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Byberg homes in on Collin Peterson

Lee Byberg is the Republican candidate against longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in the 7th Congressional District. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Lee Byberg has been campaigning hard this summer. Photo by - Paula Quam2 / 2

Lee V. Byberg, 50, is running against U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson on the Republican ticket this fall.

Byberg, a firm believer in small government and personal and corporate tax cuts to spur growth, says Peterson, a Democrat, has been in office too long.

"He's been there nearly a quarter of a century," he said. "We are facing such serious problems -- this goes beyond being Democrat or Republican.

"We look at the leadership he has been part of for the past 22 years-plus and where we are as a nation. We're borrowing 40 percent of our spending. The government is incapable of discipline."

Byberg ran against Peterson two years ago, and this year beat back a challenge from State Rep. Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas to win the GOP endorsement to face him again.

Byberg, who still has a noticeable accent, was born in the United States but spent his childhood in Brazil and Paraguay, the son of Christian missionaries. The family also lived in Norway, where his father was the pastor of several churches.

He moved to the United States when he was 20 and attended the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

He has had a successful business career in Willmar, where he and his wife, Nancy, are raising three teenage sons.

He is vice president of operations at Life-Science Innovations, the parent company of Willmar Poultry Company. As general manager of Willmar Poultry, he oversaw the increase in turkey egg production in Minnesota from 10 million to 25 million.

"But my commitment to America and the area didn't stop at my business endeavors," he wrote in his campaign book, "Builders of our Land."

"I felt so strongly about my love for America that I became a songwriter!"

In September, 2009, he wrote a dozen patriotic songs, and with the help of about 15 friends recorded a CD in a sound room he built in his house.

But it is his business acumen that is needed in Congress, Byberg said.

Fewer than 14 percent of those in Congress have any business experience, he said. "I'm a business leader -- I ran companies (affiliated with Willmar Poultry) from 25 to 150 people."

But Byberg wants his campaign to be about more than just one U.S. House seat.

"I decided it's time to create a movement of people in the Heartland to go back to what made America great in the world --free enterprise and limited government," he said.

Since it's not feasible to balance the federal budget through tax increases, Byberg believes the best solution to America's problems is to cut taxes even more to spur economic growth.

"The only way is to have leaders capable of growing the economy," he said. "Peterson has been a leader for 25 years -- enough is enough. He claims to be a moderate, but today the national Democratic Party has become so radical that he can't help but be part of it."

If elected, Byberg would like to serve on the agriculture committee.

He criticized Peterson for supporting the dairy Stabilization Act, which he said will limit milk production and hurt Minnesota dairy farmers.

"The milk producers are against it, but he's not listening to them -- he's listening to the big players out of state," Byberg said.

Byberg would like to cut the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent or less to stimulate the economy.

"The aim should be to increase tax revenue," he said.

He would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he said will burden small businesses and lead to a government-run health care system.

"We need to improve what we have, not move to a system where the government is going to mandate you and penalize you through fees," he said.

The food stamp program has more than doubled since 2007, to $80 billion in the proposed farm bill, and "we can't afford that now," he said. "We don't need that kind of money. We are killing the economy now. We are not going to fix this from Washington, we are going to fix this locally."

On social issues, he is pro-life, and favors banning abortion except to save the life of the mother.

He would cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 50 percent, and perhaps eliminate the Education Department, returning authority to local school districts.

So far, Byberg said, his campaign has raised about $430,000 in mostly local funds to the $1 million to $1.2 million in mostly out-of-state funds that he said Peterson usually raises per election cycle.