MARSHALL - While his job hasn't been easy during the past few years, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson says he's not planning on leaving politics just yet. There's a lot of work to be done in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, including implementing the new farm bill and improving transportation infrastructure.
"I'm not ready to go home," Peterson said during a visit to Marshall on Wednesday morning.
Peterson flew into Marshall as part of a tour announcing his bid for re-election. Peterson also talked about his future legislative priorities.
One of his first priorities is the implementation of the new farm bill passed in February.
"There's still a lot of work to do," Peterson said. There are more than 600 provisions in the bill that will need to be implemented, a task that he said will start, but likely not end, this year.
The new bill isn't perfect, he said, "But given the climate, I think it's something we can be happy with."
"It's a miracle that we got it done, but we got it done," Peterson said. Peterson had been outspoken in his frustration with the congressional gridlock that had stalled the bill's passage.
While Peterson said there was a time when he felt burned out by the struggle to draft and pass a new farm bill, having so much left to do was one of the reasons he decided to run for a 13th term in office. In addition to implementing the farm bill, Peterson said he planned to focus on conservation partnership programs, water retention projects for flood-prone areas near the Minnesota/North Dakota border and supporting transportation improvements in greater Minnesota.
In particular, Peterson said he's spoken to advocates of expanding Minnesota Highway 23 to four lanes between St. Cloud and Willmar.
"We're going to get the Highway 23 coalition really going again," Peterson said. While the Willmar-St. Cloud segment of the highway would be the first step, Peterson said the long-term goal would be for Highway 23 to have four lanes running from Interstate 94 in the north to Interstate 90 in the south. However, he said that will be a task that will require a broad range of supporters to work together.
"The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we need to be squeaky," Peterson said.
Peterson said it remains to be seen whether his re-election campaign will face strong competition this fall. Minnesota state Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, has announced he will be running against Peterson. Peterson said it's possible the 7th district election could heat up if Westrom is heavily backed by contributions from the National Republican Committee and political action committees.
"I'm one of five Democrats left who are in a district where Mitt Romney won," which makes him a target for Republicans, Peterson said. However, he said, "I think the National Committee does not understand the district."
Peterson said District 7 is both a moderately conservative district and a strong agricultural district - an area where he has a lot of experience. He said he felt ready to run.