REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Five Minnesota candidates for governor gathered Tuesday at the annual FarmFest trade show, where they promised to help farmers by promoting agriculture and working to ease environmental regulations.
The candidates included the four Republicans who will square off in a primary next week: Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and business executive Scott Honour. Also participating was Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet.
The candidates criticized DFL Gov. Mark Dayton for not showing up, saying attendees deserved to see their governor.
"This is one of the biggest and best agricultural outlets in the state and this forum," Zellers said. "He should be here with you today."
Seifert played up his rural roots, referring several times to the farm where he grew up just a few miles from the festival grounds, the Marshall Independent reported.
The candidates agreed on most issues during the hour-long question-and-answer forum. For example, on the topic of labeling genetically modified food they said it's more important to have a single national policy rather than a state-by-state patchwork of laws.
They pledged to promote Minnesota agriculture overseas and promised to invest in roads and bridges to help move Minnesota's agricultural products, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Johnson told the crowd he would stand up to federal agencies that seem to think their job is to regulate and punish.
"That's not their job," he said. "It is absolutely the issue of a governor to say, 'Mind your own damn business,' to the federal government."
Seifert singled out the state's Pollution Control Agency as being out of control. He said environmental agencies at the state and federal government create a situation where there are "too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to government regulations."
The issues of property taxes and agricultural advocacy were hot topics. The candidates all seemed to agree that the state's agriculture sector needed some kind of tax reform.
"The fact that you (farmers) are taxed on that capital that you use to produce crops or livestock and taxed again on earnings, it fundamentally doesn't make sense," Honour said.
Dayton, who declined to participate in the forum, is expected to attend FarmFest on Thursday. His campaign also pledged that he'd participate in six debates after Labor Day, once the Republican nominee is determined in the Aug. 12 primary.
"We believe (the debates) will provide Minnesotans with good opportunities to hear and compare the candidates' views," Dayton's campaign manager, Katharine Tinucci, said in an emailed statement.