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Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 3/17/2017
Fresh cookies sitting in a bakery
When I meet with constituents from across the 7th Congressional District, I am always reminded about the importance of anchor facilities like hospitals, schools and grocery stores that provide crucial services that rural communities need to stay vibrant. When President Trump released his budget proposal on Wednesday evening, I was disappointed that it proposed a 21 percent cut to the Department of Agriculture and zeroed out funding for programs that help build water treatment plants in small rural towns. Businesses don’t move to towns without water, and these cuts show a lack of understanding of the needs in rural America. I think that if the Administration took the time to visit with local leaders from places like Fergus Falls, Breckenridge, or Crookston, they would hear from people who want solutions and not ideology pushed by think tanks in Washington.
I remain willing to work on pragmatic solutions after these partisan efforts run their course, and am hopeful that once we have a Secretary of Agriculture in place, there will be someone in the Administration that can push back against these attacks on rural America. Thank you again for all the people that have reached out to my office with your thoughts and concerns.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Mayor of Fergus Falls
Mayor Ben Schierer
On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with Fergus Falls' new Mayor Ben Schierer at his restaurant Union Pizza and Brew. Mayor Schierer and I had the opportunity to visit about economic development opportunities in the community and all the great things that are happening in town.
Breckenridge City Leaders
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with Breckenridge's new Mayor Russ Wilson, City Administrator Renae Marthaler, other city staff, and former City Attorney Tim Fox. We had a wide-ranging discussion on the city's flood control project and the issues they continue to have with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA. The city and its residents have been caught up in a bureaucratic mess causing many to carry flood insurance, even though they are protected by the diversion channel for many years. It is simply ridiculous that one federal agency can build a successful flood control project, while another federal agency drawing the flood risk maps pretends that it doesn’t exist. This kind of agency incompetence is not acceptable, and I'm continuing efforts to fix this problem.
Lake Region Healthcare
Executives and board members of Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls took the time to visit with me on Monday about their facility and what they anticipate the future of health care might look like for rural community hospitals. There is a lot of uncertainty about what might happen with the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and I'm continuing to visit with as many health care providers as I can to learn more about what the future of health care should look like, particularly in rural Minnesota.
Ken Powell, CEO and Kim Nelson, Senior Vice President
This week I had a good conversation with Ken Powell and Kim Nelson with General Mills about issues important to the food industry in Minnesota. We talked a lot about the history and importance of keeping a strong and diversified agriculture economy in our state. We have seen that once you lose a crop in a region, it is really hard to bring it back. Whether it is dairy, sugar or oats, a fair price for farmers keeps our food processers in a position where they can grow locally and stay successful over the long-term.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
John Linc Stine, MPCA Commissioner
John Linc Stine is the Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which enforces environmental quality and offers technical and financial assistance. In the meeting I raised some of the concerns I have heard from businesses about the time it takes to go through the permitting process. Commissioner Stine has offered to meet with businesses to talk through issues and I agree that when people sit down at a table, or walk through a manufacturing facility, it can help find solutions that work for businesses without sacrificing the high standards that Minnesotans expect. We also had a good conversation about the positive role that tiling can play for our environment and to prevent flooding. Commissioner Stine and I agreed on the importance of having more research done in this area as well as how conservation technologies can be used most effectively from southern Minnesota to the Red River Valley.
Farm Credit Council
David Kragnes from Felton and Mark Ellison from Elbow Lake came by my Washington office to talk about their duties as board members of the Farm Credit Council.
Community Action Agencies
This week, I met with groups from assorted community action agencies from western Minnesota. These organizations provide a wide range of services from home weatherization and housing assistance to early education and Headstart services. Following the release of the President's budget, many groups like these are expressing concerns over proposed cuts to programs that greatly benefit these communities. I will continue to fight for adequate resources so these agencies can continue to provide their services and assistance to Minnesotans.
Glencoe-Silver Lake High School
I met with students from Glencoe-Silver Lake High School during their visit to Washington this week through the Close-Up Foundation High School Program. The group was engaged and asked several insightful questions about Capitol Hill. I enjoyed hearing about their post-high school plans and wish them the best of luck in the future.
National Sunflower Association
Director Kevin Capistran (CROOKSTON), 2nd VP Lance Hourigan (Lemmon, SD), Chairman Art Ridl (Dickinson, ND)
I met with the National Sunflower Association on Wednesday to talk about their priorities for the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations and for the next farm bill. In particular, we discussed the commodity and the conservation titles. The National Sunflower Association is a nonprofit that seeks to help its members through a number of activities including market development and promotion, production research, education, and policy issues.
Representatives from The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, or “Tri-Societies,” were in town on Tuesday to talk about their support for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). I have long been a supporter of agricultural research as it is the foundation for continued innovation. This innovation feeds into all areas of our society by increasing agriculture productivity, individual health and environmental protection.
This week, members representing the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) visited Washington to advocate for adequate impact aid funding for schools in our nation’s reservations. I am continuing the fight to find resources that our schools on tribal lands can utilize so students can succeed in their academics.
This week, a group from Concordia College stopped by the office in support of NAFSA, the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. The organization brings together students and scholars from around the world to foster a global idea exchange. I commend these students for their hard work and interest in public policy.
Lakes Country Service Cooperative
This week, two members of my staff, Richard Lee and Tamir Elnabarawy, met with representatives of Lakes Country Service Cooperative to discuss career and technical education in rural Minnesota. As a longtime member of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, I am working to educate my colleagues on the importance of career and technical education services. Our students need to be graduating high school with the skill sets needed to gain employment, and CTE helps to achieve that. I commend their hard work towards providing applicable training to Minnesota’s future workforce.
Minnesota Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Kathy Zarling (Rochester) and Anita LaHaye (Minneapolis)
Representatives of the Minnesota Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (MNACVPR) visited my office this week to discuss legislation that would better allow rural hospitals to provide cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs. I will continue to support measures that help our rural providers meet the needs of underserved communities.
New Flyer Industries
New Flyer Industries visited my office to discuss public transportation and transportation reauthorization. New Flyer is the largest U.S. manufacturer of transit buses and employs more than 1,200 Minnesotans at its Crookston and St. Cloud plants. I look forward to working with New Flyer to ensure that their manufacturing facility can continue to employ greater Minnesotans.
Student American Chiropractic Association
The Northwestern Health Sciences Chapter of the Student American Chiropractic Association visited my office to discuss access to chiropractic services for veterans and those in rural areas. Northwestern Health Sciences University is located in Bloomington and provides students with training in alternative health care.
Lac qui Parle Computer Commuter Coordinator
Mary Quick, the Lac qui Parle Computer Commuter Coordinator, stopped by the office on Monday to give a brief update on the Computer Commuter program. This program provides a mobile computer lab with internet access and personalized assistance to clients over the age of sixty.
Society for Human Resource Management Conference
Andrew Rosen (DETROIT LAKES)
Andrew Rosen, Human Resource Professional for Arvig, was in Washington to attend the Society of Human Resource Management Conference. He stopped by the office to discuss areas of Human Resource concerns that effect business management practices. The discussion ranged from healthcare reform to the need for more skilled employees.
Minnesota West's Xtravaganza
On Thursday, my staff took part in Minnesota West's Xtravaganza event on the Canby Campus. Students from area high schools came to experience programs offered such as diesel mechanic, dental assistant and electrician programs. It was exciting to see the next class of students discover career opportunities that can be used throughout Minnesota.
22nd River Watch Forum
LeRoy Stumpf from my Thief River Falls office gave a presentation at the 22nd River Watch Forum. More than 250 students and teachers came to the University of Minnesota- Crookston to listen to presentations on college and career opportunities, many which were related to the importance of water. Thirty-four schools districts were represented from Minnesota and North Dakota in the Red River basin. Governor Mark Dayton declared March 12-18, 2017 as River Watch Week in the State of Minnesota.
Agriculture Committee Update
On Thursday morning, the Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research held a hearing on the farm bill’s agricultural research programs. Agriculture research is imperative to the industry’s future. Ag research ensures that our farmers can be competitive and meet growing, worldwide demands. This becomes a challenge, however, if agriculture research programs lack adequate funding. Without enough resources, we run the risk of being outpaced by other countries.
The Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry met Thursday afternoon to explore the farm bill’s forestry programs. The forestry title is incredibly important for both public land management and private forestry owners. Forestry also stretches to other parts of the farm bill, including conservation programs. These are all critical for wildlife habitat. As with many farm bill provisions, the forest industry is incredibly important to supporting jobs and keeping our rural economy strong. In preparation for the next farm bill, it’s important for us to take a hard look at whether or not these programs and authorizations are working the way we intended. This is especially true given the budget resources and lack of Forest Service resources related to wildfire spending.
President Trump’s Budget Request
On Thursday, the Trump Administration made their 2018 Budget Request. The President’s budget would cut the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by $4.7 billion. I think it demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their impact on rural America. Cuts to the water and wastewater loan grant program are wrongly portrayed as duplicative when they are the only ways for small rural communities to update their water systems. County offices are already understaffed and further cuts would mean private organizations would be tasked with helping farmers navigate farm programs. The good news is this budget will be ignored, as it should be. I urge the Administration to spend more time in rural America to gain an understanding of how things work and I hope that once an Agriculture Secretary is in place that he will be able to explain the value of these programs and services.
I feel strongly about these issues, so I spoke at a press conference on Friday morning to voice my opposition to these cuts. You can view the video here. My comments begin at the 12:20 mark.
Please click on the following link to find the Budget Outline.
Morris Sun Tribune: Ag Committee Prepares for Next Farm Bill
I recently wrote an opinion piece for the Morris Sun Tribune’s Ag Week issue outlining the work ahead for the Agriculture Committee in the 115th Congress. I believe Congress should act on a new farm bill that addresses the challenges in the rural economy and makes changes to the dairy and CRP programs, sooner rather than later. Morris Sun Tribune Ag Week
Former Ag Committee Chair de la Garza
Former Agriculture Committee Chairman Eligio “Kika” de la Garza passed away March 13. He was 89 years old. Kika represented the 15th District of Texas for 32 years. He became Chairman of the Agriculture Committee in 1981 and was my first Chairman when I came to Congress in 1991. Kika was one of the original farm bill coalition leaders, bringing churches, nutrition groups and labor unions together with farm groups to support the four farm bills that were enacted during his time in Congress. I always admired his adherence to regular order, allowing the Subcommittees to do their work, and commitment to a bottom-up rather than top-down style of leadership. His commitment to doing what he thought was best for his constituents – the producers, consumers and farmworkers he considered part of U.S. agriculture – is part of his legacy. I extend my condolences to his family and all those who were lucky to know him.
This Week in American History
United States Military Academy, 1874
The United States Military Academy, the first military school in the United States, was founded by Congress in West Point, New York on March 16, 1802. Today, there are five U.S. service academies serving undergraduates and commissioned officers in each branch of the armed forces. As your 7th District Representative, I have the privilege of nominating a limited number of students to four of the five service academies. Additional information regarding military academy nominations, including eligibility requirements and frequently asked questions, is available on my website.
Spotted in the Seventh
Can YOU guess what was spotted in the Seventh? Each week, the newsletter will feature a landmark or site somewhere in Western Minnesota. The first person to name the location wins! The location of the photo as well as the winner will be revealed in the next newsletter.
This week’s landmark is a timber harvest logged into an outline of Minnesota. Here’s a hint: it’s located in one of Minnesota’s state forests. Can you guess which one?
Share your guess on our website.
Visitors from the Seventh
Callie, Laurie, Rebekah, and Daniel Murphy (FELTON)
Grant, Ali, Cami, and Gavin Pexsa (ALEXANDRIA)
“For My Brothers”
Isabella Francisco (LITCHFIELD)