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U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., addresses an audience Tuesday during a Kiwanis Club meeting in Willmar. Peterson said he doesn't expect to see a new?Farm Bill caught up in election year politics, even if it isn't finished by August. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Rep. Peterson confident in passage of Farm Bill

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WILLMAR -- Debate on a new federal Farm Bill is likely to begin next week in the U.S. House.

Calling Congress "fairly dysfunctional" Tuesday in Willmar, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said, "I'm proud to say that the one part of Washington that's still working is the Agriculture Committee." The Senate is debating the Farm Bill this week.

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Peterson, D-Minn., spoke to the Kiwanis at the Willmar Community and Activity Center. He represents the 7th District, which includes most of the western third of Minnesota.

Peterson will be traveling in his district for the rest of the week, while the U.S. House is on break.

After speaking Tuesday in Willmar, he was headed for Renville. For the rest of the week, he plans to be in Paynesville today, Moorhead on Thursday, and Canby and Appleton on Friday.

While other committees in Congress are deadlocked in political battles, the House and Senate agriculture committees have been working in a bipartisan way to develop new five-year farm legislation, Peterson said.

The committees are also working to make cuts in farm-related programs, an effort to do their part to reduce the country's domestic budget and its budget deficit.

"I can see the path to get it done, if we don't have a glitch," Peterson said of the plan to pass a House farm bill by early August.

Peterson said he doesn't expect to see the bill caught up in election year politics, even if it isn't finished by August. Once each chamber has adopted a Farm Bill, it will be in conference committee. The only action remaining will be an up-or-down vote in each chamber, he said.

"Nobody can really derail it at that point," he added.

Once the bill comes to the House floor next week, he said, amendments will be introduced -- "a lot of them from well-intentioned people who have no clue about agriculture."

The new farm bill will eliminate direct payments to people "just because they own land" and replace it with a realistic safety net to protect farmers in case commodity prices collapse.

"I would argue the little money we spend on farmers is the best money we spend," Peterson said.

Agriculture is a strong, stable part of the economy which provides the country with a safe, reliable source of food, he said, and consumers in the United States enjoy the lowest food prices in the world.

Food stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, make up about 80 percent of the Farm Bill, which has a 10-year projected price tag of about $970 billion.

Peterson said he would not support cuts in the program that would harm needy families, but the program will have to withstand some cuts. Previous economic stimulus funding expanded eligibility for it, and that may have to be tightened again, he said.

Peterson touched on some other topics in his talk:

n He mentioned the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, and said he thought it was likely the Supreme Court would overturn it as unconstitutional. If that happens, he said, "the Republicans have a big problem on their hands," because there's no plan ready to replace it.

n Tax reform will be needed in the near future, as tax revenue is too small a part of gros domestic product right now, he said. "We can fix it, but everybody's got to be involved," he said. "Everybody is going to have to give up something to make this work." His best guess is that a number of deductions will be eliminated, which would increase tax revenue without changing tax rates.

WILLMAR -- Debate on a new federal Farm Bill is likely to begin next week in the U.S. House.

Calling Congress "fairly dysfunctional" Tuesday in Willmar, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said, "I'm proud to say that the one part of Washington that's still working is the Agriculture Committee." The Senate is debating the Farm Bill this week.

Peterson, D-Minn., spoke to the Kiwanis at the Willmar Community and Activity Center. He represents the 7th District, which includes most of the western third of Minnesota.

Peterson will be traveling in his district for the rest of the week, while the U.S. House is on break.

After speaking Tuesday in Willmar, he was headed for Renville. For the rest of the week, he plans to be in Paynesville today, Moorhead on Thursday, and Canby and Appleton on Friday.

While other committees in Congress are deadlocked in political battles, the House and Senate agriculture committees have been working in a bipartisan way to develop new five-year farm legislation, Peterson said.

The committees are also working to make cuts in farm-related programs, an effort to do their part to reduce the country's domestic budget and its budget deficit.

"I can see the path to get it done, if we don't have a glitch," Peterson said of the plan to pass a House farm bill by early August.

Peterson said he doesn't expect to see the bill caught up in election year politics, even if it isn't finished by August. Once each chamber has adopted a Farm Bill, it will be in conference committee. The only action remaining will be an up-or-down vote in each chamber, he said.

"Nobody can really derail it at that point," he added.

Once the bill comes to the House floor next week, he said, amendments will be introduced -- "a lot of them from well-intentioned people who have no clue about agriculture."

The new farm bill will eliminate direct payments to people "just because they own land" and replace it with a realistic safety net to protect farmers in case commodity prices collapse.

"I would argue the little money we spend on farmers is the best money we spend," Peterson said.

Agriculture is a strong, stable part of the economy which provides the country with a safe, reliable source of food, he said, and consumers in the United States enjoy the lowest food prices in the world.

Food stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, make up about 80 percent of the Farm Bill, which has a 10-year projected price tag of about $970 billion.

Peterson said he would not support cuts in the program that would harm needy families, but the program will have to withstand some cuts. Previous economic stimulus funding expanded eligibility for it, and that may have to be tightened again, he said.

Peterson touched on some other topics in his talk:

- He mentioned the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, and said he thought it was likely the Supreme Court would overturn it as unconstitutional. If that happens, he said, "the Republicans have a big problem on their hands," because there's no plan ready to replace it.

- Tax reform will be needed in the near future, as tax revenue is too small a part of gros domestic product right now, he said. "We can fix it, but everybody's got to be involved," he said. "Everybody is going to have to give up something to make this work." His best guess is that a number of deductions will be eliminated, which would increase tax revenue without changing tax rates.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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