When she embarked upon her second Congressional campaign in 2018, Angie Craig vowed she would strive to be a bipartisan champion for agriculture.
“We’ve got to get back to working together on a bipartisan basis, around all issues, particularly around ag,” the Democrat said at the 2018 Farmfest.
After she defeated incumbent Jason Lewis, Craig immediately set out to build her agriculture credentials. She was successfully lobbied for a spot on the House Ag Committee, where she’s been mentored by Chairman Collin Peterson.
“The Ag Committee is one of the last bastions of bipartisanship left in Congress,” she said.
In her first year, Craig carved out a reputation as one of the biggest backers of biodiesel in the House, sponsoring an expansion of the biodiesel tax credit. Craig joined the bipartisan Congressional Biofuels Caucus, and helped see the biodiesel tax credit extended at the end of 2019.
“I’m a huge proponent of biofuels,” she told farmer leaders during a virtual roundtable in August. “There’s no greater defender of the Renewable Fuel Standard than me.”
Craig is quick to point out the largest employer in her district is an oil refinery. She’s criticized the Trump administration repeatedly for, in her view, favoring oil interests over renewable fuels.
“I’m sick and tired of oil lobbyists running the EPA inside this administration,” she said. “The administration needs to prioritize farmers over big oil.”
In summer 2019, Craig visited the Cannon Falls farm of one of her constituents, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Director Brad Hovel. Though Hovel isn’t a Democrat, he and Craig built a rapport based around mutual respect and finding common-sense solutions to issues plaguing Minnesota farmers.
“It has been great to get to know producers like Brad,” she said.
During her first term, Craig formed a Farmer Advisory Council and voted for the USMCA. Since COVID-19, she’s lobbied the Trump administration for aid for livestock producers, and endorsed rural broadband upgrades, which were included in the CARES Act.
“We need more rural voices at the table in Washington,” she said.
‘Send in the Marine’
After facing Lewis in 2016 and 2018, Craig has a new opponent in 2020. Tyler Kistner, 32, is a Minnesotan native and self-described “next-generation” millennial political leader who served nine years in the Marine Corps before entering the political realm last year. He’s proven to be a formidable fundraiser, outraising the incumbent in the second quarter of 2020. During the campaign, he’s accused Craig of rubber-stamping House Democratic policies like the Green New Deal (Craig denies supporting) and dragging her feet on backing the USMCA.
“(Bipartisanship) doesn’t mean voting with your party 97 percent of the time,” he said during a Farmfest virtual forum.
During the forum, Kistner consistently pivoted to what he said is a need to lift COVID-related restrictions on the economy in his district in southeast Minnesota.
“The first thing we can do for the ag community is getting the economy back on its feet, recreating what we had before COVID,” he said “We need to allow more freedom and ingenuity.”
Kistner said infrastructure upgrades, deregulation and stabilizing the food supply chain for producers would be among his top priorities in Washington, D.C.
“COVID showed how fragile our supply chain is,” he said, adding, “Infrastructure shouldn’t a partisan issue.”
Kistner would support expanding trade agreements and said he’ll seek a position on the House Ag Committee if elected.
“I’m here to be a strong advocate for agriculture,” he said.