AFP targets Peterson over Farm Bill

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson spoke at a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol last year for a new farm bill. (MPR Photo/ Brett Neely)

WASHINGTON – A conservative group is launching a campaign against DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson over his support for the farm bill Peterson co-authored just as debate on the legislation gets underway in the U.S. House.

Americans for Prosperity (which is affiliated with the libertarian Koch brothers) is targeting Peterson and a bipartisan group of 14 other lawmakers with a series of emails and phone calls as well as an online video campaign.

The group has a series of objections to the legislation and wants crop insurance subsidies for wealthy farmers eliminated, federal support for the sugar industry ended and food stamp spending, which makes up about 80 percent of the legislation’s spending, drastically reduced.

“This is a classic example of Washington funneling dollars to special interests while pretending to help out the small farmer,” said AFP state director John Cooney in a statement.

AFP is one of a broad coalition of ideological and environmental groups that has opposed the farm bill. Another conservative group, Heritage Action for America, has also launched campaigns against other House members it believes open to persuasion.

Peterson, who was first elected in 1990 and is the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, is also high on congressional Republicans’ target list of vulnerable Democrats, although the GOP hasn’t yet found a candidate who’s been a significant challenge for him.

As MPR News recently reported, the new food stamp provisions in this farm bill have been controversial and prompted Republicans and Democrats alike to withdraw support from the broad-ranging legislation that historically has received strong bipartisan support.

The bill actually makes cuts of $20.5 billion over the next decade to the food stamp program by limiting eligibility, a policy that has cost Peterson Democrat votes for the bill even as many Republicans have held out for deeper reductions. On Tuesday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated she would not support the bill, a sign that many Democrats may not support the bill’s final passage.