Minnesota Soybean Business

A red wall: Democratic challenger faces uphill climb against NRCC chair

Republican Congressman Tom Emmer sees one positive emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think out of this pandemic. … (we’re going) to see a renaissance in rural America. People are done with this nonsense,” Emmer said, referring to the Minneapolis protests following the homicide of George Floyd. “It really is a time for choosing.”

Emmer represents Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District north of the Twin Cities suburbs, and his seat is considered safe Republican territory by pollsters. Emmer was elected to Congress in 2014 after a failed bid for governor. He’s since risen the ranks of Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., and now serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“For me, it’s an honor and a privilege to serve the Sixth District,” Emmer said, “and ag has been a number one priority. The primary drivers of Minnesota’s economy are ag and manufacturing.”

Stearns County in the Sixth District is the state’s largest dairy-producing county. In March, Emmer introduced legislation to modify the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program to allow farmers to make a one-time update to their production history. He also supported extending the biodiesel tax credit and voted for the USMCA.

“You must protect the Renewable Fuel Standard the way it was intended and end the abuse of waivers that undermine the law,” Emmer said of biofuels.

Emmer backs the Trump administration’s trade policies, but said he’s concerned farmers are receiving too much of their income from taxpayers.

“Federal help won’t replace markets, and a third of farming income is funded by the government,” he said.

Emmer will be challenged by Tawnja Zahradka, a political neophyte. The Forrest Lake residence has a background in television broadcasting, owns a production company and is a former Mrs. Minnesota. She also has an ag in her blood, growing up feeding livestock on the family farm in North Dakota.

Tawnja Zahradka is looking to upset incumbent Congressman Tom Emmer.

“I’m a true-blue farmer’s daughter,” she said, “but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I understand hard work and grit.”

Zahradka criticized Emmer’s support of the Trump administration, blaming America’s trade war with China for causing irreparable damage to Minnesota farmers. Farmers need trade, not aid, she said.

“America needs to be tough with China, but using farmers as pawns is failing,” Zahradka said. “The USMCA is a good start, but our hardworking famers deserve to be treated so much better.”

If elected, Zahradka said she’d make outreaches to minorities in agriculture, and would support more available health care options.

“I’m just a regular person who became tired of screaming at the TV as our democracy is attacked,” she said. “I’m not beholden to any special interest.”

Emmer ended the Farmfest forum by drawing a sharp contrast between Republican and Democratic policies. The choice in November is clear, he said.

“We trust Americans to do what they do best for your family,” he said. “The other side wants to tell you how to farm.”


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