Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/12/2016

Dear Friends,

The Agriculture Committee met for several hearings this week, including a hearing focused on the impact burdensome regulations have on farmers and their rural communities. I also joined my Minnesotan colleagues in letters to the White House and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting funds for tribal school repair and water conservation efforts in Minnesota’s parks. Finally, I congratulated Zippy Duvall on his recent election as president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. 

Sincerely,
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Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

American Farm Bureau Federation

This week, I met with Zippy Duvall, a Georgia cattle and poultry producer who was recently elected president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. We discussed the status of the current farm bill, his thoughts on the next farm bill, and the impact on farmers and ranchers of GMO-labeling requirements being passed in individual states. Duvall replaces Bob Stallman of Texas, who served as AFBF president for 16 years. I worked closely with Bob during the last two farm bills and appreciated his leadership on behalf of the AFBF membership in Minnesota and around the country. I look forward to working with Zippy in the future.

U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council

Signing the Pulse Pledge

On Thursday, I visited with representatives from the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council. We talked about the challenges facing the pulse crop industry, including school nutrition guidelines and crop insurance. We had a good discussion about using pulses, like garbanzo beans or winter peas, as cover crops in Minnesota. I also took the “Pulse Pledge,” and committed to eating pulses once a week for ten weeks. The U.N. has declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses, so you should give them a try.

American Indian Higher Education Consortium

This week, I met with representatives from the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). AIHEC represents the 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) which work to provide higher education opportunities for tribal nations. We discussed the disparity in funding amongst TCUs and other institutions, and how we must collectively work to provide adequate funding so they may continue to fulfill their missions. I am thankful for the opportunities TCUs provide for our students on tribal lands and will continue to support policies that help tribal nations run successful institutions.

Fair Oak Farms

I met with Fair Oaks Farms owner Mike McCloskey last week to discuss the current state of the dairy industry and ways to improve the Margin Protection Program. Mike traveled from Indiana to testify at an Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on the opportunities and challenges in direct marketing. Last year, Fair Oaks Farms welcomed more than 500,000 visitors. The McCloskeys do an excellent job reaching out to consumers and telling them about modern production agriculture, and their efforts should be applauded. Their farm includes a 15,000 cow dairy, a 3,000 sow pig farm, dairy and pork education centers, a state-of-the-art egg laying barn, an orchard and vegetable farm, a café serving their own cheese and ice cream and a farm-to-table restaurant.

Water Meetings

Managing our water resources is important to Minnesotans, and this week several organizations met with my office on a variety of water issues:

Minnesota Rural Water Association

Members of the Minnesota Rural Water Association met with my office to discuss federal programs that assist local communities in meeting their water treatment needs. Technical expertise in rural water systems helps to ensure that we have clean drinking water and are efficiently spending money to build the water system that will address a community’s current and future demands. I am a strong supporter of the Rural Water Association in Minnesota and appreciate everything they do for rural Minnesota.

Lewis and Clark Water System

Lennis “Red” Arndt, Board Chairman of the Lewis and Clark Water System, and Troy Larson, Executive Director, met with my office on the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. I have consistently supported this project and remain committed to working with stakeholders and the tri-state delegation to see its completion.

Minnesota Water Resources Center

My office also met with Dr. Jeff Peterson, the new Director of the Minnesota Water Resources Center, located at the University of Minnesota. The Center is one of 54 water resources research institutes across the country. Prior to joining the Center, Dr. Peterson spent 15 years working on a combination of agriculture, water and economic issues in Kansas. I believe that research in this area can address a number of issues facing the state, while finding ways to increase our agricultural productivity. 

UofM Extension SNAP-Ed

Mary Caskey, Ryan Johnson, and Margaret Haggenmiller

On Tuesday, University of Minnesota Extension associate program directors for SNAP-Ed Mary Caskey, Ryan Johnson and Margaret Haggenmiller visited my Washington office to share some of the good work they are doing in the 7th District. This includes “training trainers” and providing low-income individuals with direct education classes on improving environments to make healthier nutrition and physical activity choices. They also discussed a pilot program called “Let’s Cook” in group homes, and an “I Can Prevent Diabetes” lifestyle change program for those with pre-diabetes. The Extension folks also noted that similar education efforts have provided long term health care savings.

Missouri River Energy Services

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On Tuesday, my staff aide Zach Martin met with representatives from Missouri River Energy Services, an organization of 60-member municipalities that own and operate their own electric systems. Minnesotans count on affordable and reliable electricity, and small municipalities depend on tax-exempt municipal bonding to fund important energy projects.

PortaCo

On Monday, my staff aides Allison Myhre and Toni Merdan visited PortaCo in Moorhead. PortaCo began operations more than 35 years ago as a manufacturer of hydraulic valves and manifolds. Since that time, it has become one of the leading producers of hydraulic power units, tools and machines used in railway track construction and maintenance. In Minnesota, 18 freight railroads operate and maintain more than 4400 miles of track and support 4500 jobs. Metallic ores were responsible for 57 percent of freight tonnage originated in Minnesota in 2012, followed by farm products, food products and stone/gravel.

Hillcrest Academy

On Tuesday, my staff aide Allison Myhre spoke to an American Government class at Hillcrest Academy in Fergus Falls. The students were inquisitive and thoughtful as Allison shared information about the work we do in a Congressional office.

Perham Economic Development Authority

My staff aide Toni Merdan attended the Perham Economic Development Authority's Annual Meeting this week. Chuck Johnson, the Perham EDA Director, introduced and presented information on all of the public investments, housing, commercial and industrial projects that happened in the community in 2015. The group also heard from C.J. Fraleigh, the Chair of Shearers, which recently purchased Barrel of Fun, who spoke about future plans for the company.

Legislative Update

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

On Wednesday, the Agriculture Committee welcomed Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Timothy Massed to the Committee to review the CFTC 2016 Agenda. The CFTC’s mission is to protect the integrity of the derivatives markets. And the hearing was an opportunity to hear more about the Commission’s efforts to harmonize its rules with foreign regulators, create margin rules as a protection in the un-cleared swaps market, address cybersecurity and automated trading, and improve data collection. The Chairman also provided an update on the state of the derivatives markets today, which is especially important given the fluctuations we’ve seen in the markets since the start of the year.

EPA Clean Power Plan

On Thursday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before the Agriculture Committee on the impacts EPA regulations have on rural America. I am concerned that EPA simply doesn’t understand the potentially devastating impact of their regulations. One issue I raised was the impact of EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. Electric cooperatives in Minnesota simply cannot afford to comply with yet another set of burdensome rules that restrict their ability to provide affordable electricity to Minnesota residents. I asked Administrator McCarthy to fully consider the impacts of the Clean Power Plan on small, rural cooperatives in Minnesota and provide flexibility in meeting these regulations.

Foot and Mouth Disease

Also on Thursday, the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing to ask if we are prepared in the event of a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak. While we are fortunate that the United States remains free of FMD, it is important for us to take a good look at what we can do to prepare and best limit the consequences of any potential future incident. Developing a robust vaccine bank is a good step and an important part of any plan moving forward, and I hope that the industry can work hand-in-hand with USDA in doing so, but we should not lose sight of the bigger picture and make sure all our bases our covered.

Honoring Justin Smith Morrill

I joined Representative Newhouse this week in introducing a bipartisan resolution to recognize the legacy of Justin Smith Morrill, the founder of the land-grant university system, by posthumously awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal. The land-grant university system plays an important role in agricultural research, extension and educational programs. They also allow researchers to better help farmers increase productivity, prevent plant and animal disease, improve human nutrition and health, and discover and utilize new technologies.

Repairing Tribal Schools

In a letter to the White House, several of my Minnesotan colleagues and I called for increased funds to fix tribal schools that have fallen into disrepair across the state and the country, including the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School on the Leech Lake Indian reservation. The conditions of many of these schools are not conducive to educational achievement, and they unfairly restrict learning opportunities for Native youth. 

Voyageurs National Park

I joined a letter this week urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect water quality in Voyageurs National Park by funding the Voyageurs National Park Clean Water Project in the USACE's FY 2016 Civil Works program budget. The project aims to increase water quality and long-term wastewater treatment solutions in the park while creating jobs and boosting economic growth. As elected officials representing Minnesota, we place priority on protecting the water quality of our state and national water-based parks.

Newsstand

Marsh Lake Restoration Project

In December 2015, I joined Senators Klobuchar and Franken in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting strong funding for the Marsh Lake Restoration Project. I am happy to announce that a $7.6 million investment has been made to help ensure that the construction phase of the project begins in 2016. Upgrading the Marsh Lake dam will help improve water quality and conservation efforts by allowing fluctuation in lake levels, increased aquatic vegetation growth, and improved duck hunting.

Discovering the 7th

The Pipestone National Monument, located just outside of the City of Pipestone, is a pipestone deposit and quarry used by Native Americans for countless generations. Considered sacred by many, the grounds produce much of the pipestone used to carve into pipes for prayer. The site is also home to a variety of demonstrations in traditional quarrying and pipe making. Finally, the visitor center features exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the quarry, as well as a petroglyph display.    

This Week in American History

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Northern Pacific Railroad (1900)

Ground was broken for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Carlton (then known as the Northern Pacific Junction) on February 15, 1870. The railroad, which operated across the northern tier of the western United States, connected Minnesota to the Pacific Coast. With more than 6,800 miles of track and three stations in western Minnesota, the Northern Pacific Railroad allowed for the first travel and agricultural transport from the 7th district to West Coast markets. In 1970, 100 years after the ceremonial groundbreaking, the railroad merged with other lines to form the Burlington Northern Railroad.

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 Pipestone pipe (quarried in Minnesota)
On display in my Washington, DC office