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Peterson, Byberg spar on farm, health care policies

DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, left, and Republican Lee Byberg, right, sign releases before taping a debate between the two candidates Tuesday, Oct. 16,2012, at Prairie Public in Fargo. Moderator Matt Olien is in the center of the photo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Candidates for Minnesota's 7th Congressional District seat stuck to familiar campaign themes in a debate taped Tuesday for Prairie Public television and radio.

Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson said if Congress worked as well as the Agriculture Committee, the country would be in better shape.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Lee Byberg repeatedly said the only way to get the U.S. on a solid footing is to cut the size of federal government.

The 30-minute debate, moderated by Matt Olien, is co-sponsored by Prairie Public and AARP. It airs 8 p.m. Friday on Prairie Public television, and 6:30 p.m. Thursday on Prairie Public radio.

Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said too many congressmen overwhelmingly vote their party line, which makes compromise all but impossible.

"You don't get your way with everything" in life, Peterson said. "That's the way it is in Congress as well."

Byberg, vice president for operations of Life-Science Innovations, said the way to end gridlock in Washington is to support free enterprise and a smaller federal government.

"Our government is broken. We've created a massive national debt," Byberg said, and he wants "to set our government straight."


Byberg wants the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly called "Obamacare," repealed.

With Obamacare, "those who are struggling the most will do worse," Byberg said, as adding another 16 million people to Medicare will overwhelm it.

"Let's go back and repeal it and start over again," Byberg said.

Peterson said voiding the law isn't needed, adding that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney even said he'd keep parts of the health care law.

"Forty percent of that bill is good, and it needs to be done," Peterson said.

Farm bill

Peterson said the House Agriculture Committee had a bipartisan farm bill ready that would save the nation money. The group also had the votes, 240 of them, needed for it to pass the House, but Republican leaders wanted to hold off on action until after the election, he said.

Peterson said Speaker of the House John Boehner supports action during the lame duck session.

Byberg said that the nation is borrowing 40 percent of what it spends annually. Still, spending on the food stamp program, which makes up 80 percent of modern farm bills, is rising.

"The people understand we're at a tipping point," Byberg said.


If there was agreement, it was closest on taxes.

"The tax system is kind of a mess," Peterson said.

There are too many tax breaks and loopholes in the law, Peterson said, saying that a national value-added tax might be a good fix.

"We need to rein in this large government," Byberg said, adding that agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency should have their budgets cut or eliminated.

The 7th Congressional District covers almost all of western Minnesota. It includes Kittson, Roseau, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Lake of the Woods, Beltrami, Clearwater, Clay, Becker, Otter Tail, Wadena, Todd, Traverse, Wilkin, Stevens, Big Stone, Swift, Chippewa, Stearns, Meeker, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Renville, Redwood, Lyon, Sibley and Carver counties.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583.