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Menze calls for Peterson to quit chairman post

Glen Menze

Glen Menze, Republican candidate for the U.S. House seat held by Democrat Collin Peterson, on Friday called for Peterson to hold hearings on a controversial dairy co-op, or step down from his post as chairman of the House Agricultural Committee.

Menze, who is trying for a second time to unseat Peterson in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, faulted Peterson for not calling hearings into Dairy Farmers of America, a large agricultural co-op.

The Wall Street Journal reported this year that DFA was the subject of a federal probe for possible milk price manipulation.

The newspaper also reported that the co-op faced antitrust lawsuits from farmers and retailers for allegedly conspiring to suppress prices it paid for milk while it raised prices to retailers.

Menze said those issues, and questions about secret DFA payments involving former chief executive Gary Hanman, deserve to be explored in Agriculture Committee hearings.

"The reason this is important is, Collin Peterson has a personal relationship with Gary Hanman," Menze said.

Peterson said he knows Hanman the same way he knows the heads of many co-ops around the country.

He said he has hunted with Hanman when the DFA hosted hunting weekends in the past.

Peterson said he stopped joining those trips after 2006, when new congressional rules took effect making it unclear whether the trips were permitted.

He said no one has formally asked him to hold hearings on DFA, adding that things such as antitrust issues were subjects for the judiciary committee.

Peterson said it is his understanding that payments made to Hanman were loans and after they came to light the loans were repaid with interest.

The issue is an internal one for co-op shareholders and not something for the agricultural committee to take up, he said.