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Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 7/20
This week the Department of Veterans Affairs released an update on the success of their new self-service web portal, eBenefits. If you or someone you know is a Vet or Servicemember, please take a moment to learn more about this important resource. Today we celebrated the opening of the Paynesville Bypass, and I am happy to share photos with you in the newsletter. A few days ago members of the meat industry joined congressional members and staff to celebrate July as Hot Dog Month in the annual American Meat Institute's Hot Dog Lunch. Finally, the newsletter will provide an update from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
I met with B.G. Worthe Holt (Assistant Adjutant General - Air, MN National Guard) and Colonel Sandy Best (Director of Government Relations, MN National Guard) to discuss issues important to the National Guard (7/19)
This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that 1.67 million Vets and Servicemembers have registered for the secure, joint VA-Department of Defense, self-service web portal, eBenefits. This site provides online information and access to a wide variety of military and Veteran benefits resources. Since its launch in October 2009, the rate of registration has already exceeded expectations and steadily surpassed the goal for total users for fiscal year 2012. Visits to the site are near 2 million per month.
Veterans and Servicemembers new to the site www.ebenefits.va.gov are guided through the registration process to develop a full-access account that allows the user to update personal information and learn about benefits without having to visit a VA facility. The password for the account allows each Vet to access multiple applications securely on the website. Perhaps the most helpful portion of the site allows Vets to check the status of compensation and pension claims they have filed with VA. A new Career Center page provides employment self-assessment tools, a resume builder, and a translator that relates military expertise to civilian work skills. Too many Vets have to wait too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve, and I am hopeful that this new digital component will assist in creating a more efficient environment for Veterans' benefits delivery.
7/20: Paynesville Bypass Opening
Photos courtesy of TJ Melcher, MNDot District 8
I am happy to announce that today the Minnesota Department of Transportation opened the long awaited Paynesville Bypass on Highway 23 ahead of schedule and on budget. For more than ten years I have been working on this project with the City of Paynesville and the greater region to improve Highway 23. Now that a vital piece in the Highway 23 expansion is finished, we can turn our focus to the rest of Highway 23 and improving the next link near New London. This is a perfect example of public-private and local, state and federal partnerships; proof that we can work together and finish projects. Projects like this will not only reduce congestion within the city of Paynesville, but also provide a four-lane highway giving Willmar direct access to St. Cloud, which is vital for economic development in southwestern Minnesota. It is great to see that a single project can revitalize the economy and provide safe, efficient routes to markets.
U of M Crookston: Free Consulting for Small Business Owners
The Center for Rural Entrepreneurial Studies (CRES) at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, is seeking regional entrepreneurs and small business owners to form a unique relationship that would include valuable consulting services at no cost. As part of the coursework for their students, CRES integrates projects to provide students with real-world business experiences while also benefiting small business owners and entrepreneurs. For more information, contact Rachel Lundbohm, associate director of CRES at 218-281-8595 (email@example.com) or visit umccres.org. The CRES office is located in Dowell Hall 117 on the Crookston campus.
Hot Dog Lunch
I visited the Hormel hot dog stand and spoke with Joe Swedberg, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Hormel Foods (Austin)
On July 19, the American Meat Institute held their Annual Hot Dog Lunch on Capitol Hill. I co-hosted this event that welcomed more than 1,000 meat industry representatives and Capitol Hill lawmakers and staff to celebrate July as National Hot Dog Month by eating a hot dog in the Rayburn House Office Building Courtyard.
Floor and Farm Bill Update
U.S. House Floor
The House this week debated and voted on the Fiscal Year 2013 Department of Defense Appropriation Bill, which I supported. The legislation includes funding for critical national security needs, and provides the resources needed to continue the nation’s military efforts abroad. In addition, the bill provides essential funding for health and quality of life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.
The House Leadership late Thursday outlined next week’s floor schedule, which does not include the farm bill. This leaves only four legislative days to consider the bill before Congress adjourns for their August recess.
There is no excuse not to bring the farm bill to the floor. We’ve wasted the last two weeks on political messaging bills that are going nowhere. If the House Republican Leadership were serious about creating jobs and growing our economy they would bring up this bill. There is no good reason to put one of our nation’s economic bright spots, the rural economy, at risk. The House Agriculture Committee passed a strong, bipartisan farm bill and we need to continue moving forward so we can resolve our differences with the Senate and get a bill to the President’s desk before the current bill expires September 30. I remain hopeful we’ll find a way to finish our work but time is running out.
I discussed the bill on AgriTalk Tuesday, which you can listen to online here: http://farmpolicy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/AgriTalkRepPetersonFrmBl12July17.mp3 Also this week a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to House Leaders urging a vote on the farm bill. Democratic Leader Pelosi also joined the call urging floor consideration.
Meeting with Case New Holland North American Plant Managers. From left to right, Michael Wall (VP of Tax), Bill Baasch (Plant Manager), Erik Olson (Plant Manager, FARGO), John Daniels (Plant Manager, BENSON), Bret Lieberman (VP North American Ag Manufacturing), Steve Tyler (Plant Manager) (7/17)
Meeting with Minnesota Corn Growers Association (7/19)
Meeting with Mark Wegner (President of Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company, headquartered in GLENCOE) (7/19)