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U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson and State Senator Torrey Westrom participated in a candidate forum at FarmFest near Redwood Falls, Minn., on Wednesday.

U.S. House candidates agree and disagree

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REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- U.S. House candidates knew what to say to Minnesota farmers during a Wednesday forum, but disagreed about who would be best to deliver the message to Congress.

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In a nearly 90-minute forum at the annual Farmfest agriculture event, few differences surfaced in the western and southern districts that cover most of Minnesota's farm country. Incumbent Democrats U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz repeatedly talked about their records of helping farmers, even working with Republicans. Challengers relied on their feeling that it is time for a change.

After the forum, State Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said that Peterson's 24 years in office is enough.

"Are you satisfied with how Washington is working," Westrom asked after the forum, linking many of the problems to Peterson and his fellow Democrats. Earlier, he told the crowd that "I think Washington needs a change."

Peterson, however, told hundreds of farmers that he works with Democrats and Republicans to help farmers. He told of how when he started in the House 24 years ago, he was 29th in seniority on the Agriculture Committee. He has been the top-ranking Democrat for the past decade.

"If everybody operated like the ag committee, we wouldn't have the problems we have in the country," Peterson said.

Walz, like Peterson, talked about working with all sides to support farmers.

Along with him were two Republicans competing in Tuesday's primary election for the right to run against him in the Nov. 4 election: Aaron Miller and Jim Hagedorn. Their district spans southern Minnesota.

Walz said that he works with all sides because to farmers, at least, partisan "bickering and rhetoric don't matter. Results matter."

He said politicians can work together even if they don't agree.

Miller emphasized the need to increase global trade for Minnesota farm products. He promised to be "a tireless advocate" for free trade agreements that could open markets.

He also said that health and tax laws are great farmer concerns.

Hagedorn said that he has worked on federal legislation and understands how things operate. He said that big laws such as new federal health care policies that Walz supported are major issues. "I think it is hurting farmers and driving up costs," he said of the law known as Obamacare.

Also on the forum stage were two challengers of U.S. Sen. John Kline. Paula Overby of the Independence Party and Democrat Mike Obermueller pointed out that Kline was not at the forum.

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