Collin Peterson has been a giant among men in the realm of U.S. agricultural policy.
Sometimes it seemed incomprehensible that this conservative Democrat “Blue Dog” champion, the Chair of the U.S. House Ag Committee, could really be from the very rural District 7 in Minnesota.
But, like many of us, he grew up right here.
He grew up on a farm near Glyndon, Minn., graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, served in the N.D. National Guard, and was a certified public accountant in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Serving 10 years in the Minnesota Senate, he was elected to Congress in 1990.
Collin Peterson represented about 710,000 individuals living across the western third of Minnesota.
Truly a rural district, the physical size of Minnesota District 7 has continued to grow as the population swings further east to the Twin Cities. It is the state’s largest district.
To have the kind of leadership that Peterson provided in Washington, D.C., for 30 years, was invaluable.
So, it was a shock to many when the 49th Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach, R-Woodbury, won the Nov. 3 District 7 election by 13.56 percent over Peterson.
Peterson helped craft the 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills, always working from a vantage point as a negotiator, a conservative who wanted a balanced budget, and a straight talker.
As a result of his many actions in favor of agriculture, a group of Minnesota organizations published a letter in October stating, “Collin Peterson is a powerful voice for Minnesota agriculture and losing his leadership in Washington would be a blow to farm families and our rural economy.”
The letter was not a formal endorsement of Peterson by the organizations, but more of “putting collective views on the record.”
These groups included: Les Anderson, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, on behalf of the Minnesota Barley Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Chicken and Egg Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Milk Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Minnesota Turf Seed Council and Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers.
Stating what many were thinking was this quote from John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association: “Chairman Peterson has been a thoughtful and courageous leader for American agriculture. In his work on the last three Farm Bills, he worked tirelessly to bring the agriculture community together. His leadership in Congress will be greatly missed. Thank you for your generous service, Chairman Peterson.”
Speaking on his own behalf was Bob Worth, a farmer from Lake Benton. Worth is very involved with the Minnesota Soybean groups and talked frequently with Peterson’s staff since 2004.
“The Upper Midwest lost a good voice for agriculture,” Worth said. “He’s worked extremely hard on the Farm Bills to make sure the Upper Midwest farmers were treated equal.”
Whether or not other representatives will be able to fill the hole left by his departure remains to be seen. Worth pointed out that everyone will work with Fischbach and wish her the very best in her Congressional career.
The challenge is losing the seniority and leadership that Peterson brought.
“I’m sure there is someone that can fill his shoes, but probably not as good for us in the Upper Midwest as Representative Peterson did,” Worth continued. “He was there fighting for us all the time.”
In a letter sent to this reporter who lives in his district on Nov. 9, 2020, Mr. Peterson stated that, “Serving you in Washington, D.C., has been a great honor, and I respect the decision to move in a different direction.
“Listening has been one of my most important jobs as a member of Congress, and I have always prioritized your input first and foremost….the consistent message I’ve heard from Minnesotans has always been one of optimism and support for finding pragmatic solutions that make Minnesota and our country stronger for the next generation,” he continued.
Peterson added that his staff is working to complete any outstanding casework before the new Congress is seated on Jan. 3. If anyone has questions regarding casework, please call Peterson’s office at 218-847-5056.
“I couldn't be more proud to represent our communities in western Minnesota for 30 years and to call Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District my home,” Peterson concluded.