Farmers Exchange: Elkhart Co. Farm Bureau Remembers Egging

Elkhart County Farm Bureau members remembered their late president, Bert Egging, and heard from candidates for state and federal office during the group’s annual meeting last Tuesday in New Paris.

Mel Hall, Democratic candidate for the 2nd District congressional seat, told the Farm Bureau group that he wants to go to Washington to make a difference for the people of that district.

“I have never aspired to be a politician, but I think we can do better,” Hall said, adding, “I’m not interested in the perks. I’m not interested in the pension. I’m not interested in the healthcare. I’m not interested in anything but serving the folks of the 2nd District.”

Hall grew up on a 60-acre farm in Grant County, and, according to his website, graduated from Taylor University. Later on, he attended seminary and served seven years as a Methodist minister in Detroit, Mich.

Turning to business, Hall obtained a PhD in data science at the University of Notre Dame and joined the South Bend-based patient survey firm Press Ganey, eventually becoming the CEO.

If elected to Congress, Hall said he would serve no more than three terms.

His opponent in the Nov. 6 general election is Republican Jackie Walorski, a South Bend native who is seeking her fourth term in Congress. She could not attend the Elkhart County Farm Bureau meeting, but a representative from her office read a letter from her.

Walorski has been endorsed by Indiana Farm Bureau’s political action committee.

When asked about trade, Hall said he believes the U.S. should have a tough approach toward China, but the current policy of applying tariffs on goods imported from China, Canada and Mexico is not helping crop and livestock producers.

“What we’re doing right now is hurting the farmers,” he said, citing the recent decline in corn, soybean, pork and milk prices due to the tariffs and counter-tariffs.

“What farmers want is the ability to run their businesses free of interruption and interference from Washington,” Hall said, “and so I think we need to balance the needs of punishing a bad actor like China with making sure we hear the voice of farmers, who are really getting hurt right now.”

Regarding the current effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Hall said the goal should be to “do no harm.”

For the farm bill, he likes the Senate version that holds the baseline on spending for food stamps but does not include work requirements. He supports funding for crop insurance but wouldn’t say if he would oppose legislation that cuts subsidies, paid to insurers.

“Our primary concern ought to be that farmers can grow the food and get good prices for the food, and that people have enough to eat,” he said.

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