Rep. Collin Peterson isn’t ready to retire just yet. On Friday, the moderate “Blue Dog” Democratic and chair of the House Ag Committee ended months of speculation by announcing he’ll seek a 16th term in the House of Representatives, setting up a fierce election battle in November.
“There aren’t many like me left in Congress,” Peterson said in a statement. “Rural Democrats are few and far between and I’m concerned that rural America is getting left behind.”
Peterson represents Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District in northwest Minnesota, which runs from southwest Minnesota up to the Canadian border. The ag-rich territory ranked sixth in total agriculture production across the U.S., according to data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Seventh District accounts for nearly half of the state’s agriculture sales, supports more than 30,000 farms and nearly 49,000 producers. Its total market value of products sold is $9 billion.
Peterson said he remained undecided on his future because of the “polarized” political environment. Now that he’ll be on the ballot once again, Peterson vowed his focus during a 16th term, if reelected, would center around improving the economic outlook for rural Americans.
“I’m focused not just on agriculture, but on helping our rural health care facilities, lowering interest rates on student loan debt, taking care of our veterans, and making sure we have good roads and good broadband access across rural Minnesota,” said Peterson, who began his D.C. legislative career in 1991.
Rep. Peterson fashions himself the last of a dying breed in D.C. – a conservative Democrat – but figures to face stiff competition from the right in his bid to win a conservative district that Donald Trump won by more than 30 points in 2016. The race is the only House seat in Minnesota classified as a “toss up,” according to the Cook Political Report. In 2018, Rep. Peterson defeated Dave Hughes for the second time, winning 52 percent of the vote. Hughes is aiming to run again; however, in early March, President Trump endorsed Michelle Fishbach for the District Seven seat.
“The people of the Seventh District support President Trump,” Fischbach said in response to Peterson’s announcement, “and they will soundly reject Collin Peterson and the socialist policies of open borders, free health care for illegal immigrants, taxpayer-funded abortion, and mandatory gun buyback programs that his preferred presidential candidate supports.”
Peterson is one of the few remaining rural Democrats left in the House, and was one pf two Democratic to vote against impeaching the president. He has been a staunch advocate for agriculture, and has been a ranking member of the House Ag Committee since 2005, and became chair when Democrats took over the House majority in 2007. He served as chair until 2011, was appointed chair again in 2019 and is currently the committee’s longest-serving member. He has helped lead the passage of the last four Farm Bills passed by Congress, and recently supported extending the Biodiesel Tax Credit. When farmer leaders from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association are on the Hill, a visit to Rep. Peterson’s office for his customary straight talk is always on the agenda. Most recently, he visited with MSGA Director Theresia Gillie when the Hallock farmer attended the “Phase One” trade deal signing in January.
“We appreciate that Congressman Peterson takes time to visit with our farmer directors during our Hill Visit,” says one of Peterson’s constituents, MSGA President Jamie Beyer. “He’s always refreshing with his candor; he calls it like he sees it.”
MSGA is a non-partisan advocacy organization and doesn’t endorse political candidates. However, MSGA believes it’s important a rural legislator sits atop the House Ag Committee, ensuring the interests of Minnesota farmers are being heard in Washington, D.C.
“We don’t tip the scales one way or another in favor of a candidate, but Rep. Peterson’s announcement is positive for Minnesota agriculture,” says MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek. “We look forward to a spirited race this season and hope candidates from both parties continue to underscore agriculture’s economic impact on the Seventh District.”