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Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 3/4/2016
A tree covered in hoarfrost
The Agriculture Committee welcomed testimony from Kent Rodelius, Vice President of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition in Willmar this week as part of a Subcommittee hearing on voluntary conservation efforts. I was proud to continue advocating conservation efforts as a means for farmers and ranchers to preserve our natural resources and meet regulatory requirements. This week I met with several veterans groups from around the nation to discuss improving veterans’ health care and visited with representatives from the cotton, chicken, and farm equipment industries about trade issues.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Veterans visited DC
Standing: Joe Mauricio, Rick Bugbee (St. Cloud) and Gary Anderson
Seated: Sara Bugbee and Nancy Bohmer
Veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) met with me and my staff this week.
Over the past two weeks Minnesota veterans travelled to Washington to meet with lawmakers. Veterans spoke about the need to make the VA more accountable. To restore trust in the VA, there must be real accountability for the employees and managers who violate the trust of veterans and the public.
We need to expand health care access for veterans but I am troubled by the growing trend of leveraging community care to meet this need. I oppose efforts to privatize care and diminish the VA healthcare system. One area the VA needs to improve upon is delivery of alternatives for pain management and mental health. The VA also needs to better address addiction to pain killers which is a serious problem.
MN/SD Equipment Dealers
Mike St. Onge (THIEF RIVER FALLS) and Nick Sinner, President/CEO (Owatonna)
On Thursday I met with the Minnesota-South Dakota Equipment Dealers Association to discuss tax policy, trade, accounting rules, and other issues affecting equipment dealers. According to its mission statement, the association seeks to build the best business environment it can for Minnesota and South Dakota equipment dealers. The current association formed in 1963 when the two state associations merged to serve the needs of area equipment dealers. However, the history of each can be traced back as early as 1888 in Minnesota and 1899 in South Dakota.
National Chicken Council
Eric Scholer (Vice President, Express Markets, Inc), Steve Jurek (President, GNP Company)
On Thursday, I met with Eric Scholer and Steve Jurek, who were in Washington for the National Chicken Council’s governmental affairs conference. Steve Jurek is the President of GNP Company, which is based in St. Cloud and has plants in Cold Spring and Luverne. We talked about issues important to the chicken industry, including trade, immigration reform, the Renewable Fuel Standard, and food safety.
National Cotton Council
Mike Tate, chairman, American Cotton Producers (ACP), Shane Stephens, chairman, National Cotton Council, Ronnie Lee, vice chairman, National Cotton Council, Shawn Holladay, chairman, ACP Farm Policy Committee
Representatives from the National Cotton Council came by my office on Monday. It’s important to make sure that farmers across the country have an opportunity to succeed, and cotton farmers are facing some especially tough times. We talked about proposals to strengthen the cotton industry and discussed trade concerns brought on by policies enacted by other countries.
Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association
Front Row, Perry Skaurud (ADA), Curt Knutson (FISHER), John Brainard (ADA) Back, Rod Olson (HALSTAD), Joel Gasper (CROOKSTON), Pat Freese (KENT), Jim Nelson (OSLO)
On Wednesday, I met with a group from the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bill this week about GMO labeling, an issue that is of particular importance to sugarbeet growers. I’m supportive of a nationwide voluntary labeling program that provides clarity to consumers, and it was good to talk about this with the group.
Minnesota School Nutrition Association
Back Row- Matthew Gades, Schwan’s, Jesse Podratz, Schwan’s, Collin Peterson, Sharon Maus, MSNA Front row- Julie Powers, MSNA & Stillwater Schools, Mary Begalle, Schwan’s, Melanie Carlson, Schwan’s, Linda Bosacker, Schwan’s
Minnesota was well represented at this week’s School Nutrition Association Legislative Action Conference in Washington. I was glad they had some time to come by my office and share their thoughts on the new school lunch standards and how both lunch and breakfast improve student behavior and ability to learn.
Sue Dieter, Dan Perkins, Dean Meichsner
I sat down with Sue Dieter, Dan Perkins, and Dean Meichsner of the Barnes-Aastad Soil & Water Conservation Research Center to talk about the work being done at the USDA ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris and the importance of ag research. The “Soils Lab” excels in a number of research areas, including support for pollinators and development of new oilseed crops.
Railroad Day on Capitol Hill
Representatives of the freight rail industry visited my office this week to express their support for balanced safety regulations, a streamlined permitting process for rail infrastructure projects, and the extension of the short-line tax credit. Hundreds of rail cars pass through the 7th District each day, and I will continue to pursue federal policy that helps them connect Minnesota businesses and passengers to national and global markets.
Minnesota Psychological Association
The Minnesota Psychological Association met with my staff this week to discuss the “Medicare Mental Health Access Act” and the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.” Psychologists have been instrumental in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental and substance use disorders. I am a co-sponsor of both bills to ensure that Minnesotans have better access to mental health services.
Courtney Zaato (Minneapolis), Aby John (Woodbury), Peter Woitock (South St. Paul), Sophia Lenarz-Coy (Minneapolis)
Members of Hunger Solutions Minnesota were in town for a national anti-hunger conference sponsored by the Food Research and Action Center and Feeding America. They visited my Washington office as part of their Capitol Hill Day and talked about their work with food shelves, including mobile food shelves, and the “Market Bucks” matching dollars at farmers markets. They also talked about the importance of protecting the integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and thanked me for the work I’ve done in this area.
My staff aide Zach Martin met with Patrick Boland of Xcel Energy and Michael McGlone of The Salvation Army to discuss an important program that helps families with their energy costs. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a pivotal tool that folks can use if their income falls below a certain threshold. Click here to find out more about LIHEAP.
Midwest Assistance Program
The Midwest Assistance Program (MAP) has been helping communities and tribal nations in the district find solutions to building clean drinking water infrastructure and waste management facilities since 1979. My staff aide Zach Martin sat down with Chris Fierros and Dossie Overfield of MAP to talk about current projects.
Hearing to Review State SNAP Options
The full Committee met Wednesday to review state options for administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). States are given flexibility to simplify administration of the program, but I worry that it’s gone too far and they now have too much leeway. I’m concerned that people in the same community, but in different states, are being treated differently and I don’t think that’s right. Also at the hearing, I re-iterated my opposition to turning SNAP into a block grant and cautioned Committee members from taking that path.
Subcommittee Hearing on Voluntary Conservation
On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry held a hearing, Voluntary Conservation: Utilizing Innovation and Technology. The hearing was an opportunity to discuss voluntary conservation efforts that can help farmers and ranchers to both preserve our natural resources and meet regulatory requirements. During the hearing, I brought up my support for tile drainage. Drainage water management can help communities along the Red River Valley mitigate their flood risk by allowing farmers to move and store water as conditions on the ground change. The Subcommittee heard testimony on this issue from Kent Rodelius who is Vice President of the Agricultural Management Coalition in Willmar.
Congressional Art Competition
Today I announced that my office is accepting applications for the 2016 Congressional Art Competition. I am proud to display the talent of students in the Seventh District and I encourage high school artists to enter their artwork in this contest. The winning artwork will be featured for one year in the Cannon Tunnel, which connects the House Office Buildings to the U.S. Capitol.
The Congressional Art Competition is a nationwide high school visual art competition to recognize and encourage artistic talent across the country. The Competition began in 1982 as an opportunity for Members of Congress to recognize and encourage the artistic talent of their young constituents. Since then, more than 650,000 high school students have participated in the nation-wide contest.
The grand prize winner will be flown to Washington, D.C. in June for a reception honoring his or her artwork, which will be on display for one year. Two semi-finalists will have their artwork displayed in Peterson’s district offices.
To best ensure accessibility for all students, Peterson’s office will be accepting all Congressional Art Competition submissions online. Selection of the winning piece will be determined based upon the photograph submitted with the application. More information is available at http://collinpeterson.house.gov. Faculty or students with questions can also contact Chelsea Cornett in Peterson’s Washington, D.C. Office at 202-225-2165.
Discovering the 7th
Itasca State Park, the starting point of the Mississippi River, is the oldest state park in Minnesota and the second oldest in the United States. The park spans of 32,000 acres near Bagley, and is notably home to both the bald eagle and the gray wolf. Itasca State Park was designated a National Natural landmark by the National Park Service in 1965. Today, approximately 500,000 people visit annually.
This Week in American History
Captain James Gallagher / the Lucky Lady II (1949)
Melrose native Captain James Gallagher of the U.S. Air Force completed the first nonstop flight around the world on March 2, 1949. His plane, the Lucky Lady II, had to refuel four times while in the air. He completed his 23,452-mile trip in ninety-four hours and one minute.
Night sky above Itasca State Park