Coleman reaches out to farmers in Freeborn County, bashes Wellstone

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 8, 2002

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman, former St. Paul mayor, paid a visit to area farmer Brad Nelson’s farm Wednesday and exhibited his perspective on farm policy.

The visit was a part of his campaign that aims to eliminate his urban-roots image and show his commitment to economic growth in rural Minnesota.

Nelson is a third -generation farmer. On his 900-acre farm located between Albert Lea and Clarks Glove, Nelson grows corn and soybeans, and some of his corn is used for ethanol production at Exol, where he sits on the board of directors.

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Coleman accused his Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, of being party to the decline of farmers.

Coleman pointed out the number of farmers in Minnesota dropped by 10,000 during Wellstone’s 12 years in office, though the number nationwide is growing.

Coleman also tried to translate his achievements as a St. Paul mayor into rural Minnesota, and emphasized that they would work.

&uot;I took over a city in which kids didn’t want to return because there was no future there,&uot; said Coleman. &uot;Same issue in rural Minnesota. Our kids are coming back if there are jobs and economic opportunity.&uot;

In his eight years of mayorship Coleman boasts that 18,000 jobs were created in the capital city under his leadership without raising taxes.

Coleman emphasized his advocacy for increasing trade, promoting research on crop-based renewable energy, and other opportunities for farmers to increase the value of their products.

As a candidate handpicked by President Bush, Coleman promised that his voice would be reflected in the nation’s policy. &uot;The administration is not always agreeing, but it’s a lot better to have somebody who can work with that administration,&uot; Coleman said.

Referring to a recent failed legislative action in California regarding alternative energy, and apparently insinuating Wellstone, Coleman said noisy protests attract attention but don’t get the job done.

Coleman also said he would seek a balance between environmental conservation and development of rural infrastructure, such as a dam on the Mississippi, criticizing Wellstone’s position as extreme, and proposed the policy should be formed based on a cost-benefit analysis.

&uot;I am an environmentalist,&uot; Coleman said, pointing out his involvement in a tree-planting movement along the Mississippi. &uot;But I am going to say that I am against the guy who has got a 100 percent rating from the Sierra Club. I don’t want a 100 percent rating from any special-interest group.&uot;

The visit followed the first debate among major U.S. Senate candidates at Minnesota Farmfest in Redwood Falls.

In the debate, Coleman and Wellstone showed acute differences in their trade, genetically engineered crops and alternative energy policies.