Quist, Walz tussle over Farm Bill issue
ROCHESTER — Republican 1st District candidate Allen Quist told supporters on Wednesday that passing the proposed Farm Bill would be bad for the country.
"When will Washington stop spending money it doesn't have? Obviously, we need new management in order for that to take place," Quist told a half dozen people gathered at Rochester's Denny's restaurant to hear him speak.
The St. Peter farmer made stops in Mankato, Rochester and Winona to speak against the Farm Bill. He said his biggest beef with the proposal that 80 percent of it funds the federal food stamps program. Spending on that program has soared in recent years, and he said it's time the Farm Bill and food stamp program be put into two different bills.
"We need to be cutting government spending. Not inflating it. And this kind of spending is absolutely not an option," he said. "Look at the debt. Our backs are to wall and we can't continue to do that."
Quist's position is in sharp contrast to that of his opponent, three-term DFL Congressman Tim Walz. At a news conference last week in Albert Lea, Walz was joined by representatives from the Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota Farmers Union in calling for Congress to take a vote on the proposed five-year farm bill before the existing legislation expires in September.
In an interview on Wednesday, Walz said this Farm Bill has been in the works for two years and it is time to get it done.
"Sometimes, I'm not sure (Quist) is not running for president. This is a Congress that is based on compromise and we've done that. We've worked it out," he said. "It is certainly not a perfect bill, I can tell you what the premise that its built on has built the strongest agricultural economy we've ever seen."
Walz added that every major agricultural group, nutrition group and conservation group backs this proposed bill. It also helps move agricultural policy in the right direction by getting rid of direct payments to farmers in favor of crop insurance subsidies, he said.
But Quist argues that moving ahead on the bill will do more harm to farmers in the long run by perpetuating the nation's spending problems. He said he supports Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's proposal to turn over management of the food stamps program to the states and provide them with block grants. He added that he has concerns with the management of the current food stamp program, which rewards couples who choose to live together instead of get married.
After Quist wrapped up his press conference, the Walz campaign issued a press release questioning whether the Republican's real motivation for opposing the farm bill is that he will no longer receive direct payments from the plan. Since 1995, Quist has received more than $577,000 in farm subsidies.
"Watching out for his own pocketbook and not Minnesota farmers makes Quist a typical politician," said Walz campaign spokeswoman Sara Severs in a written statement.
Quist fired back saying he supports ending direct payments to farmers.
"Walz says he wants to have a discussion on the issues, and I come out with the issues and they engage in negative attacks," he said. "What is this? It looks like they are freaked out."