Senate candidates discuss ag issues

GILFILLAN ESTATES – Candidates for U.S. Senate participated in a forum at Farmfest on Wednesday.

The forum included incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken, three Republicans vying in next Tuesday’s primary for a spot of the November general election ballot and one Independence Party candidate.

Mike McFadden, a Republican with the party endorsement, describes himself as a banker and business man. He said he wants to review and reform the entire federal tax code and use some of the excess money to help improve federal highways.

He said building more pipelines is one way to solve the rail car shortage and rail safety issues. “Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil,” McFadden said. “We’re on the doorstep of an energy renaissance. We can be a manufacturing superpower again with energy. Electricity is a huge cost for farmers.”

He called for more and better market access in China, Brazil and India, where he said middle classes are growing quickly.

McFadden called for an end to “the war on coal before electricity costs go through the roof.”

Franken highlighted his work in the Senate in the last five years. He pointed to his support of the farm bill Congress passed earlier this year, a bill “that you all said you needed,” he told the crowd. Franken said he supports a “diverse energy portfolio” and called for an extension to a tax credit for wind energy production. His four challengers agreed, the Associated Press reported.

Franken said $2.4 billion in Big Oil subsidies need to end to create a level playing field for energy. He said his bill supporting increased U.S. exports has credit guarantees. “I support free trade but will sign on a bill with Japan unless they’re open to buying our beef.”

Republican David Carlson, who teaches high school science in St. Paul, said he made three combat tours in Iraq in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Now, he’s studying international security in graduate school. “We can’t kick every illegal resident out of the country, but we’ve got to secure our borders and invest in more and better railroad security,” Carlson said. “We have major national security issues, too many ‘pork barrel’ projects for special interest groups and too many politicians ‘indebted to donors.’ Let’s serve our country instead of letting it serve us.”

Republican challenger Jim Abeler, who squares off with McFadden in the Tuesday primary, said the government is supposed to represent the people, not the other way around. He said the government should monitor and control what rail cars are hauling more closely.

Independence Party challenge Kevin Terrell said more service-level agreements are needed between railroads and farmers and they must be kept in place to avoid future problems.

Terrell said federal subsidies need to eventually end to create fair markets. “We can’t subsidize things forever,” he said.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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