Ag Policy Blog

Collin Peterson on the Erosion of Rural Democratic Voices in Congress

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who seldom minces words, will talk about the 2023 Congress and the next farm bill at the DTN Ag Summit on Dec. 12 along with former Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas. Peterson sees the erosion of Democratic representation in rural America as an emerging challenge to farm policy. (DTN file photo)

Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, a devout "Blue Dog Democrat," saw his western Minnesota district flip from blue to red in 2020.

This year, Democrats lost a seat on the House Agriculture Committee with the Iowa loss of Rep. Cindy Axne to Republican Zach Nunn. Axne's loss also turned the Iowa congressional representation fully Republican and continues the erosion of Democratic representation in agricultural districts. Axne lost all of her rural counties, but won Polk County, which is Des Moines and its suburbs.

Peterson sees a problem for agricultural policy when all of the agricultural districts are dominated by one party, even though rural Americans are casting their votes in that direction.

"I've been telling people for the past year that the most important, overarching problem in agriculture is the lack of any Democrats in ag districts," Peterson said Wednesday at an event hosted by North American Agricultural Journalists. "That is a huge problem."

There are no good answers right now on how Democrats regain a rural foothold. "I don't know what the answer, is, and I hate to say this, but maybe have to have a farm crisis in order to change the politics out there. I hope that's not the case."

Peterson said it's hard to draft farm policy with just one party and get a bill passed. That's one reason nutrition policy is so important because on Democratic side of the House right now because there will be so few Democrats in the House who focus on production agriculture in their district. In Minnesota, Rep. Angie Craig won her district, in the Illinois 17th District, the northwest corner of Illinois, Democrat Eric Sorensen won the seat that retiring Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos held. And in California, Rep. Jim Costa represents a large dairy district.

Describing what voters in rural districts hear about Democrats, Peterson said, "You've got guns, you've got abortion. You've got Critical Race Theory, and transgender bathrooms, and that's what we hear a lot out here in these rural districts, and it works."

Right not, it's hard to get Democrats to run in rural districts, Peterson said.

When the final election dust settles in the next few weeks, Peterson will get to offer more thorough analysis on the state of play for agricultural policy at the DTN Ag Summit, which runs Dec. 12-13. Peterson will discuss the next farm bill and make up of Congress along with retired Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the only lawmaker to chair the Ag Committees in both the House and the Senate.

The DTN Ag Summit is virtual this year. You can register here:…


As of Friday morning, Republicans had captured 211 House districts and Democrats had won 194 districts. It takes 218 districts to win the majority.

The New York Times showed Republicans leading in 10 of the outstanding races, seven of which are rural California districts that have yet to be called. If that holds, the GOP would end up with 221 seats and Democrats would hold 214 seats.


CALIFORNIA: Two-term Rep. Josh Harder in the 9th District continues leading GOP candidate Tom Patti, a county supervisor in San Joaquin County, which makes up most of the district. Harder leads by about 10,000 votes.

CALIFORNIA: Rep. Jim Costa, a veteran Democrat on the committee, was leading in his bid for a tenth term in a district representing Fresno. Costa was leading 55% to 45% early Friday.

For more details on the DTN Ag Summit, See,…

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