Hubbard and Humphries answer questions from Farm Bureau
Mary Potter, West Kentucky Journal
(Clinton KY, September 20, 2012) – Senate candidates Carroll Hubbard and Stan Humphries appeared together in a forum sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Bureau on Thursday night. Around forty Farm Bureau board members and guests from Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton attended the event.
In his opening remarks, Hubbard reminded the audience that he served as state senator for seven years. He could not recall any vote that he had ever cast that was “a disappointment to the Farm Bureau.” He told the audience that he is not a farmer so “I won’t be telling you what I believe.”
Stan Humphries, county judge of Trigg County, told the audience he is a seventh generation farmer. His family raised cattle and grew tobacco until the buyout. After the buyout, “It was either get big or get out. We chose to get out.” He farmed full time for a time before he had the opportunity to run for office. What is needed is “someone strong to be the voice for West Kentucky” because the First Senate District is three hundred miles from Frankfort.
After their opening remarks, the candidates fielded a range of questions from Moderator Shannon Waltmon of Kentucky Farm Bureau, who asked a series of multi-part questions that had both candidates scribbling notes for their responses.
The first question was in three parts. The first concerned House Bill 611, passed in April 2000, which set aside 50% of the tobacco master settlement agreement funds to allow farmers apply for innovative agricultural ideas. The second part of the question asked if the candidates would “diligently” support funding for research and extension services. Finally, Waltmon asked for statements of support for the Department of Agriculture.
Humphries said he would work to provide adequate funding for agricultural research and insure that Kentucky Proud will be adequately funded. He cited innovative programs, like pond shrimp farming. He supports the provision that keeps 50% of the funding local. He also pledged to work “diligently” to fully fund the Breathitt Diagnostic Center in Hopkinsville as a diagnostic center for agriculture.
Hubbard said that he would look to top notch people for advice. He offered to have forums in the Young Center to hear views on farming. He cited a long friendship with former representative Fred Nesler, who now works for the Department of Agriculture and the local farmers and farm experts. He pledged to work with Nesler and Agricultural Commissioner James Comer.
“Research money? Yes. But we don’t want higher taxes in Kentucky.”
He told the audience, “We’ve got a lot of waste in state government. Sometime go to Frankfort, get there about eight o’clock when state employees are supposed to be coming in and see how many come in at 8:20, 8:30. Then go to the cafeteria and see how many are in there having coffee and then look to see how many are having cigarette breaks. There’s a lot of waste. Personnel could be cut way back.”
Candidates were asked about marketing agriculture products and improving the quality of rural life.
Hubbard said he is no expert on marketing and will look to the Farm Bureau and Commissioner Comer for ideas. He expressed himself anxious to help farmers market their products.
As far as improving rural quality of life, Hubbard said "Naturally, those of us from the rural areas in the Legislature would be more concerned about the quality of life in our rural areas and anxious to improve the quality of life there."
Humphries recounted being at a biomass conference at Murray State University during the summer with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and expressed support for the MSU program. He said that we have “just touched the tip of the iceberg on using our river ports. We have to capitalize on our biggest asset - the Mississippi River.”
He is concerned that big companies are keeping small mom and pop companies that want to bring narrow band internet access to rural areas.
Humphries told the audience that he was at Hickman County High School for the Falcon Academy kick off that introduced parents and community members to the program. Education, narrow banding, finding ways to keep young people in the area will improve quality of life.
When asked about fiscal matters, the candidates agreed to continue protecting House Bill 44, the mechanism for raising property taxes. Both support continued tax exemptions for agricultural products.
Hubbard added that the state is in economic trouble and the state pension system is broken. He said that he will support changes that will help it survive.
On transportation issues, both candidates agreed that the provision that devotes 22.2% of transportation budget goes to maintaining rural roads should be maintained, increased if possible.
They were asked, “What steps will you take to assure that Kentucky law enforcement officers understand current laws and regulations with respect to farm vehicles when they were wrongly applied?”
Hubbard, “as a good friend of Governor Beshear“ would call his attention if there is a problem with Dept of Justice. He said that he thought they (the Kentucky State Police) understand the law because they are an educated workforce.
Humphries said that as a county judge he has dealt with road maintenance issues. He said his county uses “chip and seal” a method that is not as costly or long lasting as blacktop.
He disagreed with Hubbard and said there are issues with enforcement improperly applied to farm vehicles. “There is confusion on rules for state roads and county roads.”
“We hosted town meetings back home for our farmers to attend with the Kentucky State Police and Department of Transportation. We want everyone on the same page. Farmers have a right to farm. We all know agriculture has to come to town.”
When asked about state versus federal control of insurance, both candidates agreed that state control was their preference.
Both candidates were in favor of making the state more business friendly and that the business climate of the area could be improved.
As far as litigation issues, Humphries said that “we live in a world where someone seems to have to be blamed.”
As far as business climate in the area, Trigg County Judge Humphries recalled that Fulton County has the second highest unemployment rate in the state. “It is a list you don’t want to be on.”
Attorney Carroll Hubbard said that the Kentucky Medical Association got the Legislature to pass a law that a person needed a doctor to back up their claim in a malpractice suit. He said there should be a penalty for frivolous lawsuits. But some cases are not frivolous. He said that as far as tort reform, he would wait to see how the law was written.
The question and answer session ended with the topic of education. The candidates were asked if they support extended pay for career and technical employees. Both agreed they would.
The final question was for an assessment of the current education system and what would the candidates would do to make it stronger.
Carroll Hubbard said that education is very important. He said that KEA met with both candidates and endorsed him by 21-0. “Teachers across Kentucky support my candidacy.“ To improve education, Hubbard offered” We must do everything we can to support education.“ He called it a “shame” that tuition continues to rise at public universities.
In a jab at his opponent, Hubbard said that he was the only candidate whose children went to public school.
Humphries told the audience he was a teacher who taught school during the KERA era. He called that period “challenging.“ He said he was endorsed by Senator Winters who sponsored Senate Bill 1, the most recent education reform law. Humphries said that SEEK, (the funding formula for state support of education), textbook and preschool funds must be increased.
In answer to Hubbard’s charge on his children attending private school, Humphries explained that his wife, a chemist, wanted a career change. In order to teach in the public school, she would have to take extensive education courses. She found a job teaching private school near their home and their children go to school with her.
In his closing remarks, Stan Humphries acknowledged criticism that he had not spent sufficient time in the river counties. He said that he is trying to get around to everyone, but “I have a day job”.
He said the big issue he sees is that the district is 300 miles from Frankfort. He will be in a position to be on committees that matter to the area. He specifically mentioned the Senate Agriculture Committee. He called Hickman County High School’s Falcon Academy, which allows students to earn college and technical school credit before graduation a great start for young people.
Carroll Hubbard told the audience of farmers that his three cousins that are agriculture agents to keep him up on issues in agriculture. Hubbard said that his opponent had never been to Carlisle, Fulton or Hickman County. He said that new business is needed in the area, reminding the audience that there is no industry in Carlisle County.
He said that Governor Beshear strongly supported his candidacy, relating the Governor’s meeting with local county judges when the Governor urged their support for Hubbard. He said the Governor wants a state senator that won’t vote against his policies.
He went on to say that he is not a “gung - ho Democrat.” But, Hubbard said “Forget party. The farm bill failed.”
When questioned after the event about his contacts with the river counties, Humphries said he had been to the river counties. “I played football for Trigg County in high school. I remember very well the ride to Fulton County and the ride back after a loss which wasn’t much fun.”
When asked how he would keep in touch with constituents should he be elected, Humphries agreed with Hubbard that town hall meetings across the district are a good idea.