Peanut, cotton growers from Georgia, Alabama stump for Peterson in 7th District

Mike Christopherson
Curt Knutson, left, and Steve Williams, right, visit with George and Alabama peanut and cotton growers at Williams' farm southwest of Crookston.

A contingent of Georgia peanut farmers and Alabama cotton farmers are making their way around Minnesota’s massive 7th Congressional District this week touting longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson’s experience and expertise in agriculture as they push for his re-election this November.

The group started in Moorhead before heading to Steve Williams’ farm on Polk County Highway 9 between Crookston and Fisher Monday afternoon, then it was off to Detroit Lakes.

Donald Chase, a George peanut farmer, said he’d contributed financially to Peterson’s campaign in previous elections, but this was the first time the crew actually traveled up to Peterson’s home turf to stump for him on the campaign trail. The group is traveling with representatives of the Georgia Peanut Commission.

“It’s important to all agriculture in this country, from here in western Minnesota to the South and everywhere else, that Collin is re-elected,” Chase said. “His extensive experience and widespread knowledge of the industry, that combination can never be taken for granted. He is very important to all of us.”

The handful of Georgia and Alabama growers marveled at the flat landscape as they stood in Williams’ driveway and gazed at fields as far as their eyes could see.

“Where we come from, we’re all very familiar with pivots, and pivots and trees don’t get along very well,” said Georgia peanut farmer Ronnie Lee. “Looking around here, it looks like your farmers don’t have to worry about any pivots.”

Williams’ friend and fellow grower John Gudajtes of Minto, North Dakota just happened to be driving by Monday, saw the gathering and pulled in to see what was going on. He brought the Georgia and Alabama growers up to speed on what was one of the worst harvests ever in 2019 in the Red River Valley. Most of the contingent grow more than just peanuts and cotton, such as corn and soybeans, so they could relate to the depressing anecdotes relayed by Gudajtes about all of the crops that remained in the fields because of the historically wet conditions last fall.

In good times and bad in the farm industry, the group said Peterson knows what ag policies work, and what ones don’t make a lot of sense, no matter the region of the country or the commodity being grown.

“The thing that impresses me most about Collin is his level of understanding; it’s as good as anyone in Congress. We deal with a variety of issues every single year, and Collin just gets it,” said Joe Boddiford, another Georgia peanut farmer. “He is able to communicate on the issues with different audiences in the industry, and the level of widespread respect he has, it’s because of the great job he has done for so many different farmers for all these years, no matter their geographical location.”

Georgia grower Casey Cox spent much of her time at Williams’ farmstead strolling along a grain field line and getting a close-up look at how the wheat is coming along as harvest nears.

“The peanut industry is small and only crosses a few states, so we’re a pretty tight-knit group that needs a strong voice in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “Collin Peterson is that strong voice, he’s our voice in these critically important times for agriculture. He can reach across the aisle to get things accomplished and he works with many broad coalitions. We need his leadership now, and in the future.”