Politicians address Farmfest

By Fritz Busch, New Ulm Journal - GILFILLAN ESTATE - First District Republican Congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth said Tuesday at Farmfest that the farm economy is struggling due to high input costs and that support is needed to put downward pressure on them.

Hagedorn, who grew up on a farm near Truman, said he would support policies that allow farmers to continue to grow and innovate and he opposes legislation that increases regulations, taxes and energy burdens on them.

"Much can be done to increase the vibrancy of our rural economy," Hagedorn said.

Another First District Republican challenger, Steve Williams, grew up in Minneapolis but spent the last 36 years living and working on a farm near Austin. He said the federal government "applies band aids that focus on special interests" and presidential candidates don't talk about agriculture.

Also a small business owner, Williams said he is not a member of the political establishment. He would eliminate payroll taxes to help create jobs, increase wages and strengthen the economy. Williams would like to increase the standard deduction, personal exemption and eliminate double taxation of corporate dividends.

To offset the tax cuts, he supports creating a national sales tax on consumer discretionary items and eliminate income tax breaks for dividends, capitol gains and itemized deductions.

Congressman Tim Walz (D), serving his fifth term in the First District, said its time to start working on the next Farm Bill with Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson (D).

Seventh District Republican challenger Dave Hughes of Karlstad said he would like to make two years of college free and not charge college tuition to students in families that make less than $100,000 a year.

A retired U.S. Air Force aviator who flies for the U.S. Immigration Service, he described himself as a born-again, spirit-filled follower of Jesus Christ and a James Madison/ Calvin Coolidge/ Ronald Reagan Conservative. He described the federal government as "oppressively large, inept, corrupt, dishonest, wasteful and abusive."

Seventh District Republican challenger Amanda Lynn Hinson of Long Prairie said government has been "growing, growing and growing for the last six years, creating a $19 trillion national debt."

A missionary who lived with her family in Far East Russia from 2010 to 2015, Hinson worked with orphans, youth and English language learners (ELL). She wrote a book, "Wide Open Curtains," about her experience of having a baby in Russia and its socialized medicine.

Also living in Mexico and Malaysia, Hinson speaks fluent Russian and has studied Spanish and Korean. Working as a ghostwriter, she served as an Assemblies of God pastor from 2008 to 2015.

Hinson said Congress needs to separate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the Farm Bill as a way to cut government spending.

"That's a very bad idea. That would kill the Farm Bill," Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson (D) said.

Hinson said there are too many able-bodied people on SNAP.

"Carving up things gets us into problems," Peterson said.

Walz said expanding trade markets is a top priority.

"An all-or-nothing approach is not good. Some trade deals are good. It's how we negotiate these things," he added. "Washington is sometimes like Forest Gump. They don't know what's going on."

Hagedorn said there is a big war against agriculture and that people want to "weaponize" the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Emmer called for reducing taxes and agricultural regulations.

"You can't grow the economy with taxes. Allow people to create opportunity for themselves," he added. "We need more policy-makers that understand what farmers deal with, get government out and allow farmers to do what they do best."

Peterson stressed the need for farm price floors, but if prices are above production costs, government should not be involved.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau sponsors a free pancake breakfast in the forum building at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Mark Schultz of North Star Commodities will give an ag weather and grain marketing update at 9 a.m. A state legislative forum on rural issues begins at 10:30 a.m.

Gov. Mark Dayton will give a keynote address at 1:15 p.m., followed by a panel discussion on buffers, Waters of the U.S. and other water quality issues.