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Peterson continues to push for Farm Bill as rural economy remains healthy

WILLMAR -- U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said his constituents ask him how he stands the partisan infighting in Washington, but he doesn't hear many complaints about the mostly healthy farm economy in his largely rural congressional district.

The 7th Congressional District covers most of the western third of Minnesota.

The largest cities in the district are Moorhead and Willmar.

Peterson is the current ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, and he was chairman from 2007 to 2011, when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. He is one of the founding members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate-to-conservative Democrats.

Peterson, of Detroit Lakes, generally campaigns around the large district by flying his plane. He said in a recent interview that the question he hears most often is about the partisan wrangling in Congress.

The congressman said he's seen it before. "We (Democrats) had too big a majority; we went off on a tangent, and we paid the price for it" in the last decade, he said. "Now they (Republicans) have too big a majority ... ."

Over the years, redistricting has developed many one-party districts around the country, he said, and many politicians "never have to talk to the other party." That situation can carry over to Washington.

Peterson said he has friends on both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. He also lists the Agriculture Committee as one that works in a bipartisan way on farm policy.

Earlier this year, Peterson was optimistic about the new Farm Bill passing in the summer or early fall. After opposition from some Republican leaders, it never made it to the House floor.

Peterson still hopes it can be passed in the "lame duck" session after the election. The bill is needed to bring about necessary changes for dairy farmers, he said.

Feed costs are affecting livestock farmers, Peterson said, and the new bill could help them.

Peterson opposed the original passage of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The new law did not fix disparities in Medicare funding between states, he said. "'I thought if we didn't fix it then, I don't know when we will.'"

Peterson said he wasn't pleased that votes from just one party passed the original health care law, but "in fairness, they didn't want to work with us, either." He also felt the new law might hurt small rural hospitals.

Peterson has weathered criticism for opposing efforts to repeal the law. He says repealing the law once implementation has started doesn't seem to make sense.

"There's a lot of good things in there," he added, like health care exchanges that should reduce insurance costs for people buying individual insurance.

Many health care providers have already spent time and money to comply with the law and develop the health insurance exchanges, he said. Young adults are covered under their parents' insurance, and other groups have benefitted, too.

"This is a political strategy," Peterson said of the efforts to repeal and the related attacks against him.

"You can't take a big issue like health care and make it political," he said.


Collin Peterson

Age: 68

Family: Three children

Career: Certified public accountant, small business owner, Minnesota state senator; member of U.S. House of Representatives.

Civic experience: Founder and member of House Blue Dog Coalition; past chairman and current ranking member of House Agriculture Committee.

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

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