MIAMI COUNTY — Congressman Warren Davidson addressed a variety of national issues including the Coronavirus virus disease, agriculture, mental health and the divide in Congress as a whole during the annual Farm Forum.
Davidson, A Republican who represents Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, weighed in the global topic of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, during the annual event held at Edison State Community College on Saturday.
“I genuinely believe that if this was the Obama administration, you’d hear less panic, less alarm,” Davidson said. Davidson the rhetoric relating to the Trump administration has gone from “over reaction” to “he’s not doing enough” once the virus started to spread quickly around the globe.
Davidson said emergency funding in response to the disease was “good news” and vice president Mike Pence heading the team of government health organizations and departments is an example of unity of command to communicate the team of experts’ messages to the public.
“There’s no place in the world you’d rather be when facing a pandemic like this,” said Davidson, noting the median age of deaths related to the Coronavirus is 80 years old and more testing is available than reported.
“I’m confident we will do well and we’ll see. I think the reaction is a little big. You do need to keep the same precautions and you do need people to be aware to stay home if you are sick and not make everyone else sick, so that’s probably a good thing.”
Davidson said in spite of the volatile stock market since the virus’ outbreak, the fundamentals of the overall economy are positive when he speaks with local businesses of all sizes.
In relation to the Coronavirus, Davidson said the timing of the illness during the Chinese New Year, which had already disrupted production, continued to keep workers home following the outbreak.
“If you look at the Chinese auto industry, year-to-date auto sales are down 80 percent, so China’s economy is getting annihilated and because of that, there are supply chain challenges coming from the United States,” he said.
Davidson said local companies diversifying their sources, rather than relying solely on Chinese production, has helped as the economy weather the economic storm stemming from the virus.
• Davidson addressed the political divisiveness in Congress
“The reality is a lot of debate isn’t really about how to change the cost of healthcare, it’s about who is going to pick up the tab,” Davidson said.
Davidson said there are examples of bi-partisan in the House, but it doesn’t penetrate the media. His example was the House passed the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act 416-7 in March 2017 and the Senate never voted on it. Davidson said last May the House voted 420-0 to make it easier to manufacture generic drugs, but it didn’t make news or headlines.
Davidson said he asked the late Congressman Walter Jones why a bill would pass overwhelmingly in the House, but not get picked up by the Senate. Jones explained to Davidson, in terms of being cynical, because “it would pass.”
Davidson said he is encouraged by the work he’s doing with the bi-partisan coalition on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the work to reform the act.
“I hope we can get context out, it seems hard. Apparently it doesn’t sell as many ads. I appreciate those of you guys who provide encouragement and pray for us and provide thoughtful comments and not necessarily the most angry divisive ones,” he said.
• The panel also addressed the soaring rate of suicide in the agriculture sector, five times higher than non-farmers, and was recently highlighted by an USA Today article released last week.
Davidson said “acts of despair” are on the rise and it’s “not a good trend.”
“A lot of it goes for farmers in a similar way for veterans. You have so much of your identity tied up in to what you are doing. And when that feels threatened, it really gets to the core of who you are and how you see yourself,” Davidson said.
Davidson said it’s important for neighbors to reach out to one another and to treat “mental hygiene” awareness in the same manner as physical hygiene.
David Hall, state director of Ohio’s USDA Ohio Rural Development, addressed the mental health issue and to encourage those in the agriculture sector that “it’s OK to talk about this.”
“We have to understand that we have to talk about this and have each other’s backs and point people to directions of help,” Hall said.
Hall noted the Ohio Farm Bureau’s “Got Your Back” mental health campaign that his agency already has partner with for help. For more information, visit www.gotyourbackOhio.org
• When local FFA students asked what the future of agricultural meant in terms of careers, the panel shared how bio-technology is a promising career path, an example being the pending ethane “cracker plant” in Belmont County. The plant converts ethane to polyethylene, which is a component of plastics, household chemicals, textiles and many other products.
Davidson said he recognized the challenges and demands of the agriculture industry. With a nod to former Democrat presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s comment from 2016, “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.”
Davidson quipped, “As a point of optimism, there’s a guy that has been freed up — his schedule is now clear — who can apparently train anyone to farm or machine — you might reach out to him.”