NEW ULM - First Congressional District Republican candidate Aaron Miller toured the western part of the district Thursday, listening to agriculture producers.
Miller, who is in an Aug. 12 primary race with Jim Hagedorn for the chance to face Democratic incumbent Tim Walz in November, said he heard concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers' authority under the Clean Water Act to expand to waters that are navigable or have a "significant nexus" to navigable waters.
The opinions he heard center on the EPA trying to write regulations that would allow them to do what the Supreme Court said they can't do - regulate nearly all waters.
"More (EPA) regulations would really make it tough for producers to expand, particularly pork and turkey producers, which make up much of farm economy around here," Miller said.
Under a Supreme Court ruling, federal permits would be needed for common farming activities like applying fertilizer or pesticides, or moving cattle, if materials that are considered pollutants would fall into regulated low spots or ditches, according to the American Farm Bureau.
Permits would also be required for plowing, planting and fencing in these new "waters of the U.S." (ditches), unless a farmer has been farming the same land for decades, raising hurdles for beginning farmers, the American Farm Bureau reports.
Miller said food labeling should be done nationally instead of state-by-state, to ensure interstate commerce of agricultural products is not restricted.
"Producers are telling me some states are creating food labeling restrictions that complicate their ability to continue to do business with them," Miller said.
He wants to eliminate the Estate Tax, which he called an infringement on the right of individuals to pass on to beneficiaries one's lifetime accumulation of business, property and investments.
"The threshold should be much higher than it is. With farmland values so high, it's hitting middle income people now, but it should be higher to affect only the most wealthy," Miller said.
He wants to index thresholds at which Social Security benefits are taxed, eliminate the marriage penalty in the thresholds, and ensure Social Security tax revenue is exclusively credited to the Social Security Trust Fund.
"Unfortunately, low and middle-income seniors are being burdened by tax thresholds set in 1984 and 1994," Miller said.
He also wants to establish more competitive corporate tax rates to remove incentives to shelter overseas income and keep business and industry from moving offshore.
Miller said he heard concern about the Affordable Care Act and what it means for healthcare costs and services. An account manager with more than 15 years healthcare experience, Miller said Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with health care reforms that lower costs and provide more options to families.
Miller said he's looking forward to debating issues further at Farmfest next week at Gilfillan Estate.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).