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Published July 08 2010

Forum editorial: Farm bill will fund flood work

Anyone who believes seniority and clout in Congress is unimportant should think again. The role of Minnesota 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson in securing funding for a key component of Red River Valley flood protection is a prime example. The 10-term Democrat is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

He will be (as he was a few years ago) the major player next year in writing a new farm bill. One provision of that bill will be a 10-year, $500 million mandatory program to fund “dozens, perhaps hundreds” of small water impoundments in the valley’s watershed.

Peterson’s power in Congress cannot be denied. He’s made it clear to his colleagues on the ag committee that “we’re going to do this, or there isn’t going to be a farm bill.” He describes overall valley flood protection, including the Fargo-Moorhead diversion, water retention and environmentally sound field tiling, as a national priority. He compares funds for the impoundment component to similar funding he helped secure in the 2008 farm bill for water quality at Chesapeake Bay and water conservation for drought-stricken farms and ranches in Oregon’s Klamath Basin. He is extending precedent to flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota along the Red River.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., is working closely with Peterson, and also from a position more powerful than any previous member of the House from North Dakota. The nine-term congressman has attained spots on the Ways and Means Committee and on Peterson’s ag committee. Like Peterson, Pomeroy is a member of the majority. And as anyone who’s studied House rules knows, power lies almost exclusively with the majority. Opposition Republicans can object and make speeches to an empty House chamber, but when push comes to shove, they have little push or shove.

Without Peterson and Pomeroy in senior positions of real power in the House, funding for comprehensive valley flood control protection would be far harder to come by. That’s a reality that transcends the politics of the current campaign season.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.