ST. PAUL -- U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., in a Friday, Aug. 28, campaign appearance for presidential candidate Joe Biden took shots at the Trump White House's record on agriculture, including the president's tariff war and widespread granting of oil refinery waivers he says have hurt the agriculture economy in the last four years.
A longtime representative from rural Minnesota and heavyweight in farm policy, Peterson chairs the House's Agriculture Committee. Joined by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, and several farmers at the virtual event, Peterson said President Donald Trump hasn't lived up to his promises to farmers. Even before COVID-19 wrecked havoc on the nation's economy, the agriculture sector has been hurting thanks to low commodity prices and a trade war, plus natural disasters.
Asked by the moderator how he would like to see executive agriculture policy change in a potential new administration, Peterson answered quickly, "the first thing I’d like to see is to stop these tariffs," calling them "counterproductive."
Trump's trade war with China has hit Midwestern farmers particularly hard, as they previously could depend on Chinese exports to buy a substantial amount of their crops, he said.
Peterson also railed against the administration for steadily increasing the number of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) waivers granted to oil refineries since 2016, which have cut demand for corn -- much of it Midwestern-grown -- to produce ethanol. In the past four years, the waivers have led to billions fewer gallons of biofuels being blended into U.S. oil supply.
With less ethanol being produced, Peterson said the price of corn plummets down and "everything follows corn," so everyone is impacted.
Peterson said Congress passed the RFS waivers into law in 2007 in order to "get some peace with the oil industry."
"But we were promised at time it was only going to be only hardships, only small refineries," he continued. "This administration has completely upended everything."
He said the White House has granted the waivers to even large oil companies, out of line with the original intentions of the waivers, and administration officials decline to tell members of Congress why when they question.
"I don't trust this administration one inch on this RFS," he said.
Republicans see Peterson's district as a potential flip opportunity come November. The rural district sweeps down nearly the entirety of Minnesota's western border, and overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016. Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin said earlier this month that Peterson, a moderate Democrat, represents his constituents well and is in-touch with their needs in an area that relies on agriculture.
But Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan said in a Friday statement that Peterson only "pretends to be a moderate when he's in Minnesota."
"By campaigning for Joe Biden and his far-left agenda Rep. Peterson is showing us how out of touch he has become in his 30 years in Washington," she said.
Peterson faces Republican challenger and former-Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach in November's general election.