Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has been around Congress for 25 years and is now the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee.
On April 27, he assured members of the North American Agricultural Journalists that he plans to be around for a while longer, saying "I will run until I don't" in answer to a question about "being around in 2018" for negotiations on the next Farm Bill.
Peterson, like all of his ag committee colleagues assured journalists that the hard-fought Farm Bill of 2014 will not be re-opened as Congress completes reconciliation on the budget.
"We are darn lucky we got it done in the first place and everybody is in agreement that we aren't going to open it up again," he said.
Peterson said he believes that mandatory price reporting, grain inspection services and the Commodity Futures Trade Commission rules will all pass Congress without a lot of problems.
He said he believes there will be budget reconciliation efforts to cut from the Farm Bill but he will strongly oppose it.
"You cut $1 from the Farm Bill and I'm against it," he said. "We made budget concessions in writing the Farm Bill. We made cuts above and beyond what was required by sequestration. Ag has already given at the office and we won't give again."
As a representative of the state at 'ground zero' in the current Avian Influenza epidemic, Peterson said he hopes to convince his colleagues in Congress that poultry producers need help in facing the crisis.
"Even after flocks are depopulated and barns decontaminated, producers will be out of business for two or three months and then may have to put in new biosecurity measures at who-knows-what cost," he said. "The state has declared a state of emergency and the legislature may help but the situation is serious."
He said processors in the state are already feeling the shortage of birds coming to market with the Willmar, Minn. Plant going to a four-day week. More than 3.5 million turkeys have been euthanized in Minnesota with another 1 million in Wisconsin.
Epidemiologists are working on tracing back the origins of the outbreak and are convinced it is an airborne infection coming from wild birds, which were migrating from south to north at the time of the outbreak.
"A big concern is that those ducks and geese will get to their northern summering grounds and co-mingle with other birds and when the fall migration begins, we'll see this thing spread," he said. "The east coast hasn't been affected so far, but they should be watching out for fall."
Trade, GMOs, crop insurance and more
On fast track trade authority, Peterson said he has not taken a position, but that there are issues that have to be resolved before he will support it. That includes resolving a left-over from NAFTA conflict with Canada on dairy imports as well as conflicts over sugar price supports.
On the subject of possible abuses of crop insurance in prevented planting, an issue raised this week by the Environmental Working Group, Peterson was blunt.
Any problems will be identified and worked out, he said. "However, I think you have to understand that the EWG has no credibility with me and what they say, I ignore."
Peterson's rejection of EWG extended to all of the ag committee leaders, both Democrat and Republican.
"I think this is an attempt to undermine crop insurance and that is not a good idea," he said. "Do we want the folks who farm in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and west Texas out of business? If you eliminate crop insurance you force out everybody who doesn't have pockets deep enough to self-insure. That's almost everybody. There are people with that much money, but there aren't very many of them."
On the subject of GMO labeling, Peterson said he supports voluntary rather than mandatory labeling and supports control by USDA rather than FDA.
"I think putting labeling under FDA makes it seem like a food safety issue and it's not," he said. "I do think there needs to be a national standard."