U.S. House candidates show differences during Farmfest forum

MORGAN, Minn. - Temperatures bumped 90 degrees and humidity was high, but U.S. House candidates remained cool as they debated Tuesday in front of a Farmfest forum.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, left, talks to a Republican opponent, David Hughes, at Farmfest, near Redwood Falls. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

MORGAN, Minn. - Temperatures bumped 90 degrees and humidity was high, but U.S. House candidates remained cool as they debated Tuesday in front of a Farmfest forum.

Answers about crop insurance drew subtle differences among candidates in the 7th Congressional District, which stretches from Canada south nearly to Iowa.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, defended his nearly 26 years in Congress and the insurance program against two Republicans who want to take over the seat.

"It is probably the most important part of the (farm) safety net we do in Congress," Peterson said during a candidate forum that only filled about half of the available seats.

One aspect of the program that most people do not understand, he said, was expanding it recently to cover more crops than it used to. That expansion, Peterson said, means that more states benefit from the program, so more votes are available to support it in the House.


One of the GOP candidates, David Hughes, said that he has not studied the issue to know if crop insurance should be retained, but he did complain that too few insurers are involved. If more companies were involved, he said, competition could improve policies.

"I think there is room for improvement and room for free-market reform," he said, stopping short of saying the federal government should pull out of crop insurance.

The other Republican, Amanda Lynn Hinson, agreed that more competition is needed.

"We can see more people involved and getting crop insurance," she said as a benefit of competition.

Hinson, who faces Hughes in Tuesday’s primary election, said Congress should look into how much government already invests to keep crop insurance premiums low.

The sharpest division among western Minnesota candidates came on whether federal law regulating farm programs should be divorced from programs such as food stamps that help poor Americans.

"You should not have rural and urban combining just to get their interests passed," Hughes said, supporting dividing the two issues.

He said nutrition programs have lots of problems that Congress must fix.


Hinson agreed that she would like to see them divided, but admitted, “I don't think it is possible.”

She said the farm bill, which Congress passes every few years, needs to spend less. “Government is growing and growing and growing.”

The nutrition and farm portions of the law are combined to get congressional support from rural members, who want agriculture measures, and urban lawmakers, who demand help for the poor.

“If they want to kill the farm bill, this is the way to do it …” Peterson, the House Agriculture Committee's top Democrat, said about dividing the two issues. “I think it is a very bad idea.”

“At the end of the day, we have a lot of people in both parties who are interested in nutritional programs,” he added.

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