A group of eight candidates vying for the chance to represent a portion of Minnesota in Congress gathered at Farmfest Aug. 7 to take part in a forum that provided those attending the opportunity to hear their views on a variety of topics from trade to the current farm bill.
Among those who participated were Collin Peterson and Dave Hughes, who are the endorsed candidates running for the Seventh Congressional District seat.
Peterson is currently serving in that role.
The two candidates were given the opportunity to answer a series of questions posed to them by Minnesota farm broadcasters, with each given the chance to share their thoughts on the same topics.
Among those topics was the current administration’s actions implementing tariff’s on some foreign products and the impact it is having on the ag industry.
For Peterson, the decision of the president to unilaterally establish tariffs against certain products, including those from China, is a decision he thinks in the end will not have the desired impact.
“I do not see the end game here,” said Peterson, adding while there may be a positive impact on steel and manufacturing industry, those in agriculture are being hurt by the actions.
Hughes expressed his support for the tariffs, adding, however, he thinks Congress needs to play a larger role in that process.
“The farmers I have talked to say they understand what the president is doing,” said Hughes, adding they expressed confidence that in the long run the measures will be positive.
When it comes to the proposed bailout of the ag industry because of the impact of the tariff’s Hughes said he supports it, but he added as co-equal branches in the government he believes Congress needs to be involved in that decision making process.
Peterson said he recently had breakfast with Sonny Perdue, USDA secretary, and although he understands the approach that is being taken he thinks the decision to offer the bailout will create as many problems as it is trying to solve.
When it comes to the farm bill, Peterson said he does not support the House bill.
Hughes, one the other hand, does support it.
Both Hughes and Peterson expressed their support for conservation efforts being done at the federal level.
Peterson said as part of the current farm bill being proposed is an addition to the acreage cap for the program, which he said he would like to increase to 29 million acres across the country.
When it comes to payments for CRP, Peterson supports a more market based solution that would pay a percentage of the value of the land, adding that percentage still adds incentive but it is not enough of an incentive that landowners would apply to have land in the program that does not belong there.
Hughes said he does not support raising the cap, adding he thinks that the role of programs like CRP ought to be done at the state and local level, rather than by the federal government.
Peterson and Hughes also support the continued use of renewable fuels.
For Hughes, the answer is in finding a way for the biofuels and oil industries to collaborate, so that in the future there is no longer a need for a federal renewable fuel mandate.
Peterson said he continues to support an increase in the biofuels mandate, adding he thinks the nation should move toward a 15 percent blend of ethanol. When it comes to infrastructure improvements, Peterson said everyone knows there is a huge need.
“The problem is resources,” said Peterson, adding the challenge is that politicians can’t come to an agreement on how to pay for it.
Peterson added he would support a gas tax increase only if the funds were solely dedicated to roads.
Hughes said he does not support a gas tax, adding he thinks there is enough funding in the federal government that could be used to fund infrastructure improvements. Just cutting a small portion from other departments would cover those costs.
Both Hughes and Peterson supported the idea of enhancing technical education programs.
For Peterson it was a mistake to start sending the message that every high-school graduate needs to have a four-year degree, adding there are a lot of job openings today in those trade areas that need to be filled, and encouraging them into those trades is critical.
While Hughes supports the idea of encouraging trade in schools, he thinks that is an effort that could better be done at the state and local level. In fact, he would call for the dissolution of the U.S. Department of Education.
In his closing remarks, Peterson expressed his appreciation to the constituents of the seventh district for allowing him the chance to serve over the years, adding there are things that still need to be done.
That, he said, includes finishing the work on the current farm bill, and as the ranking Democrat on the House ag committee, he can have an influence on the look of that final bill.
Hughes, who served in the United States Air Force, said he would push the America First agenda in Congress, adding he wants to work with the president.
Hughes called the seventh district “red” as he said the majority of the members of the state Senate and House are Republicans, and with a Republican in the White House it makes sense to have someone in Congress who is also a Republican who can work with them, not against them.
Hughes is facing a challenger in the primary election Aug. 14.