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Collin Peterson forms 'broader coalition' with Midwest Council on Agriculture

Former Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson has turned his attention to creating the Midwest Council on Agriculture, a seven state organization of leaders in agriculture, to discuss policy and influence legislation, like the upcoming farm bill negotiations.

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Collin Peterson, left and USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small speak with other attendees at the inaugural Midwest Council Ag Forum Aug. 22, 2022, in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. The forum was organized by the Midwest Council on Agriculture, which was started by Peterson after his career in Congress.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — It would seem unlikely that an ag group still in its infancy could land for its first-ever conference a speaker lineup that includes the Agriculture Department’s under secretary for rural development, the Farm Service Agency’s top administrator and the general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee.

But when the leader of the group is Collin Peterson, the former Minnesota congressman and longtime chairman of the House Ag Committee, that’s exactly what happened.

Since being voted out of office, Peterson has turned his attention to creating the Midwest Council on Agriculture , a seven state organization of leaders in agriculture to discuss policy and influence legislation, like the upcoming farm bill negotiations.

“We’re going to be pulling together a policy for the Midwest that we can put forward in the next farm bill,” Peterson said.

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Former Congressman Collin Peterson, right, and USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small speak at the inaugural Midwest Council Ag Forum on Aug. 22, 2022, in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

The inaugural Midwest Council Ag Forum was held Aug. 22 and 23 in Detroit Lakes, which Peterson calls home, with about 80 attendees.

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The group has about 85 members representing the agriculture industry in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“There just aren’t enough people anymore in Congress who know anything about agriculture,” Peterson said. “You’ve got to have a broader coalition.”

Peterson said the group is modeled after one in the southwestern U.S. that has been around for about 20 years.

“I saw how effective it was, so when I got out of office, I decided to do that up here in the Midwest,” Peterson said.
Xochitl Torres Small is from the Southwest, having represented a congressional district in New Mexico and served on the Agriculture Committee with Peterson.

Like Peterson, Torres Small was a Democrat in a district with a lot of Donald Trump supporters and lost a reelection race in 2021. Peterson encouraged her to take on a national role in President Joe Biden’s administration and she is now the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s under secretary for rural development.

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USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small, left, and Collin Peterson served in on U.S. House of Representative Agriculture Committee. Peterson's Midwest Council on Agriculture invited Torres Small to speak at the group's first conference on Aug. 22, 2022, in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

She and Peterson closed out the first day of the conference hitting on topics such as creating competition in the meatpacking industry, federal programs for rural broadband to support advances in precision agriculture and the labor shortage. Torres Small was looking for input from the ag industry on USDA policy.

“Some of the things I heard is about how to make applications for our programs more simple; how to make sure that we’re spreading the investments in high-speed internet to … the hardest to reach places; and how we’re investing in building better markets, like meat processing, in a way that really expands options both for consumers and producers,” Torres Small said after the session.

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USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small, left, and former Congressman Collin Peterson discuss farm policy at the Midwest Council Ag Forum on Aug. 22, 2022, in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

The conference started with a discussion of the farm bill.

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Peterson said reference prices for title 1 commodities and improving crop insurance for livestock producers has been two topics of discussion but a lot shaping the farm bill depends on who is in Congress.

“First of all, we have to get past the election,” Peterson said. “It’s going to depend on who wins in terms of how we approach this.”

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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