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Kind, Van Orden debate COVID and farming



Derrick Van Orden (left), Ron Kind (right)

Is Washington doing enough to fight COVID-19? 

La Crosse’s Congressman and his Republican challenger disagreed on that, and many other questions, during an online candidate forum Wednesday

Democratic Rep. Ron Kind said actions such as wearing face masks are not a “red or blue” issue, and he criticized President Donald Trump for continuing to hold large rallies, including the one Tuesday in West Salem.

“It encouraged another large group rally with no social distancing and too many people not wearing face masks,” Kind said. “That was so disrespectful to our front-line health care workers.”

A mostly un-masked crowd watches President Donald Trump speak at a Make America Great Again rally at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis.

Republican challenger, veteran Derrick Van Orden, said Kind doesn’t understand how this is an issue about freedom.

“Because you’ve never sat in a tent in Afghanistan, holding your mortally wounded friend’s hand, as there’s a satellite phone next to his ear, with his wife crying out to God because she knows she’ll never see her husband again,” said Van Orden, who also says he’ll continue to seek medical care from the VA.

Van Orden added that he wants to be on the Agriculture Committee, unlike Kind, who he criticized for holding up trade bills.

“So he played politics with our farmers, and we lost over 840 dairy farms during that period of time,” Van Orden said. “And they cast those away because they didn’t want to give Donald Trump a political victory.”

The House passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Dec. 19, 2019 — the day after Donald Trump was impeached and after a year of negotiations — on a 385-41 vote. Trump signed the USMCA a little over a month later.

Kind said farming groups having recognized him with the “Friend of the Family Farmer Award” from Wisconsin Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

“I hardly think (farmers) would do that if I was working against their interests,” Kind said. “But, more importantly, more work has to be done, to make sure that they have a strong market to sell into so they’re getting a good price for the work that they’re doing.”

Agriculture came up again later in the debate, more specifically about whether tariffs have helped or hurt farmers.

“The majority of farmers that I have spoken to, are willing to take the hit now, because they realize that we have been taken advantage of for decades and decades,” Van Orden said, adding that it’s tough right now but he said the USMCA would level the playing field.

Kind reiterated that the trade war has been devastating to farmers.

“The farmers I’ve talked to, they don’t want aid from Washington,” Kind said. “The president is borrowing billions of dollars from China right now that he’s distributing to farm operations because they can no longer send their product to China.”

Kind and Van Orden debated in an online forum organized by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the League of Women Voters.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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