Please tell us briefly why you are seeking this position.
As a dedicated public servant of over 20 years, with every position I have held, at every level of government, I have been steadfast in my goal of bettering the lives of all of my constituents—not just certain groups or constituencies. I believe Congress has a responsibility to tackle difficult, pressing issues, and I want to keep fighting for progress. As in years past, if reelected, I will continue to serve my constituents faithfully and work toward a better future—not only for those residing in the 4th Congressional District but for all Virginians and all Americans.
I am running for Congress because I was tired of seeing our communities in the 4th District ignored by career politicians in Washington. I knew it was time to step up to offer an option of true representation for the citizens of the 4th District.
What are your three main priorities as a candidate?
While we face many challenges as a nation, especially now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Congress has the responsibility to address all of those challenges, no issue is more important than tackling the climate crisis and addressing environmental injustice. Every day, we are witnessing the impacts of climate inaction: hotter seasons, increased sea levels and harsher natural disasters—many of which directly hurt farmers.
I am also focused on creating economic opportunity, security and high-quality jobs; addressing the digital divide; and ensuring all Americans enjoy equal protection under the law regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
Spurring economic growth across the district and providing our forgotten communities with a hand-up through economic opportunity zones. Returning the importance of family and community in our children’s education. Education funding should follow the child, and parents should have the option to send their children to the school that best fits that child’s needs, not limit them to the ZIP code they live in. Protect citizens’ constitutional rights and focus on the needs of the district rather than pursue a national agenda that does not benefit my constituents.
From precision agriculture to regulatory agencies requiring online filing to marketing products online, the agriculture industry is becoming increasingly reliant on web-based technology. What can be done to ensure rural Virginians have equitable access to the internet, in order to stay competitive and comply with laws and regulations?
As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I am fighting to ensure universal access to high-speed internet. I believe that the first step to expanding broadband access in rural and underserved communities is to better understand where service exists and where it does not exist. Historically, our broadband coverage maps have been terribly inaccurate and imprecise. I introduced H.R. 4227, the Mapping Accuracy Promotes Services Act, or MAPS Act, legislation that would enact stricter penalties for service providers who willingly, knowingly or recklessly provide inaccurate information to the FCC. This bill was included in a larger piece of bipartisan legislation changing how the FCC collects and reports out coverage data, and was enacted into law. More accurate maps will lead to more efficient and effective allocations of federal and state resources toward solving this important issue.
I am also fighting for more funding for connectivity investment. For instance, I support providing our local electric co-ops and internet service providers with support to help lay last-mile infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities.
The need to ensure access to fast and reliable internet access is too great to rely on the government alone. Our governments must set up public-private partnerships to fund the immense cost of building out internet access across the 4th District.
Are trade tariffs an important tool to ensure fair trade? What can be done to help protect agricultural goods from unfair trade practices? With ongoing negotiations, how can agriculture goods be protected from a trade war?
Trade wars serve no one’s interest, and the best way to protect agricultural goods is to avoid the kind of actions that precipitate such conflicts in the first place. While narrowly tailored, thoughtful tariffs can be useful in preventing unfair practices,they are a blunt instrument and ultimately harm both countries’ consumers. They should be used as a tool of last resort.
I understand that current trade disputes have devastated growers and producers in my district. My goal, in any ongoing negotiations, is to reverse those harms while continuing to make progress on unfair dumping, forced technology transfers, inequitable labor practices and similar harmful trade practices—all while avoiding a full-blown trade war. As we pursue important goals, we cannot let farmers’ interests be held hostage—we cannot solve the economic problems of technology companies, for example, at the direct, uncompensated expense of soybean growers.
- Trade tariffs are necessary only if countries are not willing to lower their tariffs or trade fees against our exports.
- Things that can be done to protect our agricultural goods from unfair trade practices are to put policy and guidelines in place, set oversight that reports unfair practices, and hold legislators, countries and organizations accountable.
- Agricultural goods can be protected from trade wars by keeping America first. We must protect the livelihoods of our citizens first.
If you are an incumbent, how did you respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to both protecting human health and the economy? If you are a challenger, how would you have responded? How do you suggest addressing the food supply issues that were created because of the pandemic? Is federal action needed to preserve farmers and consumers access to markets?
To begin to address the economic and public health crises caused by the coronavirus, I have fought and voted for numerous pieces of COVID-19-related legislation, including the landmark Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief package. I am also proud to support the House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (Heroes), which would provide trillions of dollars to help support the American economy (and provide relief to America’s farmers). I do not believe that the president’s recent executive actions are an adequate substitute for congressional appropriations, and I continue to strongly support immediate passage of a robust Phase IV recovery bill that draws heavily on the provisions in the Heroes Act.
Moving forward, I believe that Congress must work to ensure that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are received by more small businesses, including farmers and producers. I also support increased funding to the USDA.
- I believe that as we became aware of COVID-19, stopping travel from China was paramount as our president did. Then as our administration did by taking the necessary steps to protect Americans in every city, I would have done as well. Now that we know more about this virus, we should look to make sure Americans are safe and productive. We cannot make the cure worse than the virus.
- We must understand the heartbeat of our nation is the hard American workers that secure its ability to build, grow and distribute the supply for consumption and service. Let’s empower our workers to produce again and call on our allies in our time of need.
- I believe the federal government plays a limited role in preserving farmers’ and consumers’ access to markets. However, that role is necessary to ensure safety, protection and access to much-needed resources to give our farmers confidence to accomplish their vision to feed America.
What were the most critical aspects of the most recent Farm Bill that you believe helped Virginia farmers? What would you like to see in the next Farm Bill?
I voted in favor of the last farm bill. I will continue to support legislation that helps Virginia’s farmers, including prioritizing voluntary conservation programs that promote soil health, safe water supplies and improved water quality.
I would like to see, and will push for, an increase in funding for rural broadband—because as much as farmers are already being hurt by the digital divide, those challenges are only going to grow as technology improves. As we move forward with 5G technologies, the benefits could dramatically increase crop yields while reducing costs, effort and time. Precision agriculture is the future, and I think the U.S. is well-positioned to take a leading role internationally, but only if we are able to deliver the necessary connectivity.
- The most critical aspects of the recent farm bill provided infrastructure for our farmers to get access to grants and resources. How to keep and maintain farmers markets was also important.
- I would like to see in the next bill how farmers can be part of new innovation and creation of new inventions to improve farming practices.
Farmers are struggling to find domestic workers who are willing and able to provide the labor required by the agriculture industry. Therefore, farmers have to rely on foreign worker visas to fill these gaps and have escalated costs as a result. What can be done to resolve the critical labor shortage?
In the broader context of comprehensive immigration reform, which I support, I also support continued use of tools like the H-2A visa program to ensure farmers have the ability to find the workers they need. I strongly oppose this administration’s efforts to reduce legal immigration, which reduces farmers’ access to critical labor.
I would also note that in this moment of closed borders and restricted travel, the current pandemic poses a potentially existential threat to any industry that relies on guest workers or immigrants. COVID-19 has exacerbated farmers’ unusual labor challenges, and one of the best things we can do to solve that immediate issue is to work aggressively to control the pandemic. For instance, by enacting the type of robust Phase IV relief package that I mentioned above.
Instead of depending on foreign workers to help maintain production, we must begin to re-educate a new generation on farming and give credence to the need for this much-needed industry. Farming is here to stay! Let’s find ways to pass the legacy to future generations.