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Klobuchar, Newberger agree up to a point

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar whispers to her challenger, state Rep. Jim Newberger, on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, during a Farmfest candidate forum. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 6
U.S. Senate hoipeful Jim Newberger talks to a visitor Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, at southwest Minnesota's Farmfest. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 6
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and challenger Jim Newberger shake hands after finishing a candidate forum at southwest Minnesota's Farmfest Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Don Davis / Forum News Service3 / 6
Minnesota state Rep. Jim Newberger explains what he would do if elected to the U.S. Senate. He was at a Farmfest candidate forum Aug. 9, 2018. Don Davis / Forum News Service4 / 6
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler talks to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar before a candidate forum at Farmfest Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Don Davis / Forum News Service5 / 6
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar uses a Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, candidate forum at Farmfest in southwestern Minnesota to tell hundreds in the audience what she has done for agriculture. Don Davis / Forum News Service6 / 6

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Minnesota's two major candidates for a six-year U.S. Senate term make it clear that there should be an urgency to complete a federal farm bill and other work that affects farmers.

But U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and state Rep. Jim Newberger showed hundreds in a Farmfest audience Thursday, Aug. 9, that they have plenty of differences about how to get there.

The farm bill, which sets federal farm law for five years, and a trade war affecting agriculture are hitting farmers after they have endured low prices for five years. The three factors make it important for trade and farm legislation to get done quickly, the two candidates said.

"Right now, this is the worst time this could happen," said Newberger, a Republican state representative from Becker making his first try at statewide office.

He said officials in Washington must get some resolutions to the issues before the fall harvest. Otherwise, he warned, farmers could face disaster.

Democrat Klobuchar did not argue. With weather volatility and the trade war, "we need to get things done."

She is a Senate Agriculture Committee member and said she was a leader on the Senate farm bill, which got 86 votes in a chamber of 100. The House version of the bill passed with only Republican support, with Democrats most upset over a provision increasing the demand that able-bodied food stamp recipients work or get training at least 20 hours a week.

"We strike the right balance," Klobuchar said of the Senate measure, with a $1 billion cut in the food stamp program and keeping federal sugar, dairy and other farm support programs intact.

Klobuchar has been in the Senate 12 years and often is discussed as a potential presidential candidate.

Both Minnesota U.S. Senate seats are up for election this year.

The Klobuchar-Newberger race is for the normal six-year term. However, there also is a special election to fill the two years left on Al Franken's term after he resigned. That seat is held by Tina Smith.

Newberger said Klobuchar's 12 years in the Senate is enough. He said he supports limits on how many terms elected officials can serve, but he also would like to see limits on how long bureaucrats can hold their jobs, with the same for lobbyists.

Klobuchar did not agree.

"I am in favor of voters being able to make decisions," she said.

Both candidates said they can work with senators of the other party.

Klobuchar has made "bipartisan" one of her most-used terms in speeches. On Thursday, more than once she talked about working with Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and John Thune of South Dakota.

She said that Republican President Donald Trump has signed 18 bills that she was the leading Democratic sponsor.

In his time in the state House, Newberger said, he has worked with Democrats on issues such as getting emergency response teams in places like Democratic-leaning Duluth and Moorhead.

Newberger said partisan divides go back as far as the state. He reminded the audience that writers of the state Constitution needed two copies because the two parties would not sign the same document.

Farm journalists who asked questions of the pair, as well as little-known Republican Rae Hart Anderson, kept returning to the big news of the summer.

Anderson called herself a "Trumplican" and said she supports Trump's effort to write new trade deals that favor the United States.

Klobuchar said she also thinks some deals need to change, such as one with Canada and Mexico, and they must be fair. However, she added, "i am very concerned with some of the rhetoric."

She did not mention Trump, but he has written some tweets very critical of the country's two neighbors, also its biggest trading partners.

Newberger blamed Klobuchar for some of the problems. He said steel tariffs Trump implemented sparked the beginning of the trade war with China and other countries. Steel tariffs earned widespread Minnesota support with the hope they could help northeast Minnesota's Iron Range, which mines taconite that is turned into steel.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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