From Fair to Factory Floor, Energy Talk Dominates
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Three more events Wednesday in the 25th district, and three more examples of how the energy issue is having an impact on politics at the ground level.
Capitol Briefing spent the day trailing GOP candidate Dale Sweetland around the district, visiting a company that supplies industrial hoses, a dairy plant and a county fair. At all three stops, Sweetland encountered people with specific complaints about how the high cost of energy is hurting, or altering, the way they do business. And Sweetland said that was fairly typical of his experiences on the campaign trail.
"That's what people are talking about most when I'm out there," Sweetland said.
At the Liverpool headquarters of JGB Enterprises, a company that assembles and supplies hoses and hose assemblies to commercial customers and the military, gasoline prices have made it more costly for them to ship their wares.
"It's been a significant hit for us, particularly with the freight companies," said Bob Zywicki, the company's president. "And manufacturers around the country are hitting us with price increases."
Zywicki, who supports Sweetland in the House race, suggests that a combination of new oil drilling and alternative fuels is the best solution for the current crisis. "If all the tree-huggers hadn't been blocking the way, we wouldn't have all the troubles we're having now," he said.
The next stop was Byrne Dairy in Syracuse, where milk from surrounding farms -- 10 million pounds of it a month -- is processed and bottled. The business is growing rapidly and adding employees, but high energy prices are changing the economics of the business.
"Energy costs are brutal. It's very hard to be competitive," said Nick Marsella, the company's vice president of production. He said that twice in the last six months, the company has had to raise the price it charges farmers to haul their milk from their farms to the plant. Those two quick increases came after the price had stayed the same for about five years.
The afternoon's itinerary ended with a visit to the Wayne County Fair, in the more rural -- and Republican -- portion of the district in between Syracuse and Rochester. The conversation there wasn't actually dominated by talk of energy prices. Visitors seemed more interested in checking out the prize-winning cows and sheep and discussing their concerns that the ring where the top heifers would be shown off later on was a bit too small to accomodate an audience. And high gas prices don't seem to have driven up the cost of funnel cake, thankfully.
But there was some talk of energy, not just about high prices but also about the opportunities and new markets opening up as a result. Steve Olson, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service, was at the fair showing off some goats raised on his farm in Lyons. He raises them for meat, not for milking, and hopes to raise more to feed the appetites of the local Asian, Caribbean and Muslim population.
Unlike cows or pigs, goats don't need to eat grain or corn, which has become much more expensive as demand for ethanol has grown. Goats, Olson said, are the animal equivalent of garbage disposals, so they're cheap to feed.
"This is perfect," he said. "They'll take grass. Poison ivy. Canadian thistles. They'll eat anything."
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