U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen and Stephen Fincher couldn’t be more different.
U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen, left, and Stephen Fincher made a recent appearance at Krone North America to discuss issues with company employees. (Photo: Bill Dries)
For starters, Cohen is a Democrat and Fincher is a Republican. Both are the congressmen who represent Shelby County in Washington. Cohen’s district is entirely within Shelby County. Fincher’s district is rural West Tennessee for the most part, with a part of East Memphis and East Shelby County included.
When executives at Krone North America invited each to visit the company’s Memphis headquarters near Memphis International Airport this month, Cohen and Fincher each had different perspectives as they toured the plant that distributes farm machinery and parts for the service and services the equipment.
Fincher is a farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn., who talked enthusiastically with Krone president and CEO Rusty Fowler about the equipment.
Cohen confessed his knowledge of farming was pretty close to buying food at the supermarket.
“We’re normally the dairy folks,” Fowler said in describing who buys from Krone, a company based in Germany that came to the U.S. in the early 1970s and West Memphis in 1984 before moving the North American headquarters to Memphis several years later.
The equipment and parts in Memphis are sold at 400 dealerships across the continent.
Krone even has equipment they sell to Amish farmers that can be pulled by a team of horses or mules.
The two visits were not just a chance for the group of 30 employees to ask questions of Cohen and Fincher or be courted by the parties they represent.
“They’ve got to make decisions on everything ranging from medical care to the farm bill to the highway bill to free trade to the permanent national trade relations with Russia. Who can know everything about all of that?” Fowler said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us as citizens – not just business owners … to try to inform these guys how these things affect us from our end to help them make a better decision.”
Cohen asked Fowler how much equipment Krone sells to corporate farms.
Fowler was quick to point out that corporate farms are often family farms with family members simply forming a corporation as well as large corporations.
“I know a lot more folks who are struggling,” Fowler said of the corporate farms he works with.
Dan Witherspoon, Krone’s chief financial officer, was after answers about how a Barack Obama administration in a second term might handle employers dropping health care insurance plans for employees and putting them in the government pool, which is the fallback position.
Fincher favors a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress before he was elected to the House, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court during his first term in office.
So, his answer is that the concern won’t be one with Mitt Romney as president.
Cohen, who has touted his vote for the Affordable Care Act as much as his early political support of Obama, said the act could be adjusted if such a shift begins.
Witherspoon’s question reflected more of a desire for certainty than interest in the positions of Cohen and Fincher.
“We can plan if we know what to plan for,” Fowler added. “We can’t plan if everything is up in the air and no firm decisions. To me that’s probably more important than any message he could take back to his colleagues.”
Former President Bill Clinton suggested this summer during a stop in the area that business and politics work by different realities.
“Constant conflict works only in politics – not in real life,” Clinton said in July in Horn Lake for the opening of the GreenTech Automotive plant. “We might think someday about making our politics work more like real life.”
Fowler asked Cohen whether Congress would pass longer-term farm and highway bills.
“Will there be a downshift in this gridlock?” he asked Cohen of post-election politics in Washington.
“It won’t get worse,” Cohen responded, “because it couldn’t be worse.”