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Soybean Business: Shattering the Senate glass ceiling

This story was first featured in the September – October 2018 issue of Soybean Business. Click here to read the online version of the magazine.

Both Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Minnesota Republican Sen. Karin Housley advanced through their August primaries, and will face off on Nov. 6, marking the first time in Minnesota history two women have vied for a U.S. Senate seat. The winner of this special election will complete the final two years of former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned in January following allegations of sexual misconduct.

The race between Smith and Housley is being watched closely at the national level, as Republicans cling to a razor-thin majority.

Here’s how the two candidates stood on a variety of ag-related issues during a Farmfest panel in August:

Trade 

Karin Housley is hoping to become the first Minnesota Republican to hold a federal senate seat since Norm Coleman in 2009.

Housley:  When it comes to trade, no one has suffered more than farmers in your industry. It’s scary. … But, there’s no one that can benefit more from a fair-trade agreement than farmers. I have a direct line to the president, being on the same team. I’ve done it once already – gone straight to the administration. When it comes to the trade issue, we’ve got to be patient and hope the president can get this done sooner than later to ease the anxiety that’s happening.

Smith: This trade solution that farmers are facing is a significant challenge, especially to farmers who are just starting out and don’t have the equity built up that they need. It’s hurting the bottom line and the future of the state. What I’ve been doing is going directly to the administration to ask them, “What’s the plan here?” How are we going to find a permanent solution that goes beyond $12 billion?”

Health Care

Housley: Health care costs are a huge issue affecting farmers. Health care skyrocketed under Obamacare. Then here in Minnesota, under Gov. Dayton and Tina Smith they added another layer of bureaucracy called MNsure, which was another failure and added another cost to you. I talked to one of you guys. Your health care costs were $20,000 in 2010, and it’s now $42,000 a year. It’s disappointing they couldn’t repeal and replace Obamacare, but we have to help reduce your health insurance costs and open it up to the free market.

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith is looking to win the Nov. 6 special election and complete the last two year’s of Sen. Al Franken’s term.

Smith:  When talking with farmers, the affordability of health care is the number one or two issues that arises. It affects everything. When I was lieutenant governor, I fought for the expansion of MinnesotaCare so that anyone could opt-in to pay their own way. It would’ve been a very affordable way to expand health care for people who are buying health insurance on the open market. I also support the coop strategy, supporting opting into Medicare. And the very first bill I introduced was a bill lowering prescription bill costs. I will keep pushing for this.

Immigration Worker Program

Housley: This is the number one reason we need to reform our immigration laws now. Your industry needs one million to one and a half million of workers. We can either import our workers or import our food. We have programs available, like the H-2A visa program, but it doesn’t work for everyone and there’s regulations. …Those need to be removed and we need to reform these laws because I know you need it right away.

Smith: Trying to find people to do the work right now in farm country is very challenging. The H-2A visa program we have now doesn’t have the flexibility and the capacity that we need. We need comprehensive immigration program.

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