Measure 5 fails, Peterson retains post

FARGO, N.D. -- The mid-term 2014 election generally strengthened agriculture's voice in the region's political scene, with some congressional ag legislators holding their seats and farm group triumphs in defeating initiated measures.

FARGO, N.D. -- The mid-term 2014 election generally strengthened agriculture's voice in the region's political scene, with some congressional ag legislators holding their seats and farm group triumphs in defeating initiated measures.

Ag leaders from the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana agreed one of the most important regional ag outcomes for the day was that Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., retained his Seventh District seat, assuring he'll continue as ranking member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. Peterson, in a Nov. 5 news teleconference, said he will use his next term to push for a continuation of tax benefits for buying farm equipment, reforms of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, pushing an effective highway bill and implementing the new farm bill.

Peterson acknowledges that agricultural parts of his district were his strongest, although he had good support throughout his sprawling district. He predicts he'll be able to work with the Republican successor to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who has reached his party's six-year term limit on committee chairmanship. Lucas is expected to be succeeded by Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas.

Peterson says the survival of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and his possible ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee is mixed news, as Roberts has hinted an interest in reopening the farm bill.

"That's not a good idea," Peterson says.


"Thank goodness that Collin won," says Erik Younggren of Hallock, Minn., second vice president of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, summarizing the election.

Younggren says the Republican takeover of the Senate majority could mean U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., might become ranking Democrat of the Senate Agriculture Committee. That bodes well for the long term, if the majority switches back.

Younggren says Gov. Mark Dayton's re-election likely means continued leadership by appointee Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, says Peterson's victory bodes well for farm bill implementation, regulatory reform and favorable tax policies. He says the Republicans regaining legislative control could affect support for some agricultural priorities.

ND ag commissioner

In North Dakota, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, a Republican, won re-election by 57 to 43 percent, defeating former state Sen. Ryan Taylor, a Democrat from Towner.

Doug Johannes, president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, says the group wants to "congratulate Doug on his re-election," although it had opposed him in the endorsement process, and in the end didn't endorse him as the general election candidate, despite the fact that Goehring is a former NDFB vice president and former president of its Nodak Mutual Insurance Co.

"We might have had our differences with him, but we want to work with him as we have in the past and look at issues that are mutually beneficial," Johannes says.

Goehring says the electorate seemed to dismiss inappropriate comments or departmental turnover and instead focused on his working to enhance trade, reduce government regulations affecting farmers, and his new efforts to mediate disputes between farmers and oil companies. He says he's been ahead of the game on creating solutions for such things as pipeline development and oversight, which involves landowners.


"We just put our heads down and work," Goehring says.

Measure 5

Johannes says the 2014 election will be remembered mostly for the 79 to 26 percent thumping of North Dakota's Measure 5.

"This deal was directly pitting agriculture against conservation groups," he says, noting the initial polls put the proponents 30 points ahead. He says voters didn't buy the notion that wildlife groups "are the only ones that raise wildlife," and says the effort has produced some "real, real damage" to the relationship between ag groups and habitat groups like Ducks Unlimited.

Agricultural groups including the North Dakota Grain Growers Association and North Dakota Stockmen's Association were among leaders in an effort to derail the measure, which would have raised and required the spending or banking of $150 million in oil extraction taxes for conservation projects.

North Dakota Stockmen's Association President Steve Brooks of Bowman, N.D., says his group is pleased the measure was rejected because it "would have impaired North Dakota agriculture and the state's ability to respond to its needs."

Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the stockmen's association, says the struggle created "top-of-mind awareness of different organizations and their approaches."

SD governor and EB-5


South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke of Conde, S.D., says the election of former Gov. Mike Rounds as the state's junior U.S. senator with 50.4 percent of the vote was not a surprise, and it seemed the scandal of the EB-5 visa-investment program that involved a failed Aberdeen beef plant had little effect.

He says one of the effects of the election is that Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., can become chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which could be important in passing infrastructure improvements to roads and bridges.

SDFU Vice President Wayne Soren of Lake Preston, S.D., adds it appears the electorate "didn't care or didn't understand" the EB-5 scandal, "and it could be a little of both." He adds ethanol was the major agricultural issue brought up during the campaign.

State Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., was re-elected with 66.5 percent of the vote. An initiated measure to increase the state minimum wage from $7.75 an hour to $8.50 per hour, which affects farm workers, passed with 55 percent.

Mont., GMO

In Montana, Charlie Bumgarner, vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association, says the retirement of Democratic Sen. Max Baucus to become ambassador to China means the state is, in a sense, "starting over" in gaining influence in Washington. Rep. Steve Daines R-Mont., won Baucus' seat with 58 percent of the vote. Republican Ryan Zinke, a former Navy Seal, won the open House seat with 55 percent.

Farther afield, Colorado and Oregon voters defeated an initiative that would have mandated labeling of genetically engineered food. Chemical and technology companies including Monsanto and Pioneer reportedly contributed $16 million to defeat the Colorado effort.

"Just like the tens of millions of voters in California in 2012 and Washington State in 2013, Oregon voters see how this proposal would have created more state bureaucracy, imposed new costs and burdens on local farmers and businesses, and increased food prices for hard-working Oregon families," says Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

What To Read Next
Get Local