In the News

Tom Feeney Guest columnist/Orlando Sentinel

Florida's geology, topography, and watercourses are unlike any other state's in the nation, dominated by vast flood plains along the coast and countless bodies of water — virtually all connected underground by our precious aquifer system through sandy soils and porous limestone. Because Florida's elevation is only slightly above sea level and relatively flat, its lifestyle relies on the effective management of stormwater. Florida leads the nation in water-quality efforts, recently approving numeric nutrient standards, resulting in better flood control, irrigation and stormwater management. Both natural and man-made factors make Florida particularly susceptible to the proposed rule changes by the Environmental Protection Agency to the "Waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act.

Associated Industries of Florida's Florida H20 Coalition urges caution with the EPA defining what waters will be covered by this act, as the scope of the proposed changes and permitting legal reform is drastic. We believe that if the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were to expand the scope of federal jurisdiction under the definitions currently laid out, it would negatively impact local governments and landowners. Already, Florida is getting ready to implement the new numeric nutrient criteria. This will be an expensive water quality program that utility rate customers will have to pay for. Last year, Florida negotiated the right to write its own NNC rule, since the EPA was scientifically off the mark when presenting the first rule. Now, the EPA is looking to put another federal mandate on the backs of Floridians, using the same confusing tests to make their decision that they claimed was "clarifying."

We also believe the economic projections prepared by the EPA underestimate compliance costs. The EPA's economic impact analysis estimates all 50 states will bear a cost of $231 million, but a recent fiscal impact study prepared by Applied Technology & Management Inc. and commissioned by AIF's Florida H20 Coalition indicates that just four of Florida's 67 counties are looking at a cost estimate of $4 billion, with Seminole County alone facing an estimate of $1.53 billion. Florida simply cannot afford for the EPA to move forward with this rule making without opportunity for engagement by affected stakeholders.

So what are some examples from the fiscal impact study of how local governments will be negatively affected by the EPA's ruling? A coalition that Pinellas County takes part in has the sole mission of Tampa Bay's restoration and protection. Should the proposed rule be adopted, the study finds, "Pinellas County would have to divert funds from these critical water bodies" to meet the NNC in the newly-identified jurisdictional waters, proving contrary to enhancing Florida's overall environmental quality. Local governments would face similar challenges in regards to cost. The Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Estuary are facing the steep cost of sea-level rise and natural waters restoration. Instead of funding these important efforts, limited resources would be forcibly directed toward municipal storm system upgrades and not environmental restoration.

We believe it's time for the EPA and the Army Corps to take a hard look at EPA's economic analysis and extend the comment period for affected stakeholders to obtain a more accurate cost estimate and identify a more cost-effective, environmentally-friendly approach. Even the Small Business Administration Office agreed the rule would hurt small businesses and urged the EPA to withdraw the proposed regulation.

At this juncture, we support Congressman Steve Southerland's H.R. 5078, the Regulatory Overreach Protection Act. We believe H.R. 5078 will lead to a better rule by requiring the EPA and the Corps to conduct an open consultation with state and local officials to develop a consensus about the waters that should be under federal jurisdiction.

H.R. 5078 would allow all other waters to remain under the jurisdiction of the various states where they can appropriately address the diversity and availability of water and land features and how best to protect them. This legislation will lay a foundation that will achieve environmental benefits and ensure our nation's ability to engage in the kind of robust economic activity that sustains and supports Americans working in all sectors of the economy.

Tom Feeney is president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida.

Michael Dooner/My View - Tallahassee Democrat

This month, a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from expanding its authority passed the House by a wide margin. This bill is particularly important to the many people in our area who would be impacted by the EPA’s latest attempt to increase its power.

The story behind the bill is simple. This spring, the EPA issued a proposed administrative rule under the title of the Waters of the United States. The reason, the agency said, was to redefine “navigable waters” for purposes of clarification in light of Supreme Court rulings, which hold that the term “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act does not include all waters.

The problem is that EPA’s “clarification” significantly broadens its regulatory reach to include almost any body of water in the country, including ditches and other areas that serve as temporary collections of rainwater. As the Supreme Court has ruled and Congress has affirmed, the CWA was never intended to give EPA regulatory authority over every body of water that forms on land.

I strongly believe in the need to protect our water resources. EPA’s proposal is not the best way to accomplish that goal.

More than improved water quality, EPA’s proposed rule creates a bureaucratic spider web of permits, fees and mitigation requirements. It unduly burdens the very people who are proven to take excellent care of our natural resources already: agricultural producers. State officials report that farm owners’ management practices conserve more than 11 billion gallons of fresh water each year.

For example, in our area of the state, nursery operators have devoted substantial money and attention to precise irrigation, water recycling and wetland enhancement. Local foresters also manage their acreage in ways that protect and enhance Florida’s waters by adherence to Silviculture Best Management Practices. Increased costs and paperwork will make good stewardship more difficult, not more likely.

Rep. Southerland’s bill presents a sound alternative to EPA’s proposed rule by offering local and state leaders a seat at the table with EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers as recommendations are developed. His solution makes it possible for local leaders to have a voice in an issue that will have a major impact on our area.

Citizens can express their views to EPA on its proposed rule until Oct. 20, by emailing Include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message. Comments also can be submitted at

Rep. Southerland deserves our thanks for his leadership and his willingness to sponsor a bill that offers a fair, common-sense approach to protecting our water resources.

Michael Dooner is a certified forester and a resident of Gadsden County. He is the vice president of the Florida Forestry Association and a member of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s State Board of Directors. Contact him at

By CHRIS OLWELL | The News Herald

PANAMA CITY — U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland addressed a group of defense contractors Monday with a speech that was part recruitment speech and part policy discussion during the National Small Business Defense Contracting Summit at Gulf Coast State College.

Southerland was the keynote speaker during the day-long conference that also featured business development seminars and networking opportunities for the various companies represented there. Since many had traveled from other states, Southerland used the opportunity to pitch Florida as a sunny place to do business.

“Welcome to paradise,” Southerland said. “This is a pretty good gig here in Northwest Florida.”

He touted Panama City’s cuisine, beaches and institutions such as schools and hospitals, as well as Florida’s lack of an income tax, and urged attendees to put up their snow shovels and relocate to the area.

“This is a great place,” Southerland said. “For those of you who are not happy and are going to have to go back to the cold gloomy place that you call home ... we work for the weekend, because you haven’t lived until you’ve spent a weekend on Shell Island.”

He talked about the crucial role the U.S. military and the companies it works with play in the Panhandle’s economy. There are seven military installations in Congressional Districts 1 and 2 combined, he said, and many of those, such as Naval Support Activity Panama City, house several contractors as tenants.

“Those tenants are critical to the national security of the United States,” Southerland said. “They’re also critical to our economy here. We benefit because of the economic presence of our bases.”

Small defense contractors were hit particularly hard by automatic spending cuts triggered by the sequestration early this year. Southerland told the group he opposed sequestration because it didn’t go far enough to cut ineffective programs and reallocate resources to programs that provide value to American taxpayers.

“I did not support sequestration, and I’m a fiscal conservative,” Southerland said.

Recent upheaval in Iraq came up during a brief question-and-answer session after Southerland’s speech. In response to a question from an audience member, Southerland said he believed Congress should be involved in any decision about whether to send more troops to Iraq and President Barack Obama should not act alone.

He didn’t know yet how he would vote if the question of sending troops was put to Congress, and he would need more information to make that decision.

By CHRIS OLWELL | The News Herald

PANAMA CITY — School’s out for summer, but moms and dads still have to go to work. That means a lot of kids who normally depend on free and reduced school lunches might go hungry.

Rep. Steve Southerland joined staff members from the Bay Area Food Bank to participate in the nonprofit’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals to kids under 18 three days a week at Andrew’s Place Apartments.

“During the summer, it’s a problem, kids having access to nutritious meals, so this program helps fill that need in particular places,” said Don Rose, associate director for the Bay Area Food Bank.

This apartment complex was selected because it’s subsidized housing. These are people who need assistance, but the program is not limited to residents here, Rose said.

About 20 kids showed up Monday. The fact that a congressman was handing them their food didn’t seem to impress them.

While Southerland was handing out ham and cheese wraps, milk and fruit cups to the children, site supervisor Ronald Henderson was keeping records of who was served and what they received. He knows the kids because he sees them three times a week. It’s not that these kids are neglected, he said

“Their families are actually pretty involved,” he said.

While Henderson kept records, Southerland was sizing up the program, which receives federal funding. There are social programs like this that work, and there are others that are susceptible to abuses, he told Rose after everyone had been served.

“You can’t just throw money at a problem,” Southerland said in an interview later.

Southerland is leading the Republican Study Committee’s anti-poverty initiative, which is attempting to address poverty by addressing its major corollaries: single-parent households, unemployment and low educational achievement. A family with working parents and kids in school is less likely to be poor, and thus less likely to need government help.

He’s travelled the country visiting programs like this. He looks for the same things he might he look for in a business: oversight, efficiency and results. He wants to see engaged staff members acting with precision.

“You look at the resources that a company has or an organization, in this case a nonprofit,” Southerland said. “How are they managing those scarce resources?”

Rose said the whole operation is heavily regulated, and the rules can be onerous because of the federal dollars involved, but there is a need that must be addressed.

“If school wasn’t there to feed so many of America ’s kids, how would they eat?” Rose said.

Southerland said he liked what he saw in the Summer Food Service Program.

“They’re working with taxpayer dollars or donor dollars, so they need to be good stewards of those resources, and to see that they were doing that is something that I was very pleased to see,” he said.

By AgWeb

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corp of Engineers continue to be in hot water on Capitol Hill over the proposed rule expanding federal jurisdiction over "waters of the United States." The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council applaud the efforts of Rep. Southerland (R-Fla.) to invalidate this rule.

Under the proposal, nearly all waters in the country will be subject to regulation, regardless of size or continuity of flow. Southerland’s bill H.R. 5078 Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act halts any action of the EPA and the Corps regarding the proposed definition of "waters of the United States."

"The EPA continues to claim that their proposal does not expand the reach of the Clean Water Act," said Bob McCan, NCBA President and Texas cattleman, "but the way the proposal is written, there is no other interpretation. The vague and subjective wording gives regulators the authority and access to nearly any water, and with it, all land use activities including ranching."

For the first time, ditches are included in the definition of a "tributary" and many will now come under federal jurisdiction. Activities near a jurisdictional ditch will now require a federal permit. As a result, many cattle operations will be required to get Sec. 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, Sec. 404 Dredge and Fill permits or Sec. 311 Spill Prevention Control, and Countermeasure spill plans.

The bill also includes a provision previously offered as stand-alone legislation by Rep. Ribble (R-Wis.) that will invalidate the "interpretive" rule, which attempts to define and interpret the "normal farming, silviculture and ranching activities" exemptions under Sec. 404 of the Clean Water Act.

According to the EPA, the 56 exempted NRCS practices, including prescribed grazing, were chosen because they have the potential to discharge if they are done in a "water of the U.S." Effectively, the agencies have made cattle grazing a discharge activity, forcing cattle producers to obtain a NRCS-approved grazing plan or else be subjected to the 404 permitting scheme and the penalties under the Clean Water Act.

"This proposal takes the authority Congress granted EPA far beyond the scope of Congressional intent," said Public Lands Council President Brice Lee, a Colorado rancher. "Not only is this illegal, but it clearly disregards the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction. We appreciate Mr. Southerland and Mr. Ribble’s efforts to prevent the agencies from finalizing this regulation, which we see as the largest federal land grab in history."

NCBA and PLC strongly support this legislation and encourages the House to pass this bill, protecting the rights of private property owners across the country.

Source: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

The Hill / By Timothy Cama

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed two bills Wednesday aimed at undercutting the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates water pollution.

One of the bills would give states more authority over water pollution permits and state permitting rules, while the other would block the agency’s joint proposal with the Army Corps of Engineers to redefine which waters it has jurisdiction over per the Clean Water Act.

“When it enacted the Clean Water Act, Congress established a system of cooperative federalism by making the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states partners in regulating the nation’s water quality and allocated the primary responsibilities for dealing with the day-to-day water pollution control matters to the states,” Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said about the bill to shift more permitting authority to states.

But Gibbs said the EPA “is inserting itself into the implementation of state water quality permitting standards and is second-guessing states on permitting decisions in how standards are to be implemented, and even second-guessing EPA’s own prior determinations that a state’s standards meet the minimum requirements under the Clean Water Act.”

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) sponsored the bill in an effort to help the coal industry, whose mines often need permits to dump waste materials.

“This act addresses many of the obstacles that the EPA has placed in the way of our coal production in Appalachia,” she said. “The EPA has a clear-cut role, and has for years, in making sure that these permits go forward. This bill does not in any way take that right or that ability from EPA away.”

The panel also sought to overturn the EPA’s highly controversial Waters of the United States rule, proposed earlier this year to clarify its jurisdiction over streams, lakes and other bodies of water, after a series of Supreme Court rulings that called the agency’s authority into question.

Earlier Wednesday, the panel passed another bill aimed at the EPA’s water rules. That bill would restrict the timeframe in which the EPA can veto permits to dump dredge or fill materials into waterways and wetlands. Republicans said stopping the rule would restore a longstanding federal-state partnership over water pollution issues.

“The EPA and the Corps of Engineers are engaged in a brazen effort to upset a successful federal-state partnership that has regulated America’s waters for more than 40 years,” said Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.). “Forty years of progress is now being turned onto its head under the guise of clarifying the scope of federal jurisdiction.”

Democrats defended the EPA.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) called the permitting bill “a wholesale rewrite of the underlying permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act.”

Bishop said that the bill would encourage a state “race to the bottom” in terms of water regulation, in which states would roll back rules to attract more industry while allowing more pollution.

“As our nation’s history has shown, when individual states get to compete against one another for the lowest water quality protections, rivers catch fire, lakes die and the overall quality of our economic and ecological health suffer,” he said.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) said the bill to stop the water jurisdiction rule “would have a drastic impact on the health of our water supply.”

She and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) recognized, however, that the EPA’s proposal could have been more clear and answered more questions.

“They keep telling us what it doesn’t do, and if you’ve written a rule and you have to keep telling people what it doesn’t do, then maybe your rule needs a lot of work. And that’s why we have a public comment period,” DeFazio said.

By CHRIS OLWELL | The News Herald

PANAMA CITY — Congressman Steve Southerland hosted local civic leaders at a press conference Monday to tout new legislation that would limit the federal government’s authority to close off vast sections of the sea to fishing.

Southerland, R-Panama City, introduced the Marine Access and State Transparency (MAST) Act (H.R. 4988), an amendment to the Antiquities Act of 1906, in response to President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that he plans to close a 780,000-square-mile area of the Pacific Ocean.

“No one should have that power, and what this does, this prevents the president from acting in such a way,” Southerland said.

The Antiquities Act in part grants the president authority to designate marine monuments, a type of marine sanctuary. Obama’s plan would greatly expand a monument area President George W. Bush originally designated. The MAST Act would curtail that authority by requiring congressional approval as well as the approval of states near the monument area.

“The MAST Act, we believe, is an important measure to protect the citizens from yet another act of runaway government,” said Recreational Fishing Alliance Board Member Pam Anderson, who runs Capt. Anderson’s Marina with her family.

Southerland’s proposal also would prohibit the secretaries of commerce and the interior from restricting public use of a designated monument until there has been a review period allowing for public input and congressional approval.

If the president were to create a similar monument in the Gulf of Mexico — Obama has not mentioned any such plans publicly — it would be like turning the farms of southern Georgia into golf courses, said Eugene Raffield, Southeastern Fisheries Association regional director.

“We don’t need a dictator to just come in and say, ‘We’re going to rope this off,’ “ Raffield said. “You’ve got to have production. These are productive waters, and when you take that away, you never get it back.”

Southerland said the bill has the support of fishing interests locally and on the West Coast, where the president’s plan would affect recreational and commercial fishing interests, and he believes the bill has a good chance of success.

“We think that this is going to gain a lot of traction,” he said.

Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki spoke Monday about the slow creep of federal regulation over his 50 years fishing the Gulf. He echoed the sentiments of Southerland and others when he said the people of Bay County know what’s best for them, and the interference from afar is unwelcome.

“We have done a very, very good job on local, county and state level to regulate ourselves, and to have the ability for someone possibly from Washington to come in at this time and say and do something that doesn’t know the difference between a mullet and a skipjack just really doesn’t make sense,” Brudnicki said.

Southerland’s press conference played well with Austin Golden, a local commercial fisherman. He said he’s been hurt by federal regulations in his seven years operating his vessel, “Sasquatch,” out of the St. Andrews Marina, where Southerland held his press conference, and he thanked Southerland afterward.

Southerland didn’t mention Gwen Graham, who will challenge him in November, but the Florida Democratic Party called the press conference a “fish and pony show” designed to distract voters from his “record of do-nothing, self-interested Washington politics.”

“No election year press conference can change the fact that Congressman Steve Southerland’s do nothing, self-interested D.C. politics are exactly what North Floridians hate about Congress,” Florida Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele said in a prepared statement.

Washington County News  (By Staff Report)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As promised in an April press conference at Chipley’s WestPoint Home facility, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, II introduced legislation (H.R. 4955) Wednesday to extend for 10 years a free trade provision between the United States and Bahrain that is critical to keeping 260 Northwest Florida manufacturing jobs at WestPoint Home in Chipley. Southerland’s bill would keep in place a Tariff Preference Level (TPL) set to expire in January 2016, ensuring WestPoint Home can continue accessing input materials imported from Bahrain.

“At a time when U.S. textile manufacturers are struggling to survive, WestPoint Home in Chipley, Florida represents one of the few remaining textile facilities in America,” said

Southerland. “Unfortunately, this facility and its 260 highly skilled Washington County workers are at risk due to an expiring trade provision. I am proud to introduce this legislation to ensure these jobs stay right here in Northwest Florida, while also extending much-needed relief to an industry that has moved predominately overseas.”

“As the President and CEO of the last major U.S. based home textiles producer, this is an issue my team has been very focused on,” said Normand Savaria, President and CEO of WestPoint Home. “The bottom line is that the proposed extension provides a mechanism to protect U.S. jobs. We appreciate the recognition and focus of Congressman Steve Southerland on this critical issue.”

“The Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council supports the extension of the TPL program under the UBFTA in order to assist the domestic textile industry and to secure jobs in Florida,” said Greg Britton, President of the Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council.

By creating a level playing field, FTAs help Florida companies. The Mid-East region is an important trading block with Florida. The benefits achieved under the US-Bahrain FTA are important to creating opportunities for manufacturers, small business and our goal to

expand trade relationships to global markets,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Written by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)

The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time that brings much-needed attention to the challenges we still face as a nation in keeping our moms, sisters, daughters, friends and neighbors safe. As the father of four daughters myself, I am personally invested in finding solutions that protect women from the threat of physical violence and sexual assault in America.

Recently, I had the honor of meeting a true champion in America’s fight against violent crime. Tallahassee resident Pat Tuthill lost her 23-year old daughter, Peyton, in 1999 when she was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered by a convicted criminal on unsupervised probation. Three months after her daughter’s death, Tuthill quit her job and traveled the country lobbying policymakers to support legislation that strengthens monitoring and supervision of criminals on parole and probation.

Last year, Tuthill’s dream became a reality with the implementation of the first National Automated Standardized Victim Notification System. Her tireless efforts have earned her the U.S. Department of Justice’s Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award.

At a time when some in Washington are content with participating in nonstop political bickering, I believe Tuthill’s courageous story and commitment to serving others are reminders of the good things that can be accomplished when we fight for what is right, a fight that must continue in the halls of Congress today.

In the 113th Congress, I am proud to have voted for a five-year extension of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which includes measures to reduce rape kit backlogs, strengthen penalties for assault and improve the federal stalking statute.

I also have fought to reverse the alarming trend of sexual assaults in the military by supporting legislation to require automatic discharge of service members who have been convicted of sexual assault, as well as removing a military commander’s ability to dismiss convictions of sexual assault. We should have zero tolerance for sexual assault in the United States military, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure our brave service members are protected during their service to our nation.

Another area of concern where Republican and Democrats can come together is in combating human trafficking. Each year, millions of people around the world are subjected to human trafficking — many of whom are women and children here in the United States. As a man of faith and a concerned father, I refuse to stand by while millions of children are put at risk of being abused and exploited through human trafficking. That’s why I cosponsored the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act, which will provide child welfare systems with the tools necessary to identify and counsel trafficking victims. I also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging that he take immediate action to combat human trafficking by closing down online facilitators of sex trafficking.

There are some things in Washington that simply should not be politicized. When Pat Tuthill started her journey of service 15 years ago, she didn’t do so to score political points. She wanted to make a difference. That’s the kind of example we can all strive to live by.

Written by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)

When President Johnson launched America’s War on Poverty in 1964, he did so with an expectation that all Americans could one day fulfill their “hopes for a fair chance to make good.” Fifty years later, that chance remains out of reach for far too many vulnerable families here in North Florida and across America.

The facts are sobering. More than 46.5 million Americans live in poverty — more than at any time in our nation’s history. Nearly half of all households headed by a single mother sit below the poverty line. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 57,000 Leon County residents live in poverty. More than a quarter of the people living in Gadsden and Franklin counties face a similar struggle. Clearly, the ideas of the past are not working.

We need to recognize that we can’t lift families out of poverty by simply increasing line items on a federal balance sheet. Bigger government is not yielding better results. In fact, it only makes it harder to climb off of government assistance. We must start looking at the root causes of poverty: the absence of strong, two-parent households, dwindling opportunities for a good education, and the inability to find a steady job. We need to cut through the partisan bickering to improve conditions for job growth and expand educational prospects for students eager to learn in a safe, productive environment.

My parents taught me long ago in the parlor of Southerland Family Funeral Homes that you can’t begin to help vulnerable families until you’re ready to climb down in their hurt with them. That’s why public service has always been about more to me than faceless budget sheets. It’s about putting partnerships above partisanship — without sacrificing principles — in an effort to find real solutions.

Nowhere is that kind of thinking more necessary than in determining how we combat poverty. As the chairman of the House Republicans’ Anti-Poverty Initiative, I am taking a leading role in connecting Congress with community relief organizations and families in need across the country. In Tallahassee, I’ve visited The Shelter and the Renaissance Community Center to learn more about how dedicated volunteers on the ground are fighting poverty day in and day out. Regardless of how many committee hearings I attend, memos I read or lectures I hear, nothing can replace face-to-face interaction with those we aim to help.

The recently approved 2014 Farm Bill shows the good that can come out of both parties putting politics aside to get things done. As the lone member of Congress from Florida appointed to the conference committee tasked with ironing out the final version of the Farm Bill, I was particularly pleased that Republicans and Democrats came together to support a provision I introduced empowering vulnerable people with a renewed opportunity for earned success.

By including a 10-state pilot program for work, job training and community volunteerism for healthy, working-age recipients of nutrition assistance, we’ve put the program on the same proven path of success that Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich charted during welfare reform in the 1990s.

When either side tries to tackle an issue as critical as fighting poverty, it’s impossible to avoid honest disagreements over policy. However, I’ve worked hard to continue a conversation with members on the other side of the aisle who care about this issue as much as I do. By meeting with members such as Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., the co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, we’re better able to understand our differences and seek new opportunities to work together. It might not be a fix-all, but in today’s Washington, it’s certainly a start.