REDWOOD FALLS - First District congressional candidates met Tuesday at FarmFest near Redwood Falls to discuss ag issues in front of a large crowd of farmers.
Republican competitors Mike Parry and Allen Quist faced off alongside Democrat Tim Walz.
Stakes are high for Quist and Parry, who go head to head in the primary election on Aug. 14. First District Republicans have been evenly split between the two, with an attempt at party endorsement going late into the night and ending unresolved in May.
The three First District contenders agreed on many issues brought up by a panel of farm organization leaders, such as the idea that government subsidies have a place in renewable energy policy.
"All energy has been subsidized in some form in its early stages," said Parry, as Walz nodded in agreement.
But disagreement became clear on issues such as the Farm Bill and health care.
The 2012 Farm Bill, a hot topic at FarmFest this year, is supported by Walz and mostly supported by Parry.
Parry believes the bill should be brought to the House floor for a vote, although he does not believe the bill is perfect. Quist, however, believes changes are necessary.
"There is no farm bill," he said. "It is a food stamp bill with a farm bill rider. ... It is not acceptable to pass this bill as it is."
That comment seemed to rankle Walz, who responded with, "Allen keeps calling this a food stamp bill, but the vast majority [of people using food benefits] are people over 60 and under 3. Keep that in mind as we talk about how we care for people in Minnesota."
Questioned about health care and how the issue affects farm families, the candidates differed again.
"We need the Obama administration and the party that Walz is part of to be friends of agriculture," Parry said. "Enough with rules and regulations, enough with EPA. ... They are trying to get rid of production agriculture."
Quist and Parry, who have been involved in a bitter, personal battle, barely acknowledged each other, though they sat right next to one another. Parry said he would save further criticisms of Walz for their debates after the primary.
For Walz's part, he praised the two Republicans for their behavior Tuesday.
"I was a high school lunchroom supervisor for 20 years," he said, looking toward the pair to his left. "I'm proud of you guys today."