I’m from Schenectady and thinking about what’s been happening economically and how stories like mine, we grew up working class and, you know, watch your family, you know, work its way up. Those stories aren’t happening anymore and we stopped prioritizing education. But education was everything for me. And the more and more I see us coming undone as a country, and all the divisiveness and the partisanship, the more I thought about the question “why?”. And the why for me was, “there’s an illusion of scarcity”. And rather than have enough leaders out there who are trying to figure out how to bring us together, deal with that, and sharing our prosperity, we have too many folks at the highest levels of government who are exploiting that illusion. And it’s forcing us to turn tribal and forcing us to turn inward or to close ranks, which is not American. And as somebody who I think is essentially the product of our American values and dreams, I have an obligation to step up and do right by the path that was laid by those who came before me. So that’s it. I mean that, that was the thing that kind of motivated me with all the warts that come with this process. And there are a lot of them. I think at core, you know, it’s a very important job and it, you know, it’s important that we have people in place who actually care about people who love people, who, who want to give back to their communities. And that’s what I’m here to do.
Lindsey: You mentioned tribalism and I see that on both sides, right? Conservatives and liberals, I feel like in a swing district by virtue of the fact that it is purely so divided and the New York 19th is a good example of this, you have to sort of meet in the middle, so to speak. There has to be some common ground and like number one, what do you think other, the country and other Members of Congress should learn from swing districts? And in the New York 19th, how are you, how are you planning on sort of building that constituency and bringing people together? Cause it’s hard, in this case.
Delgado: It is hard, but you know, as you know, New York 19 is unique, is that a third Democrat, a third independent, a third Republican, a true purple district. And it’s survived the epidemic that is gerrymandering, which is creating these incredibly blue and a red districts. It undermines any chance of real bipartisan work. You know, for me, serving a district like ours, you’re right, it’s important that I do the work across the district, across the political spectrum, to build the bridges, to make sure that people understand that I’m here to serve everyone. And more often than not, when you are put in that position, you are able to find common ground. You’re able to figure out what those bread and butter issues are, those kitchen table issues are, that matter to people no matter their political persuasion. And even if how you solve that problem, or whatever it is may differ, if you can at least first and foremost highlight it, pinpoint it, and prioritize it, you can at least get more and more folks to the table to engage. And if we’re going to deal with hard problems, like climate change, like the healthcare crisis, like wage stagnation, like income inequality, these are complicated issues in a politically diverse country. And at the size of ours, we don’t have any choice, but at the very first level to figure out how to speak with each other across the aisle. Because otherwise we’re not going to be to get anything done. So it’s imperative that we take our cues from districts like this one, right, where members are put in this situation to engage with everybody across the aisle. And I’m proud, very proud of that work. I’m also proud to sponsor legislation like HR1, which requires states to have independent commissions to draw congressional districts as opposed to having elected officials who are certainly going to act out of self interest more often than not, unfortunately, and they thereby create these partisan seats.
Lindsey: What do you know about the Hudson Valley, about New York 19 that might be surprising to people?
Delgado: Well, what’s surprising, I mean, interestingly enough is people’s perception of what the state of New York actually is, right? If you talk to folks outside of New York or even sometimes people in New York, it’s as if upstate New York and the Hudson Valley in the Catskills doesn’t exist, you know?
Lindsey: You mean in New York City?
Delgado: Yes. The city, as if the state of New York is New York City. That’s how people talk about it. You know, I’ll tell the folks in DC that I represent, you know, the third most rural district of any Democrat in the country, the eighth most of any member, Republican or Democrat and their mouths, you know, drop.
Lindsey: Wow that’s incredible.
Delgado: See, a lot of folks don’t appreciate that, but it’s a fact.
Delgado: The third most rural of any Democrat.
Lindsey: Is that based on population density?
Delgado: Population density. I think also we have what, 5,000 or so farmers, a little over 5,000, 8,000 farm operations, a strong presence with dairy farms up in Delaware and you know, Montgomery and Sullivan everywhere all throughout the district. Bee farms, vegetable, fruit, vegetable farms, grain, just a host of small, you know, family owned farms, that function as the backbone, you know, of our economic opportunities here and they need a lot of support. And too often the focus in these conversations is on mega farmers or corporate farms or commodity farming, to the detriment of our local farmers. So I’m proud to be on the Ag Committee. I’m proud to be a voice for this region on the Ag Committee to fight for the kinds of programs that I think can actually develop the local markets that we need here through investment infrastructure, to help our farmers, in an evermore competitive environment.
Lindsey: Yeah, so you’ve been doing, it’s, it’s great that you’re on the Ag Committee certainly as a farmer here, and from the Young Farmers Coalition perspective, it’s great to have you part of that leadership. I know you’ve been talking to farmers and connecting town halls. What are you, what are you hearing? What do farmers want you to do on the Ag Committee?
Delgado: Well, I think a big, you know, I was just out the farm out in Delaware, Delrose Farm, great farm, great dairy farm, about 60 some odd cows. Also got to meet with some folks at Don’s Dairy Supply Store. And it’s important because you know, you understand the value and you hear the stories about how, you know, I think at one time, some 30, 40 years ago, there were 400 or so dairy farmers in Delaware. Now we’re down to about a hundred, in Sullivan County there were about 120 years ago and now we’re down 12, right? So there’s a real hit that’s happening and a lot of it, the impact is because of the consolidation and the monopolization of the ag space to the detriment of local, small, farms. So the need is to figure out “how do we create a more regionally based, locally based infrastructure and marketplace?”. Whether it’s from the farm hubs, whether it’s investment with onsite production and processing, you know, it’s going to take that kind of incentivization and investment to help build out these, these farms and make sure they actually have access to that big apple down the way where you have tons of unmet demand for organic and locally grown food that we can’t tap into because we don’t have the local infrastructure. So I think what they’re, what I’m hearing from a lot of them is “we just need more support, not handouts”. But just to focus on how we actually can spur economic growth. Even something as basic as rural broadband is critically important for our farmers from technological standpoint. All these things are critically important and we don’t have it. Self service just basic things that can help, you know, aid farmers, not just farmers even, but you know, small businesses, all entrepreneurs across the district. But certainly our farmers.
Lindsey: Yeah. So I guess a Secretary Purdue is going to be giving testimony or speaking in front of the Agriculture Committee at the end of this month. What are some of the questions that you have for the secretary and about USDA?
Delgado: Well, I mean, I think what I just spoke about in many respects “is how are we going to right the imbalance here?” What are the, what are we going to focus on to make sure that we make this space more competitive for our small and family owned farms? Because they’re being bought out to being priced out, they’re being marginalized. And you know, we can talk about food promotion programs and evaluate our programs, we could talk about farmers worker programs. All of these are critical, but what are we doing by way of infrastructure to really help make sure that our farmers have access to the markets. I think that to me is the focus. And I would like to just hear what ideas are being generated, you know, what types of grant programs, you know, even in the climate change space, you know, how are we going to incentivize farmers through things like carbon sequestration or carbon capturing with real grants and not just burn them economically. But also, you know, but actually spur them to invest in these products or in these techniques for the benefit of our climate, but also for the benefit of their own endeavors. So it’s, it’s thinking outside the box, it’s diversifying, and by diversifying, I don’t mean telling a farmer you have to go be a wedding planner. No, I mean telling the farmer how do we, no, but I actually heard a farmer telling me this recently, you know what I mean? Yes. They have to like go off and figure out how to be something. They want to be farmers. They want to farm, they want to do. So this idea of, you know, telling them, oh, just, you know, be more diverse, no by diversification, I mean thinking about the ways in which we, you know, in Congress and the Department of Ag could think about the diverse ways in which we can help farmers in need across the country.
Lindsey: Ya know, this, the conversation around the Green New Deal. I’m wondering, is that something that like the freshman class and the, all of the Democrats are sort of working together in the House? To think about like working together on climate change is, is there, how is agriculture going to be represented in that conversation? Or I’m just wondering, sort of how that’s all coming together cause it’s clearly a huge opportunity but also is a concern on some level for the agricultural community.
Delgado: Yeah. That’s why I’ve chosen to focus just on the things that I think it would be productive in terms of bringing folks together and a to do list, whether it’s investment in green jobs, asking the Department of Energy to do a study on green jobs, and not just renewable energy, not just, wind, solar, geothermal, but you know, energy efficiency technology. You know, we’re getting lapped in this space by, by Western Europe. We’re thinking about water infrastructure or as I know, technologies around carbon capture and carbon sequestration to help empower our farmers with real economic and incentivization. You know, it’s, it’s really thinking through critically how we invest in these jobs and then train the workers, whether it’s through pilot programs at community colleges or whether it’s just through workforce development programs, but real training to allow folks to make the transition. I think a lot of the conversation on the question of climate change, unfortunately, has become incredibly partisan and we throw labels around and we throw phrases around and those phrases ultimately end up becoming a standalones for a conversation. I’d much rather you know, keep myself separate and apart from that and focus on actual specific policy, policy like making sure we stop propping up the fossil fuel industry with tax credits and subsidies and actually shift it over to renewable energy. Policies like no more fracking, policies like actually building out renewable energy infrastructure as opposed to focusing on natural gas infrastructure. Like these types of concrete policy agenda items that I think will keep us out of sort of partisan fueled dialogue that seems to sort of dominate this conversation, unfortunately. So, yes, I’m a member of the freshman class, proud member of the freshman class, but before I am any of that, I’m representative of New York 19. And I care about how I can bring folks together here for the purpose of dealing with the climate change crisis.
Lindsey: Yeah. How do you, how do you think in a swing district to bring, you know, to sort of break those partisan divides talking about climate change? How do you think that conversation needs to change? I mean, is it specific? I mean, as you said like let’s just talk about the specifics, not about
Delgado: Yeah, specifics. I think saying “what is your, what are you going to legislatively accomplish?”. I’ll put like this, I’m into to do lists. There’s things that we can sort of dream up, right? Which, you know, are always useful. But at the end of the day, you know, what are the concrete steps? What are the policy things that we can proceed, the policy agenda items, that we can tangibly, concretely measure to actually get to what we want to get. Whether it’s reducing carbon emissions, whether it’s empowering, you know, a green economy with real green jobs. You know, what is, what are those steps? And then once you have a sense of what, you know, what can happen in that space from a concrete level, you can bring folks together across the aisle to have that conversation. And there’s going to be disputes about how to actually go about doing it. But right now we’re just talking past each other. While I appreciate the spirit and the desire to want to, you know, push the envelope, I think it’s very important that we ground ourselves in some concrete pieces of legislation or policy items to make sure that we can have a debate that is grounded in substance, as opposed to listen with social media, you know, with news what it is today, you know, they’re not inclined to cover this issue in a way that is going to lend itself to robust fact based, evidence based, debate. They just going to run to the headlines. They’re going to run to the noise. Right? And, and any sort of controversial piece of anything is going to be, you know, elevated to the top of the conversation at the expense of real, true dialogue. And this crisis is too important to let it be overwhelmed in that fashion.
Lindsey: So one of the issues that you ran on is healthcare and that is a significant issue for farmers. Farming is one of the most dangerous careers that one can pursue. There’s injuries on the farm and just like day to day just being able to afford it. And, and we have farmers, you know, who are, you know, going to the emergency room still instead of being able to, you know, access regular care or they’re not, they’re still not signing up for health insurance, they’d rather pay a tax penalty. It seems like there’s, you know, depending on where they’re based in whatever state that, what they would be paying in premiums for health insurance, it really varies. And obviously the Medicaid and situation exacerbates that and whether, you know, states have opted into that. So my question is like, what, what are you planning on actually doing on healthcare? What opportunity is there given the political situation to actually make progress on this front and help our farmers get affordable care?
Delgado: Yeah, I think it’s a shame that we’re the wealthiest country on the face of the earth and yet despite that fact, the only developed country in the world without some form of universal healthcare. I think it’s imperative that we achieve it. And you know, many different countries have different forms of universal care. You know, some have single payer, others have a public option. We were only a one vote away from a public option back when the ACA was passed. My preference at this point is to introduce a option. Primarily because one, we’re right there and I think we can get it done. Two, you know, it doesn’t completely overhaul one sixth of our economy. But what it does do is introduce a public competitor into the private insurance market place, which right now has a monopoly on the healthcare system unless you qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. In other words, we are all beholden to the profit motive. And if we introduce the choice for folks to opt into Medicare, in essence make it available to everybody, I think what comes out of that is a floor within the marketplace that all private insurance providers now have to be mindful of. We’ll drive down premiums, it’ll drive down deductibles, it’ll also save a lot of money and costs. Medicare costs seven times less, to process its claims compared to the private insurance because the absence of all the middlemen, and then you also free up the economy. If you’re a small business owner, you’re on the hook for providing employer based insurance. You now can tell your employee well there’s an option now in the marketplace called Medicare. And if you’re an employee and you feel trapped, you know, at your employment because of the health care provided, and you feel like you’re not sure if it’s going to be good or, or affordable elsewhere, well now you have that option to choose Medicare. That type of freedom is how you also create more activity in the economy and from there you can grow the economy. So there’s a lot of benefits and my estimation from introducing a public option on top of that. And I have co sponsored a bill that does just this, we need to make sure that Medicare has negotiating power with big pharma and that’ll bring down a lot of the drug prices, which obviously have a lot to do with why our healthcare is so expensive. If we accomplish those two things, that is a massive transformative step, to universalize our healthcare system.
Lindsey: From a practical perspective, is it possible? Like do you think, can we get bipartisan support for an idea like this?
Delgado: Absolutely, I think, I think, yes. Like I said, we were not that far away, back when the ACA was first passed. And I met with a lot of individuals who are dealing with children who have special needs or unique health scenarios, who, you know, have, have made the point that, you know, they like having the flexibility, you know, they might even be dual citizens of Canada and United States. I could think of a couple of people who I’ve met who, who choose to come to United States to get their care because of the sophistication and the choice element within our healthcare system. So I think there’s a value in that choice and there’s value in that sophistication. But more than anything, there needs to be the choice to opt into a public competitor. And so what you do by, by providing this choice component is you bring a lot of people to the table, right? A lot of folks who certainly all can agree we need to lower the cost of healthcare, lower premiums, lower deductibles. And some folks might say, I want to do that and join Medicare. Other folks might want to just say, well, I want to continue to operate within the private insurance market place. But I also prefer that those costs be brought down significantly.
Lindsey: Right, by virtue of the presence of a competitor.
Delgado: And the presence of a competitor in this space, will do that. So now you’ve brought together a diverse set of people all around the common goal of lowering healthcare costs.
Lindsey: What do you think was missing in the last debate? Why do you, I mean, if it’s just one vote like why couldn’t we overcome that?
Delgado: Little thing called lobby, ya know, I mean people, people at the end of the day, I don’t remember all the specifics. I don’t know. I know that the late Ted Kennedy was a part of that, and Joe Lieberman I think also may have changed course at some point. I don’t remember all the specifics, but we were very close to getting there and unfortunately couldn’t get it done. But I think, obviously, there’s a lot of energy around you know, the fight today. And I just hope that we all can come together and understand here that we have an opportunity to achieve universal healthcare. And our one goal, our focus ought to be to no longer remain the only developed country in the world without some form of universal healthcare. And if we all get behind that, then ultimately, if we can get there, that’s a good thing. No matter how it looks, if we’re no longer the only developed country in the world, that’s a good thing to stop being that it’s not a good stat.
Lindsey: It’s not a list you want to be on, right?
Delgado: Don’t want to be on that list.
Lindsey: All right, so I have one last question for you. I know you, you are over time here. Ww have young, young people all over the country, young farmers who, their stories are really valuable and I think they need, they need to feel empowered to elevate their voices. And I also, you know, feel like they they need help, right? They need help from the Agriculture Committee and their members of Congress. So as a member of Congress, I’m wondering how should farmers and you know, residents of your district and across the country, how should they get through to their member of Congress? Like how should they make sure their stories are heard?
Delgado: Well, I think it’s absolutely imperative that you have a representative, first and foremost, who’s accessible and I know too many places across the country that’s not the case because we have too many representatives in DC who’ve walled themselves off from the very community that put them there in the first place. I make it a point to be as accessible as anybody can be. You know, with the number of town halls we were doing, with a number of offices we’re opening up in district up to five, I think by when it’s all said and done, hopefully. You know, the transparency on our website, I think that’s very important. And connecting with the community on the ground through an advisory council. Right? So we’re putting together the Agriculture Advisory Council, I’m sure you’re aware of it, right? We in the same vein, we’re doing that with veterans doing that with small business. So it’s building that bridge from the ground up as opposed to that, you know, from top down and staying engaged with the community. I think the more and more there is that kind of a synergy, and constant communication, the better off. I can’t do my job as well as I want to do it in the absence of that kind of communication, you know, I take the ideas that I learn from the young farmers, I can, you know, we sit down in a meeting, we go through all the funds that have been appropriated or had been authorized under the farm bill and I can understand, okay, well here’s why this audition would mean so much for young farmers or this is why this particular program, we really need the funds to be appropriated here. I need to hear that from the farmers to know, okay, I need you to really be a loud voice on this when it comes up on the Ag Committee and the more I am on with information to do that, the better off I can be as an advocate for farmers. And that’s to me the most important thing to do. I see myself as an extension of the community and the only way that I can truly be an extension is to literally build that bridge.
Lindsey: I mean clearly some of the onus is on the member to be open to that communication. You would encourage our young farmers to just walk in, walk into an office
Delgado: Oh, absolutely.
Lindsey: Write a letter, get on the phone.
Delgado: Yes. I see.
Lindsey: Do you want us to tag you on social media?
Delgado: Yes. Tag me. You know call the offices, you know, email us. Visit our offices. We have one in Kingston, we have one in Delhi, we’re opening, just opened one up in Oneonta, Otsego county. We’re looking at space in Columbia County, space in Sullivan County. So, you know, we are going to be everywhere having mobile offices as well. So you know, we’re there. And you can find us on our social media. You can find us, you know, rep Antonio Delgado. You know you can find us on our website, you know, we’re going to be doing town halls. So we’re working and I would encourage all young farmers, all young people, to stay engaged and you know, make sure that when you can participate you seize upon that opportunity.
Lindsey: Thank you so much for being here. Our first member of Congress on our co-seat podcast video.
Delgado: I’m happy to be the first. Thank you so much.
Lindsey: Thank you Congressman Delgado for joining us here at Radio Kingston. https://www.youngfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Screen-Shot-2021-08-17-at-2.19.49-PM-2-1.png is here with me today and we’re going to talk about our impressions of this interview.
Jessica: Lindsey and Jessica here live in the studio together in person.
Lindsey: It’s so fun.
Jessica: It is really fun. It’s fun to be here together. And we just wanted to chat a little bit, check in about the Delgado interview. My understanding of the Delgado interview is there was a bit of a drama behind the scenes, technical.
Lindsey: Oh, so much drama. So much drama where
Jessica: It almost didn’t happen. It almost, it almost wasn’t available.
Lindsey: It almost wasn’t available. Yeah.
Jessica: What happened?
Lindsey: There was a problem with the sound board and when we played back the sound, we sounded like robots.
Jessica: Oh no.
Lindsey: Full on robots, terrifying robots, but Congressmen Delgado’s wonderful staffer, Laura Epstein, brought an iPhone and just like plopped down in the middle of our conversation and hit record.
Jessica: And just beautiful audio.
Lindsey: And the audio worked and we were able to use it. But anyways, that’s why this episode sounds a little bit weird. Not as good, but it’s fine.
Jessica: What was it like having him here?
Lindsey: What was it like? It was great. It was really nice. I mean, having in person interviews is always so much nicer than doing them over the phone or over the computer or whatever. Cause like, you miss things, right? It’s just like, not as the conversations like a tiny bit stilted because you can’t see people’s faces like you’re missing, you know how they’re communicating, fully.
Jessica: He was our first in person interview.
Lindsey: There haven’t been very many that we’ve, we’ve done in person. Most are online.
Jessica: And starting with our Member of Congress.
Lindsey: Yeah, yeah we went big.
Jessica: And listening to your interview with him, I really was struck by first what he was saying about how he hadn’t been really drawn to politics. I mean he had been a student of political science but hadn’t originally wanted to get into politics, but just felt this call to be somebody who really served people and was acting out of a place of like loving people and wanting to represent them. And that really resonated with me, but also the conversation about finding a way to meet in the middle when you’re representing this purple district and it’s such a divide between rural constituents and people that used to live in New York City and trying to find a way that you can build these bridges and meet in the middle. And I was thinking about our work at the Coalition and how we’re also often trying to find that way to represent everybody and stay big tent. And I was wondering if he just could like, talk a little bit about that. Like how do you find the balance between representing everyone, staying big tent, but then also working on certain issues that kind of require you to take a side like climate change for example? It’s a tricky thing I think as a representative, but also in the work that we do, thoughts on Delgado?
Lindsey: Well I think Delgado’s right in that he’s focused on issues, very specific work. Like he clearly is back not fully on board with the Green New Deal, right? And wants to like have some, a little bit of distance, you know, from, from that proposal. I mean, I think in part it’s like he’s not fully in control of the messaging. Right? It’s like not his thing. But I also think in a district like this one, that Green New Deal, it’s, it can be very divisive. Right? And people hear it in very different ways, but the way sort of you get around that is being super specific about what you’re talking about. So it’s harder for people to attach their, their own ideas, positive or negative to the thing. And it’s really about the issues and it’s about the to do list. In my mind that’s, that’s critical. We’re talking about specific things in the same way people talk about like industrial agriculture, like these blanket statements. Right? And that is like a rallying cry for some people and that’s very hurtful and difficult for others. But amongst those two groups, maybe we’ll say Liberals and Conservatives or Republicans or Democrats, or rural people and city people, whatever it is, it’s like sometimes those big ideas, although I think the country right now, it’s called to big ideas, but if you can sometimes just focus on the smaller things where there is agreement and consensus, and get those things done, then you start to build a coalition I think that can really think bigger. And that’s certainly what we’ve done at Young Farmers Coalition is really just like base everything in economics and values and just and specificity. And you know, even think some of the things that we have pushed on such as like racial equity issues that I think can be certainly more divisive or just not fully understood by our entire organization and membership. We’re able to like bring fact and specificity around those ideas in a way that I think people can come together around.
Jessica: So obviously we’re here in his district. He is our representative. And we’re thinking about these kind of local issues, but just kind of thinking big picture about your conversation with him. Like what, what did you feel were some of the, the lessons from your conversation with him that are like most applicable to our broader listenership and agriculture across the country?
Lindsey: I mean, I think number one, we need to be having these conversations with every single member of Congress and folks on the Ag Committee. We need to really ask them what they’re going to get done, you know, and push them to understand the issue, issues facing small and beginning farmers. Because if we’re not at the table, then they’re going to hear something else. Right? They’re going to get, they’re going to have other policy proposals put in front of them. So I think a call for accountability, and transparency, and conversation and dialogue with members of the Ag Committee is critical. One thing that was a takeaway for me is that he, I mean, he doesn’t have a background in ag policy or in farming or, right. Like he’s been living in New York City. He moved back up here. You know, this is, he grew up just outside the district and has moved back up here, but he doesn’t have an ag background. So it’s a steep learning curve. I mean, farm policy is a steep learning curve for farmers sometimes. And for beginning farmers. Right. You know, the laws are difficult to follow anyways. It’s just, it goes on and on.
Jessica: I’m still intimidated by it.
Lindsey: So it’s just recognizing that we have to help members of Congress understand the policies and how they play out on the ground. Because many of them are learning on the job. They’re learning how to fundraise. They’re learning how to be a member of Congress, but they’re also just learning about how, you know, 1% of the population makes its living being farmers. That’s the other thing, just to recognize that so few people really understand farm policy and that every single farmer has an incredibly important role in educating their member of Congress.
Jessica: Yeah. I’ve been so impressed by how willing he is to get out there on the farm, ask questions.
Lindsey: Yeah, totally.
Jessica: He’s always on Instagram talking with dairy farmers or just asking questions about their experience, which is pretty remarkable. I don’t know. I mean, does that seem to be standard? Do you see that from a lot of other representatives? Is it –
Lindsey: I mean it’s cool that he’s doing town halls because that became such an issue with John Faso is that he like was really minimizing his public appearances and then, I don’t know, I mean it was such an intense campaign. I mean he’s just fearful of people like shouting him down, I imagine. Right, right. In these public venues. So it’s, it’s I think good for this district to have a representative that’s like willing to be out there and talk to people and, you know, have an open and public dialogue. But I don’t know how, I don’t know how many members of Congress are doing that. I think he is going to have a really tough reelection, like, no doubt. It’s going to be really tough. You know, I feel like he, he’s already like running for that reelection right now. Like, if he does not make deep and meaningful and real connections with people across this district every single day of the week, then he’s going to have a hard time. Yeah, next time around. It’s a, it’s a very tough district. I think one thing that I hope, you know, I don’t know. One thing that I pressed on, it’s going to also just be hard for anybody to make progress right now. You know, as anyone in the house to actually do something beyond introduce something that they would like to see, to actually find a path forward. Like on healthcare, which he’s been so vocal on, clearly like that’s, that’s his sweet spot. He really understands healthcare. That’s what he campaigned on. But what can actually be done? Other than defending the Affordable Care Act, which is of course incredibly important. But I think that’s going to be tricky, too. It’s like how, so you went to Congress, what do you have to show for it? And I think people are gonna want to know like what progress has been made. But obviously that’s, that’s pretty challenging in this current environment.
Jessica: So what’s your advice to him?
Lindsey: What’s my advice? I mean I think he’s on a good path. He’s like, he’s taking a page from Chris Gibson’s book, you know, he’s like out there every day meeting people. He’s working really hard, and I think like yeah, he’s not taking it for granted at this point. So what did you make of the interview?
Jessica: I thought it was great.
Lindsey: What are the questions we missed? Like what else should we have asked him?
Jessica: I don’t know if I feel like there was anything I wanted you to ask him. What did, what did you want to ask him that you, that you thought about later?
Lindsey: Yeah, I guess I wish I, I would have liked to ask him about money and politics because he raised so much money for this race. This was like one of the most expensive-it was like on the top five list of, of expensive races. And so a lot of people have given him money in support of his campaign. A lot of people who are not from New York’s 19th, a lot of city folks, like who is he really serving at the end of the day? Do you know what I’m saying? Like are there other pressures on him from a fundraising perspective, from a party perspective that we’re unaware of.
Jessica: Like, who is he accountable to?
Lindsey: Who is he accountable to and is like my vote worth as much as some bundler. Right? Or like someone who’s maxing out their donation and I think he would say absolutely, but given our conversation, but I wonder in smaller ways or bigger ways, right? Like is that going to just influence legislation that he introduces in small, in ways that are smaller, big anyways, given the money had such a huge impact on this campaign, and he spent so much time, I’m sure with those donors leading up to it, how is that going to play out in his work in DC? Because I just can’t imagine there isn’t some influence. And I think that this is like a problem across money in politics.
Jessica: Its aways a question.
Lindsey: Right. But I didn’t get to ask him that. And I guess that’s something that’s just on my mind. It’s like, okay, you won, you raised all this money. Who are you accountable to at this point and can you still listen to your voters and be true to the needs of New York 19 and the way that I think you want to be?
Jessica: It’s a good question. Maybe we can email him.
Lindsey: We’ll email. I’m sure he’ll get right back to us. Okay.
Jessica: All right. Thanks Lindsey.
Lindsey: Thanks Jessica.
Lindsey: Thanks Jessica. That was really nice to have someone sort of debrief with me. Okay, so have you rated and reviewed this podcast? We will be so grateful if you could take a minute to do that now because it helps more people find the show and we love your feedback. We read every review. I know that many of you are now back on the farm full time, so this is a great moment to listen to back episodes and tell fellow crew members about the show. This episode was produced by https://www.youngfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Screen-Shot-2021-08-17-at-2.19.49-PM-2-1.png. It was edited by Hannah Beal and recorded at the studios of Radio Kingston. See you next week.