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Jim Spencer

Washington Correspondent | Newsroom
Phone: 612-270-1266
Location: Washington, D.C. bureau
Other languages: None

Washington correspondent Jim Spencer examines the impact of federal politics and policy on Minnesota businesses, especially the medical technology, food distribution, farming, manufacturing, retail and health insurance industries.  


Previously, he worked as an enterprise reporter in Minneapolis, writing on topics including Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, lake pollution caused by residential development, unintentional shootings of children, suicide among senior citizens, and budget cuts to homebound care for the disabled.
Recent content from Jim Spencer
Members of the Minnesota Business Partnership believe the financial consequences of the president's latest moves on trade with China could be dire for

Minnesotans lament China trade war: 'We're about to get hammered again'

Local business owners expect to pass costs from latest tariffs to consumers.
Robert Kudrle, Freeman Professor of International Trade and Investment Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“Tariffs are not going to build the Am

U trade scholar talks about tariffs and who gets stuck with the bill

President Donald Trump has argued that the cost of his tariffs on China will fall largely on the Chinese. The reality is more nuanced, said…
Vice President Mike Pence will visit Minnesota on Thursday to promote the new free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. File photo of

Vice President Mike Pence will visit steel plant in St. Paul, farm near Fargo Thursday

The vice president is promoting the new free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Erik Paulsen spoke to campaign volunteers in the parking of Champlin Park High School in October 2018.

Erik Paulsen to lead effort to get NAFTA replacement passed

Ex-congressman joins business alliance seeking NAFTA replacement.
Of the six current or former 3M employees in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, two are women. One of them is the late Patsy Sherman, who helped inv

3M plays big role in U.S. effort to bolster ranks of women inventors

Congress and others look to company for solutions to "lost Marie Curies."
Minnesota leads the nation in availability of the higher blend ethanol and those backers are fighting for year-round sales.

Minnesota farmers take fight over increased ethanol waivers to Washington

Multimillion-dollar influence war pits corn growers, oil producers.
Mike Loeffler clears mud from his driveway on Willow Street while dealing with the aftermath of major flooding Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in North Bend,

'There's bleeding going on' in U.S. farm economy, ag lender says

Compeer Financial's Rod Hebrink cites trade pressures, weather and low prices as key challenges.
The Kwai Chung container port in Hong Kong, March, 14, 2018. President Donald Trump’s 10 percent protective tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese

Monthly tariffs tab for Minn. businesses spikes to $32 million, study finds

U.S. companies paid tariffs totaling $1.5 billion on Chinese imports in December 2018, a trade group said. A year earlier, they spent just $168 million.
The Corn Plus ethanol plant on May 22, 2015 in Winnebago, Minn.

U.S. ethanol market sees first sales decline in decades

Lower U.S. demand, plunge in exports made for rough 2018.
The new Star Tribune board members are, from left, Christine Fruechte, Scott Burns, Channon Lemon and David Kristal.

Star Tribune adds four board members

Star Tribune Media Co. has expanded its board of directors, adding four new members. Joining the board will be Christine Fruechte, CEO of Colle McVoy;…

Minnesota cut of Fiat Chrysler, Bosch emissions settlement is $3.5M

Minnesota will receive roughly $3.5 million from a vehicle company and parts maker accused of conspiring to cheat on pollution controls. According to lawsuits, Fiat…
A building of the 3M headquarters in seen from Landfall.

Critics say shortfall in EPA standards can stymie cases against 3M, others

EPA hasn't issued standards on chemicals dumped by 3M and others that have tainted water.
Displayed is an Environmental Protection Agency report ahead of a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Under strong pressure from

EPA outlines plan for water with toxic chemicals, including 3M's

3M last year settled a state of Minnesota lawsuit related to PFAS, and faces litigation in other states. Environmental and consumer groups immediately challenged the EPA's decision not to push immediately for lower limits on the chemicals in drinking and groundwater.
Cambria CEO Marty Davis.

Q&A: Cambria CEO backs Trump on trade, and thinks you should, too

Marty Davis thinks President Trump has "done more that's right for trade in America than any president since World War II."
In this July 18, 2018 photo, soybean farmer Michael Petefish holds soybeans from last season's crop at his farm near Claremont in southern Minnesota.

Tariffs could cost Minnesota 16,100 jobs, free-trade group says

A new report said the state will lose 16,100 jobs if the trade war continues.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol at sunset in Washington, Jan. 22, 2019. Another partial government shutdown looms in less than two weeks.

Ban government shutdowns? It's on the table in D.C.

And Minnesota freshmen in Congress are among those trying to end tactic.
Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., left, is proposing a bill to give President Donald Trump more unilateral power to declare tariffs and trade rules on U.S. and

Bill would bolster tariff powers despite warnings from Cargill, others that Trump trade policies aren't working

Wisconsin's Duffy offers plan while Cargill and other firms report on toll of trade war.
Medical device makers want to pay user fees to keep device reviews going at the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration during the partial government sh

Medical device industry floats idea to pay user fees during shutdown

Product approval requests made to regulators since the shutdown began are not moving forward.
The New York Stock Exchange, shown in November. The stock market hasn't been this dizzying in years, and investors may need to get used to it.

What's a nervous investor to do in volatile market? Not much really

Squelch the urge to retreat amid wild stock market swings, financial advisers say.
Remaining cover crop of rye grass that remained after a harvest of corn in a field near Byron, Minn.

Farms target reducing carbon emissions with pilot program

Project will pay growers to try methods to keep harmful carbon in the soil.
Medtronic’s Infuse device.

Lost Medtronic data showed serious risks with Infuse surgical implant

Serious neck injuries in patients who received the Infuse surgical implant weren't reported to regulators for years.

Home-care providers ask Supreme Court to overturn Minnesota labor law

Suit that alleges First Amendment violations has failed in lower courts.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said it's becoming harder to write and pass a farm bill, the law Congress writes every five years to set incentives and

SNAP funds restored to farm bill

A measure that would have required some recipients to work was stripped from the bill.
American companies could potentially authorize the repurchase of $1 trillion in stock by the end of 2018 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Who's making off with that corporate tax reform bounty? Companies, researchers don't agree

WASHINGTON – As the first year of corporate tax reform winds down, the difficulty of measuring the impact of the biggest overhaul of the…
A farmer harvested soy beans in his combine on Oct. 17, 2017, in Welch, Minn. Minnesota's farmers exported $2.1 billion worth of soybeans in 2016, acc

For Minnesota farmers, lull in trade war may come too late

For farmers like Lance Peterson, who right now cannot break even on the sale of a bushel of soybeans because of oversupply, weather and tariffs, time is running out.
From left: U.S. Reps.-elect Angie Craig, Ilhan Omar, Dean Phillips, Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn

Minnesota's newcomers to Congress diverge on key business issues

The rookies in Congress will face some enduring economic concerns.
Outgoing U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen has been a leading opponent of the device tax.

Medical device-tax opponents see window for repeal in lame-duck session

Supporters of permanent repeal hope for bipartisan action during lame-duck session of Congress.

New short-term loan product at U.S. Bank draws scrutiny

The loans are seen as less costly than payday options, but still carry a hefty interest rate.
Retaliatory tariffs that China placed on U.S. soybeans after President Donald Trump slapped protective tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese

Farmers brace for what's next as soybean sales to China tank

Retaliatory Chinese tariffs squeezing state's farmers, with no end in sight.
Among Minnesota CEOs, Polaris Industries’ Scott Wine has made personal donations to the campaigns of six Republican candidates and one Democrat in M

Despite risks, Minnesota CEOs open checkbook for political campaigns

Many of the state's big business leaders made personal donations.
The higher-ethanol fuel blend called E15 has hit the Twin Cities through an unusual marriage between the state corn growers and independent gas statio

Trump orders start of process to allow E-15 fuel sales year-round

Rule change welcomed by farmers would allow E-15 fuel blend to be sold year-round.
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 3, 2018, file photo, an American flag flies on the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Several ag programs expire as farm bill talks stall

Congress is expected to resume efforts to craft new five-year bill after midterm elections.
The new trade agreement ends a Canadian-created program for selling skim milk powder in the world market without regulation. Some Minnesota farmers fo

Minnesota workers, companies scrutinize revised NAFTA deal

Trump's revised trade deal has Minnesota farmers, workers cautiously optimistic.
FILE- In this June 5, 2018, file photo, a roll of steel is moved at the Borusan Mannesmann Pipe manufacturing facility in Baytown, Texas.

Minnesota companies join scrum seeking relief from steel, aluminum tariffs

About 800 U.S. firms say they can't find domestic suppliers.
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has tried to find a way to use the Cuban market to expand agricultural exports to ease farmers’ struggles.

Little appetite for effort to bolster ag trade with Cuba

Minnesota farmers, Midwest lawmakers are fighting uphill battle to find new markets.
FILE- In this July, 5, 2018, file photo, a jockey truck passes a stack of 40-foot China Shipping containers at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga. C

Target, consumers could be closer to feeling pain from tariffs

With his latest protective tariffs on Chinese imports, President Donald Trump hit dozens of products in Minneapolis retailer's inventory.

Advocates push for continued oversight of loans to veterans, service members

Consumer bureau is looking at less policing of abusive lenders.
The combination of larger paychecks and smaller deductions could leave some households that usually get a refund owing money.

Accountants warn tax reform could add up to April shock

Those who rely heavily on deductions could see a bill.
Minnesota companies that use metal in their production processes now pay a 25 percent levy on imported steel and a 10 percent levy on imported aluminu

Minnesota's small businesses take big hit from China tariffs

Many Minnesota firms back a tougher stance with China but question Trump approach as bottom lines begin to suffer.
Farmers for Free Trade was at FarmFest gathering petitions from farmers and their families around the country to fight tariffs.

Among Minnesota farmers, support for Trump is bent, not broken

Some in the agricultural economy still give him the benefit of the doubt. But so far, Trump's tactics have only hurt farmers, and patience is running thin.
Boots and "sports footwear" such as those made by Red Wing Shoes are also on the list of products that could soon be subject to Chinese tariffs.

China's new tariff targets could reverberate in Minnesota

In Minn., everything from pigs to Red Wing Shoes could be affected.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on during a press conference on Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How does this trade war end? Business can't wait

Timetables that dictate industry actions are not as flexible as negotiating tactics, analysts say.

Health insurers to see risk payments after all

They were first canceled, but now are back on again.
“I feel more optimistic than ever [about Senate passage],” U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen said after the House voted to kill a sales tax on medical device

U.S. House votes to kill sales tax on medical devices

The measure passed with bipartisan support and now heads to the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley are among those helping pitch the Twin Cities as the best destination for the Army headqu

Twin Cities in running for coveted military headquarters

Area is finalist for a prized operation that could secure high-paying tech jobs for decades.
The U.S. Capitol Building. In slightly more than a decade, the national debt of the United States will be more than the value of goods and services th

Ominous national debt projections not seen as big business concern — yet

For many local business leaders, other issues are more pressing.
Steve Carlson, with Carlson Farms, harvest soy beans in his combine on Oct. 17, 2017, in Welch, Minn.

For Minnesota, trade war with China is all about soybeans

President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau feels like a bad dream has come true.
Mick Mulvaney, the CFPB interim director appointed by President Donald Trump, announced in January that he would reconsider the rule, delaying its app

Consumer protection agency, Congress balk at payday lending reform

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced new rules last year that aimed to make payday lenders do more to ensure that borrowers have the means to pay back their loans on time. But now the CFPB is trying to delay and possibly gut that plan, and Congress recently toyed with killing it altogether.
Ecolab sells its products in 170 countries using 90 international manufacturing plants and 33 in America.

Global reach of Minnesota firms is muddying tariff picture

Trade war would complicate operations of companies with multinational presence.
Target CEO Brian Cornell

Target's CEO says retail industry will fight negative impact of tariffs

Cornell spoke at a reception on Capitol Hill hosted by the Economic Club of Minnesota.
President Donald Trump and Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Cargill’s chief of global corporate affairs

Cargill sounds alarm as possible trade war with U.S. looms

Cargill, the Minnesota-based agricultural and shipping giant that is one of the world's largest private companies, has emerged as a leading voice in support of global trade as President Donald Trump imposes protective tariffs on other countries.
Dan Erickson, regional representative for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, examined his corn crop at his Alden, Minn., farm.

As China, U.S. move closer to trade war, Minnesota ag interests fret

If China targets soybeans and corn for retaliatory tariffs, Minnesota farmers and companies could be badly hurt.
The Twin Cities metro area is one of five finalists for the Army Futures Command.

Twin Cities among 5 finalists for coveted Army R&D facility

Army officials are expected to make a final decision by the end of June.
Paul Connors, the Canadian consul general for the region, sat in his Minneapolis office on Thursday.

Canada's tariff retaliation has $35M price tag for Minnesota

Tariff response could pack $35 million hit on Minnesota firms.
Production of ATVs in Minnesota is expected to take a hit if proposed tariffs, which are aimed at benefiting U.S. steel producers, take effect.

Tariffs will pack a punch in Minn. if trade war comes to life

As Canada and Mexico fire back against new U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, a wide range of Minnesota-made products could get hit in the retaliation.
The Supreme Court has sharply restricted the rights of American workers to join with others to challenge their company for allegedly violating federal

Supreme Court decision will likely make arbitration clauses more common

Well over 1 million Minnesotans are likely already subject to mandatory arbitration of workplace grievances, if the state mirrors the rest of the nation, and…
Steve Carlson, with Carlson Farms, harvested soybeans in his combine near Welch, Minn. in 2017.

Vows to try again after farm bill is voted down in the U.S. House

Conservative House members joined Democrats in rejecting the nearly $870 billion bill.
Minnesota companies like Medtronic are closely watching the tariff situation with China.

Three Minnesota GOP congressmen back appeal for med-tech tariff reprieve

Letter asks trade rep to remove med-tech products, components from 25 percent tariff.
Best Buy’s Mike Mohan

Best Buy exec Mike Mohan speaks against tariffs on Chinese TVs

Mike Mohan told a panel in Washington that targeting flat-panel TVs won't change China trade policy.
Minnesota companies like Medtronic, 3M, Ecolab and Abbott are all closely watching the tariff situation with China.

Minnesota med-tech industry seeks China tariff relief

WASHINGTON — Minnesota’s economically critical medical technology sector is battling to extract itself from a potential tariff and trade war with China that it says…
Gevo Inc., which operates this biofuels plant in Luverne, Minn., is part of the biofuels group’s petition — also in that group is Minnesota-based

Biofuels group asks federal court to review EPA waivers

Petition questions whether the standards have been lowered.
Jessie Diggins joined a group of Winter Olympic athletes who gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday April 25 to discuss the impact of climate change.

Olympic gold medalist Diggins heads to Congress to talk climate change

"We are the canaries in the coal mine."
“It’s kind of an ironic twist that you have an administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency pushing back a product that helps the environm

Minn. farmers, ethanol producers see EPA waivers as attack

Farmers and ethanol producers in Minnesota say the waiver controversy is the latest battle in a long-running war for sales and market share.
In this April 13, 2018, photo, packages from Internet retailers are delivered with the U.S. Mail in a apartment building mail room in Washington. Clic

Millions in Minnesota sales tax on the line as Supreme Court hears case

Minnesotans who've avoided paying state sales taxes on online and other kinds of remote purchases could soon see those taxes added to their bills, depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a widely watched case that will be argued this week.
Former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson

Former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson resigns from boards of General Mills, MPR

It came less than a week after a public records watchdog group revealed that he had contributed $25,000 in 2016 to a group that mounted an anti-Muslim social media campaign.
Brad Anderson, former CEO of Best Buy, contributed money to a group that ran ads vilifying Muslims.

Ex-Best Buy CEO donated to group that ran anti-Muslim ads

Brad Anderson says he didn't know Secure America Now was involved in the ads. His $25,000 donation was meant as support for Israel, he says.
A pivot irrigation system sprayed water onto a soybean crop just south of Park Rapids in Straight River Township in mid August. The Straight River is

Minnesota has millions at stake as China targets soybean exports

Minnesota is the nation's third largest producer of soybeans. The crop accounts for 30 percent of the state's agricultural exports. The state shipped more than $2 billion worth of soybeans abroad in 2016. More than half went to China.
Pigs on a farm in Iowa. China is planning a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork and related products and 15 percent on ethanol.

Minnesota firms keep their cool about fallout from tariff battle

Companies are withholding judgment until they see how the dispute plays out. But pork, corn, soybeans and other meats and commodities in Minnesota's critical agricultural sector could soon be harder to sell abroad.
Customers shopped for pork at a supermarket in Beijing on Friday, the day China announced a $3 billion list of U.S. goods including pork, apples and s

China's volley in trade war may first hit hog farmers in Minnesota, Midwest

China's retaliatory moves to penalize pork, ethanol will have outsized impact in the state.
President Donald Trump displayed the signed presidential memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China during a White House ceremon

Trump punishes China on trade; Minn. firms worry about fallout

Minnesota-based businesses worry over cost increases for consumers.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith will be part of a special committee looking at ways to preserve benefits for retirees in underfunded, multi-employer pension plan

Sen. Tina Smith weighs in on efforts to fix multi-employer pensions

The Minnesota Democrat is part of a Senate effort to try to save hundreds of thousands of retired U.S. workers from catastrophic cuts in income.
Steel work: Thao Nguyen stacked tubes of carbon steel at Graco’s plant in Minneapolis. The company warned in its most recent annual report that tari

Minnesota manufacturers, farmers brace for tariff fallout

Trump's tariffs take effect in less than two weeks, and farmers have no quick fixes.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, shown in 2016, said broad tariffs "can backfire in a hurry.”

Minnesotans in Congress, industry have strong reaction to Trump's tariffs

The breath of President Donald Trump’s plan to put tariffs on steel and aluminum has been a problem for some Republicans in Congress, including GOP…
The Minnesota State Capitol. If the state Legislature passes a law to make the state conform with the new federal tax law, but makes no other changes

State, businesses in line to clash over millions in repatriation

Tax on foreign profits could deliver a windfall to state, but firms are pushing back.
FILE - This Oct. 14, 2015, file photo shows the Food and Drug Administration campus in Silver Spring, Md.

FDA proposes allowing medical device makers to summarize malfunctions

Proposal allowing firms to summarize malfunctions reignites safety debate.
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