Republican Benson would have voted against the Farm Bill

State Rep. Mike Benson announced on June 17th that he wants to challenge DFL Rep. Tim Walz for Congress next year. (MPR Photo/Elizabeth Baier)

Democrats are criticizing a Republican candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s 1st District for saying he would have voted against the farm bill, which failed last week in the House.

The DFL Party released a video featuring state Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, at a town hall meeting this week.

Benson said he had deep concerns about the amount of federal money being spent on food stamps in the legislation.

“I think the Farm Bill still needs a lot of work. I’m going to put together a round table from across the district of farmers both small and large. I think there’s competing interests there and then you really need to get something passed. Unfortunately, we call it a the Farm Bill but a lot of the money, a bigger portion of what is in it, is HHS [Health and Human Services], in my mind it’s a food stamps program. But when you look at the agricultural bill in totality, it is a small part of the federal budget. It’s a small part of the federal budget. But we need to know that the people that are producing the food in the United States need to know what the rules are going to be. So we need to get one passed but I’m not surprised, at least in the House, with everything I’ve read, that it didn’t.”

Benson followed up by saying he would have voted no on the bill.

Benson hopes to challenge DFL Rep. Tim Walz in the southern Minnesota district, which includes Rochester, Mankato, Worthington and many farming communities .

DFLers, who shot video of Benson at the town hall meeting on Wednesday, criticized Benson for his statement. They say he’s focused on the wrong priorities.

“By admitting he would have voted against the Farm Bill, Benson is highlighting that ideology will trump pragmatism if he’s elected to Congress and how truly out of touch Benson’s extreme agenda is with the voters of the 1st District,” DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said in a press release. “Our farming and rural community needs certainty now, not another ideologue like Michelle Bachmann.”

The U.S. House, which is controlled by Republicans, defeated the Farm Bill last week. Many Republicans argued there should be greater cuts to nutrition aid. Democrats, representing mostly urban areas, wanted more money for food stamps.

Walz voted for the Farm Bill. He issued a statement saying he supported the bill so the House and Senate could open negotiations on a better plan.

 “Washington is broken and it’s long past time for folks out here to get things done and stop viewing compromise as a dirty word. This bill wasn’t perfect but I knew that we could craft a better bill in conference if we just got it through the House. I’m deeply disappointed the bill failed. Doing nothing only costs the government more money, increases prices at the grocery store, and puts the squeeze on middle class families. Our nation deserves better. I will continue to fight to give Rural America confidence and certainty.” 

Update:

Benson told the New Ulm Journal that he favors splitting the bill in two to ensure the Agriculture portion of the bill passes. That’s a move suggested recently by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Benson campaign spokesman Andy Parrish also issued this statement about the Farm Bill:

“Tim Walz has made a career of proving no one in Washington DC is a better rubber stamp for President Obama than him. Mike will continue his streak as an independent voice for Minnesota and vote for the people of the first district.”