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Rural revitalization is top priority

By Carol Stender

cstender@agrinews.com

Republican House candidate Dan Stevens said the No. 1 issue is revitalizing the 7th District.

Although the 7th District is the top soybean turkey and sugar beet producer in the nation, it has problems.

Of its 35 counties, 22 have lost more than 10 percent of their population in the last decade, he said.

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"The situation is obvious," he said. "You have to get businesses out here to grow Minnesota and the situation is you have to have empowerment zones. This is a serious issue out here and we are seeing more of these counties dying."

Tax credits, transportation and technology will help in the revitalization effort, he said.

Agriculture production and economy is another important topic in the 7th District.

Stevens, who grew up and worked on the family farm near Pine City with his father and brother, said dairy policy needs revision. He recently met with dairy producers in Otter Tail County who have lost their dairy processing plant.

"The second largest dairy producing county in Minnesota no longer has a dairy processing plant and those dairy farmers must ship their milk 130 miles to be processed," he said. "They have to pay for that and then they receive those terrible prices -- at; $10 per hundredweight -- on top of it," he said.

His solution includes eliminating the "antiquated and obsolete" Federal Milk Market Orders.

A new law on country-of-origin labeling, part of the 2002 farm bill, sounds good at first blush but there are other issues to consider, Stevens says.

"If someone bought a feeder pig from Canada and raised it to a 250-pound hog for slaughter, that would be labeled as imported from Canada," he said. "Obviously the original pig was imported but the weight of that pig came from being raised in the U.S."

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Stevens stresses the importance of trade promotion authority, which Congress recently granted to President Bush.

Finding more uses for crops is another priority, he said.

"We need to make an investment in alternative markets," Stevens said. "I drive an E-85 Taurus. If everyone drove a flexible fuel vehicle, it would be a huge boost for greater Minnesota."

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