House candidates Taylor and Clark answer questions Wednesday for farmers

Published 6:22 pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

Taylor, left, and Clark, right answer questions for farmers about their platform Wednesday at the Cloud Livestock facility.

Taylor, left, and Clark, right answer questions for farmers about their platform Wednesday at the Cloud Livestock facility.

The Decatur County Farm Bureau held a public forum for the two candidates now vying for the Georgia House of Representatives seat for District 173.

Incumbent Darlene Taylor and Don Clark of Cairo answered preselected questions Wednesday morning at the Cloud Livestock building in front of a small crowd of Decatur County farmers and educators.

The questions asked the two candidates, both running on the republican ticket in the May 20 primary, about their views on education, property rights, environmental rights activists and more. The candidates were asked questions and both were given equal time to respond, but there was no debate between the two.

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Taylor and Clark were asked about their support of the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission and both said they supported the commission as a stand-alone agency. While the commission’s budget was supposed to be slashed in 2013, the senate and the general assembly were able to help piece it back together.

“The soil and water conservation agency should be a stand-alone agency and they do a lot of work in conjunction with the (Natural Resources Conservation Service) for farmers,” Clark said. “I know they have been creative in the past few years just like a lot of other agencies and have had to work with what they have, but we have to look for creative ways to deal with these tough economic times and do more with less.”

Clark said as an extension agent he experienced budget cuts and having to do more work with less people.

Taylor said she too thought the Soil and Water Commission should remain as an independent commission.

“This is a vital card of being able to farm and we have to be able to control our soil and water,” Taylor said. “There has been a great push throughout the government to consolidate agencies and departments. There is a lot of fat in the government, and there probably still is, but this cut was not a good idea.”

Taylor said she was able to help work to get the signature of the governor and work to tell those in the legislature what farming is all about so that they would understand.

As for animal agriculture and the regulation of it by animal rights activists, both Clark and Taylor said they would be opposed to more regulation in the industry.

“I mentioned earlier, we raise donkeys. And there is no way I would want these groups interfering with our small business,” Taylor said. “This is on a small scale. I can only imagine someone who is raising their crop who is in the business and has the knowledge and expertise to build a business and to have someone come in who does not understand it try to dictate to us that it is wrong.”

Taylor said she would stand up against these activists and keep them at arms length from farmers.

“Animal agriculture versus animal rights — we have been dealing with this issue for a long time and farmers are the best stewards of their land and of their livestock,” Clark said. “The abuse I have seen has come form non-farming people and comes from people that feel like they need to own animals they cannot afford or they do not know how to take care of, or both. That is what I have observed over the last 40 years.”

Clark said educating animal rights activists about farming and livestock practices is a tough job, but one that elected officials should approach proactively, educating more people about agriculture who are not familiar with it.

The two candidates, among other things, were also asked about property rights.

They were asked what the balance was between property rights and environmental regulation.

Clark said regulation begins and ends with the question of — are you harming your neighbor and their land?

“If you are doing harm then there ought to be something done,” Clark said. “But on the side of that I think if someone is being regulated and they are watching every move they make that is private property rights ought to prevail there.”

Clark also brought up the issue of farmers being sued for someone trespassing on their land and getting hurt and being able to sue.

Clark said he thinks farmers should not be liable for injuries if someone is trespassing on their property intentionally.

Taylor said there are few issues that trump property rights for her, as a strict believer in the constitution. She spoke about Senate bill 223 and the fight for water for farmers.

“By taking this issue head on we keep farmers from being sued my neighboring states and activists and keep farmers out of the court house and court rooms and that is in our best interest. This will also keep the Environmental Protection Agency out of our water,” Taylor said. “This issue will continue to threaten southwest Georgia and our economic development and I worked with the farmers and agribusiness groups to keep them at the forefront.”

Taylor said she would work to keep the environmentalist at arms’ length from farmers.

The two candidates will both run on the Republican ballot in the May 20 primary election.