Ranking House Ag Committee member to seek re-election

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson said Monday in a radio interview that he will seek a 13th term in Congress to help ensure the farm bill is implemented and resolve conflicts between EPA and farmers.

"I'm running," Peterson, a Democrat, said in the interview.

Peterson, who is 69, said he believes there is a lot of work to do, not just on implementation of the farm bill, but also on flood retention, highway construction and farmers' relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Peterson said he wants to "stop EPA from what they are trying to do on ethanol," a reference to EPA's proposal to reduce the volumetric requirements for ethanol production under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Noting that he has had two meetings with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Peterson said that he believes the problems with the RFS began with the goals that Congress wrote in the legislation for advanced biofuels production. He said the energy bill establishing the RFS was not written by the House Agriculture Committee, and that he had tried to tell members of the energy committee that the goals were too high, but they did not listen.

The RFS has several layers, including a 15-billion-gallon goal for corn-based ethanol and a 22-billion-gallon goal for biofuels from advanced processes or cellulose. Those advanced and cellulosic biofuels have largely failed to reach anticipated commercial production levels.

EPA had been reducing the advanced biofuels targets for several years and also with biodiesel and decided to apply it to corn-based ethanol, even though that production has been meeting the goals outlined in the legislation.

Since groups have come out in favor of the original goals for corn-based ethanol, Peterson said, he believes "we can end up with something much more reasonable."

Republicans have targeted Peterson's 7th District, but he is favored for re-election for a 13th term. The district along Minnesota's western edge runs from Iowa to Canada.

Minnesota State Sen. Torrey Westrom, a Republican, has said he will run against Peterson.

"I hope we can keep this campaign local," Peterson said in the radio interview. Peterson had declined to state his intentions, but said Monday he had decided to run after spending "the last two to three months listening to people. In politics you need to do more listening than talking."

He said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told him Friday during an hour-long conversation that he believes the farm bill can be implemented this year, but Peterson said he is not sure everything will get done that fast.

Again referring to EPA, Peterson said that there are "some things we have to deal with" in the Obama administration.

Although Republicans have said the voters of his district would be more in line with Republican thinking because urban Democrats don't understand agriculture or rural America, Peterson said that "Republicans in the urban areas are different too. They are not going to understand this district better than the Democrats."

When the House was considering the farm bill, Peterson said, "We had more trouble from the Republicans than the Democrats."

The first time the farm bill came up, he said, the Republicans had 163 votes and the second time Republicans had 162. Only 24 Democrats voted for it the first time when it failed, Peterson noted, but on the second round 89 Democrats voted for it.

"That is what we would have had in the first place if they had not screwed around with it," Peterson said, a reference to the food stamp provisions that Republicans insisted on adding to the first bill, but later removed.

His office also issued a news release that he will seek another term. Peterson's office noted that he "will continue his independent streak by taking on an administration that continues to put out regulations that negatively impact agriculture and rural areas."

"While it can be frustrating to watch the dysfunction and partisan gridlock in Congress, I think there is still a place for moderate members like myself to try to build consensus and cooperation," Peterson said. "I will continue to be a voice of common sense in Washington, D.C., for all the people of Minnesota's 7th District."

© 2014 Rural Radio Network. All rights reserved. Republishing, rebroadcasting, rewriting, redistributing prohibited. Copyright Information