OCTOBER 31, 2014

Kentucky’s Candidate: Senator McConnell’s Stand on Kentucky Agriculture and Coal

Joshua Bryant, Staff Member

The Senate race is quickly approaching. If you are like me, then you have probably been wondering what policies the candidates actually support, not just what the never-ending barrage of campaign ads are saying. Understanding Mitch McConnell’s positions is relatively easy, because he has served in the Senate since 1985.[i]

To start, Senator McConnell holds several positions of authority within Senate that affect Kentucky’s agriculture and energy.  He is the Senate Minority Leader.[ii]  He also serves on the Subcommittees for Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources; Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Marketing and Agriculture; Security; Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Food and Agricultural Research; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; and Energy and Water Development.[iii] These positions put Senator McConnell in a uniquely influential position to lead and set agricultural and energy policies favorable for Kentucky.

On agriculture, Senator McConnell has a strong record. Senator McConnell recently voted in favor of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.[iv] This Act helps farmers by allowing them to purchase of additional crop insurance coverage, extending livestock insurance to farmers that have incurred increased livestock deaths due to attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government or adverse weather, and it addresses several crops directly that are in need of assistance.[v]  It also holds farmers accountable by requiring them to comply with applicable conservation requirements, applicable wetland protection requirements, and control noxious weeds to receive crop insurance payments.[vi]

Senator McConnell has also led the fight to protect Kentucky tobacco farmers. When the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture announced that tobacco buyout payments would be subjected to a 7.2% sequestration in the final year of tobacco buyout payments, Senator McConnell identified a provision within the Budget Control Act that would allow quota holders to receive full payment.[vii] Actions such as these have earned Senator McConnell the American Farm Bureau’s Golden Plow Award twice.[viii] This award is given to members of Congress “whose philosophies or records demonstrate their commitment to the private enterprise system; sound agricultural policies…; and reduced federal regulations on businesses and individuals.”[ix]

On coal, Senator McConnell has fought to prevent the continued rim-racking of one of the Commonwealth’s vital industries. Most recently, he sponsored the Coal Country Protection Act which sought to limit restrictive regulations unless the Department of Labor certified that the regulations would not cost jobs.[x] Prior to that Senator McConnell also supported the Saving Coal Jobs Act and the Coal Jobs Protection Act.[xi] All of these bills have been aimed at protecting Kentucky’s coal industry, which is the third largest in the country.[xii] While the Democratic majority has been able to defeat these bills and Senator McConnell’s efforts to protect Kentucky workers and industry, McConnell’s fight has not gone unrecognized. The President of the Kentucky Coal Association said, "I can say with great confidence that Sen. McConnell and his staff have done everything they can to support Kentucky's coal miners and coal production.”[xiii]

A close look at the facts reveals that on issues relating to Kentucky’s farmers, coal miners, and the preservations of the industries that the Commonwealth relies on, Mitch McConnell has a record of putting Kentucky first.

[i] Mitch McConnell, Congress, https://www.congress.gov/member/mitch-mcconnell/1395 (last visited Oct. 29, 2014).

[ii] Biography, Senate, http://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Biography (last visited Oct. 29,2014).

[iii] Mitch McConnell, Govtrack, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/mitch_mcconnell/300072 (last visited Oct. 29, 2014).

[iv] HR 2642 - Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 - Key Vote. Mitch McConnell, Votesmart, http://votesmart.org/bill/17169/46596/53298/federal-agriculture-reform-and-risk-management-act-of-2013#.VE2fEBZWNbI (last visited Oct. 29, 2014).

[v] Id.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Senator McConnell's Accomplishments - Saving the Final Tobacco Buyout Payments, Team Mitch,   http://www.teammitch.com/accomplishments_saving_tobacco_buyout (last visited Oct. 29, 2014).

[viii] American Farm Bureau Federation Golden Plow Award, American Farm Bureau Federation, http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=legislative.gp (last visited Oct. 29, 2014). 

[ix] Id.

[x] S. 2414: Coal Country Protection Act, Govtrack, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s2414 (last visited Oct. 29, 2014)

[xi] Senator McConnell's Record on Coal, Team Mitch, http://www.teammitch.com/coal_truth (last visited Oct. 29, 2014).

[xii] Frequently Asked Questions: Which states produce the most coal?, United States Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=69&t=2 (last visited Oct. 29, 2014).

[xiii] Senator McConnell's Record on Coal, supra note 11.