LITCHFIELD – Barring new information that could convince him otherwise, Rep. Collin Peterson said he will vote against impeaching President Trump when the issue comes for a vote Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Peterson said he expects 4-5 other Democrats will do the same.
Peterson, who represents Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District, made the comments Saturday while attending the annual meeting of the First District Association, a dairy cooperative in Litchfield.
Peterson said he normally doesn’t make a decision until an issue — and all the information — is on the floor for a vote but said “unless they come up with something between now and Wednesday,” he will not support the articles of impeachment.
“Maybe something will change. I doubt it,” he said.
Peterson said Trump “has not committed a crime” and most people in the Seventh District don’t think the US should provide foreign aid, so they are not troubled at all if Trump withheld funds to Ukraine. Peterson also said the case against Trump only includes "second-hand" information about Trump's questionable phone call.
Peterson said the “biggest problem” he has with this impeachment process is that people decided in advance they were going to impeach Trump “and now they’ve spent a year trying to figure out how they can make a case for it. That’s backwards. I just don’t agree with this.”
Peterson said he expects the House will vote to impeach Trump and then it will go to the Senate where he predicts the president will be acquitted.
“This is dividing the country for no good reason because he’s not going to be thrown out of office,” he said. “Why are we doing this?”
Peterson said the issue should be settled at the ballot box.
“If people don’t like Trump, they can vote against him,” he said.
On the topic of agriculture, Peterson told the dairy producers at the meeting that for the first time in many years the economics in the dairy industry is improving.
Despite many dairy farmers retiring and leaving the business, Peterson said now is a perfect time for young farmers to get into the business.
He said the new farm bill’s safety net, the positive markets, available credit, cheap dairy cattle and the availability of empty dairy barns that could be leased or purchased make it a good time for young people to start dairy farming.
"I'm optimistic and I hope we can encourage people to get into the business," he said. "We've got a pretty decent safety net for smaller producers."
Peterson is not so optimistic about the rest of agriculture.
“I’m worried about it,” he said. “I’m hearing from bankers and Farm Credit, they’re worried about financing people next year.”
The devastating sugar beet crop this year dealt a tough blow to the ag economy, he said. “It’s not good.”
Peterson said he’s dubious of the $50 billion in ag sales touted by the Trump administration as a result of a new trade agreement with China.
“I’d be surprised,” he said. “I hope it’s true. Maybe it’ll turn these prices around, but I’m skeptical.”
Peterson said the $28 billion in facilitation payments that went to farmers to ease the burden of the trade war did some good but would’ve been put to better use by improving the last farm bill. He also said those payments could end up causing a “backlash” against agriculture by the general public.
Peterson has not announced whether he will seek another term.
If he decides to run in 2020 he said he would have to run again in the following election because the ag committee, which he is currently the chairman of, would be in the middle of writing the next farm bill.
“It’s a two-term commitment,” he said. “I feel like if I run this next time that means I have to run one more time. So I’m looking at two elections and by that time I’ll be 80 years old. So I’ve got to decide, do I want to do that,” he said.
Peterson predicted that if he doesn’t run, or is not re-elected, the person replacing him would likely not be on the house ag committee, which would reduce the voice of Minnesota farmers. Given that, he said, it was perplexing that in the last election most farmers voted for Trump and voted for Peterson’s opponent.