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Davis, Day say off-shore drilling would help farmers

REDWOOD FALLS -- A southern Minnesota congressional challenger used a Tuesday farm forum to drill home his support for off-shore oil drilling.

Republican challenger Brian Davis in the 1st Congressional District, serving most of southern Minnesota, repeatedly told the FarmFest audience that opening waters off the country's coast to oil drilling would help lower farmers' energy costs. He talked about off-shore drilling when answering more than half of the farm leaders' questions at the forum.

His Republican opponent, Dick Day, also called for more drilling, but not as often as Davis.

Davis, a Mayo Clinic doctor, and state Sen. Day are locked in a Republican primary election battle. The winner of the September vote will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in the November general election.

The forum came at FarmFest, an annual southwestern Minnesota gathering of farmers and agri-businessmen. Western Minnesota's 7th Congressional District and southern Minnesota's 1st district were the only ones in which all major candidates appeared.

While many speakers at FarmFest talk of saving the family farm, the often-blunt Day has his own assessment: "Whether you like it or not, the small family farm is gone."

Day and Davis were critical of new federal farm policy, but mostly because 70 percent of it has little to do with farming. Walz defended the bill.

"It made sure the safety net is there," Walz said.

However, Walz added, commodities such as crops probably could have fared better.

Day's big concern for federal farm policy is over-regulation.

"A fringe group" opposes farmers, he said, and that group should not control farm policy.

Energy was a major part of the forum discussion. Walz said he likes renewable energy standards recently put into law.

"They have done wonders," the first-term congressman said.

The standards help to encourage things like ethanol and wind power, both good for Minnesota, he said.

He also said he would accept ideas like off-shore drilling that Davis promoted. But, he added, it would only be if big oil companies did not overly profit.

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.