Congressman Tim Heulskamp answered questions from both his supporters and his adversaries at a town hall in Manhattan on Monday night.
The meeting at Manhattan Fire Department lured about 100 people, and a majority seemed supportive of the Republican District 1 representative.
An area of focus for the congressman was agriculture – from his stance about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to his lack of support for the Farm Bill and his version of why he was kicked off the Agriculture Committee
“As a congressman in a district that has a very large government organization coming in NBAF, how do you feel about spending money on a large organization when we’re so much in debt?” one attendee asked.
“I’m a farmer by trade and used to raise a bunch of cattle,” Huelskamp said. “Currently, here in America we are not researching to protect ourselves from some very damaging diseases.”
Huelskamp said he’s voted for NBAF every chance he’s had.
“Here’s my concern, though: It will take approximately five years to complete the facility. That’s five years without research going on,” he said.
Huelskamp said that two-thirds of the money for the more than $1 billion research facility has been appropriated.
Congress appropriated $404 million in the budget approved two months ago, and the Kansas Legislature has approved more than $300 million in bonds and the City of Manhattan is contributing $5 million.
He said legislators are asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for permission to go ahead and begin construction for the research facility, which will replace an aging structure at Plum Island, N.Y.
“If this facility isn’t completed, then we aren’t researching some very, very deadly, damaging diseases,” he said.
Huelskamp said before the meeting that the Obama administration is on board with the plan.
When asked by a member of the audience how he represents a largely agricultural state after being kicked off the Agriculture Committee, Huelskamp said he was forced out because he didn’t vote the way he was told to vote.
He said he answers to Kansans.
Huelskamp also said he largely voted against the Farm Bill because it was “80 percent food stamps.”