Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 10/28/2019

October 28, 2019
Newsletter

Meeting with the Department of Agriculture Plant Health Inspection Service on Tuesday

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a roundtable discussion with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Leaders to discuss current issues on animal welfare, pests and diseases, and wildlife services. I also met with Undersecretary Ibach of the USDA to discuss the risks of African Swine Fever. As co-chair of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, I spoke at the Center for Lyme Action Lunch Forum, where I discussed the need for more research to prevent the spread of tick-borne illnesses. After hearing from farmers in Thief River Falls last week, I am urging those affected by poor weather conditions to contact their Farm Service Agents to discuss their options for relief this fall. I know that farming has been a struggle this season, and the recent weather has made harvest difficult as well. I will continue to work in Congress and with the USDA to make sure farmers concerns are heard. Last week there were a number of ceremonies celebrating the life of Congressman Elijah Cummings who among many things was known for his deep friendships with people from different backgrounds and political beliefs. Republican Congressman Mark Meadows from North Carolina spoke of his friendship with Elijah saying, “Perhaps this place and this country would be better served with a few more unexpected friendships.” These words are especially fitting for the times.

Sincerely,

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Congressman Collin C. Peterson

Minnesota 7th District

Serving the 7th

Farmers have contacted my office to share the challenges they are facing this harvest season. Excessive rain and early snowfall have made it impossible for some to get into the field, and I have been working to ensure our producers are supported through this difficult time. My team has been in contact with agriculture leaders, cooperatives, crop insurance agents, USDA and many independent growers to discuss the options that are available to those expecting crop losses this fall. Please take a moment to read over the following information from USDA about crop insurance and WHIP+.

Farmers that have been prevented from harvesting by rain or snow should contact their crop insurance agents before the end of the insurance period to file a Notice of Loss and request more time to harvest.

Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) may allow additional time to harvest when the following conditions are met:

  • The producer gives timely notice of loss to his or her crop insurance agent.
  • The AIP determines and documents that the delay in harvest was due to an insured cause of loss.
  • The producer demonstrates that harvest was not possible due to insured causes, such as wet conditions preventing access to the field with equipment or that harvesting under such conditions would damage equipment.
  • The delay in harvest was not because the producer did not have sufficient equipment or manpower to harvest the crop by the end of the insurance period. 

When an AIP authorizes additional time to harvest:

  • The end of the insurance period is not extended. Rather, the producer is granted additional time to attempt to harvest the crop to settle any loss based on harvested production.
  • Any additional damage to the insured crop during the extension period is covered provided it is due to an insurable cause of loss like excessive moisture.
  • The producer’s crop insurance policy will cover loss of quality (as specified in the crop provisions), reduced yields, and revenue losses if revenue coverage was chosen.
  • The cost of drying the harvested crop is not covered. 
  • More information on requesting assistance due to delayed harvest is available on RMA’s website.

WHIP+

Producers should also be aware of disaster relief assistance offered through the Farm Service Agency’s WHIP+ program that provides disaster payments to offset eligible crop or prevented planting losses.

  • Eligibility is limited to crop, tree, bush, vine, or prevented planting losses that resulted from floods, snowstorms, excessive rain or moisture, high winds, mudslides and other natural disasters that occurred in the 2018 and 2019 calendar years.
  • A new On-Farm Storage Loss Program will assist with losses of harvested commodities, including hay, stored in on-farm structures in 2018 and 2019.
  • Producers with prevented planting claims due to flooding or excess moisture in the 2019 calendar year will receive a “bonus” payment totaling 10% of their indemnity, and an additional 5% for harvest price option coverage.

Payments Under WHIP+

  • Payments are targeted for production losses. However, if quality was taken into consideration under either insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy where production was adjusted, the adjusted production will be used when calculating assistance. 
  • Producers who suffered crop losses due to 2018 disasters will receive 100 percent of their calculated WHIP+ payment once the application is approved. Producers who suffer crop losses due to 2019 disasters receive an initial 50 percent of their calculated WHIP+ payment once the application is approved and will receive up to the remaining 50 % after January 1, 2020, if sufficient funding remains.
  • Producers will be limited to $125,000 under WHIP+ for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 crop years combined if their average adjusted gross farm income is less than 75 % of their average adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2015, 2016, and 2017.  If at least 75 percent of the producer’s average AGI is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities, the producer is eligible to receive up to $250,000 per crop year in WHIP+ payments, with a total combined limitation for payments for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 crop years of $500,000.

If producers have unresolved concerns related to USDA programs after contacted their insurance agent or their local FSA office, they should contact my office at 202-225-2165.

Chairman’s Corner

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I met with leaders of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Tuesday during a roundtable meeting held by the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. I asked APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea and his team about the agency’s efforts to prevent the introduction of African Swine Fever into the U.S. and slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. APHIS is also responsible for preventing the introduction of foreign pests and diseases by imported food products and I appreciated hearing updates on their work to expand market access for American agriculture products overseas.

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(Bottom) Dustin Madison – Engel Family Farms, Heather Karsten – Pennsylvania State University, Don Cameron – TerraNova Ranch

The Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hosted a hearing to highlight the benefits of precision agriculture last Tuesday. Members of the Subcommittee heard testimony from experts about the benefits of adopting precision agriculture technologies. Producers are increasingly using GPS and sensor technologies to gather information about their fields and make better use of their inputs. Sensor technology is one option that allows farmers to track the productivity of specific points in their fields. This information can then be used with variable rate planting and spraying equipment to more precisely apply inputs, decreasing negative impacts on the environment and saving farmers money.

Precision agriculture technologies make farms more profitable, however, many of these technologies cannot be used without reliable internet service. Click here to read more about precision agriculture and the benefits of expanding rural broadband access.

Under Secretary Ibach

I met with USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach, APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea, and Chief Veterinarian Dr. Burke Healey about the risk of African Swine Fever entering the U.S. through imported feed. This and other transmission risks must be mitigated to keep this damaging disease away from U.S. hogs. I will continue receiving regular updates from USDA on this subject and continue to urge them to use every means at their disposal to keep ASF out.

Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus

As a co-chair of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, I have been active in pushing for increased research and funding to combat Lyme disease. I was honored to give remarks during the Center for Lyme Action Lunch Forum where I discussed the need for more research to prevent the spread of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease and the opportunity for the Agriculture Committee to play a role in addressing this need. 

View my remarks here

Helena Agri-Enterprises

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Representative of Helena Agri-Enterprises visited my office to discuss the enforcement of state and federal pesticide regulations, and the ongoing trade negotiations. Helena has locations in Canby and Marshall, where they sell agriculture inputs like seed, fertilizer, crop protectants and application services.

Concordia Students

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Several students visited my D.C. office from Concordia College to discuss issues of importance to the Moorhead community and learn more about my work in Washington. I was happy to hear of their passion for creating change and encourage Minnesota students to apply for our internship program if they are interested in learning more about Congress.

Vasa Park Association of Southern California

My staff aide Zach Martin met with the Vasa Park Association, a group dedicated to preserving the Swedish heritage by holding cultural events in the park area and helping Swedes when they emigrate to the United States. The group seeks to have the 26-acre park be considered for a National Historic Site designation due to its cultural history. Minnesota has one of the strongest populations of Swedes in the country.

Bill Adams

Bill Adams, a constituent and health care expert from Erhard, MN, stopped by my office to talk to my staff aide Rebekah Solem about health care issues. In particular, he talked about problems facing rural hospitals and how to make sure that they can be competitive in attracting and retaining quality staff. I have introduced bipartisan legislation to address this problem, H.R. 1323, the Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act, and working on more targeted legislation as well.

Minnesota Oral Health Coalition

Monisha Washington, Volunteers of America; Rebekah Solem; Nancy Franke-Wilson, Minnesota Oral Health Coalition; Sarah Wovcha, Children’s Dental Services

Members of the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition, who were in Washington as part of the national Oral Health Progress & Equity Network, met with my staff to talk about the importance of oral health. The group talked about how oral health issues can go unrecognized and impact a person's overall wellbeing, including more vulnerable populations such as seniors and individuals with disabilities. For example, losing teeth or developing oral infections can cause folks to have difficulties chewing food. High costs are a deterrent to managing oral health care, and the group advocated for solutions that can lower cost and improve access to services.

The group was happy to hear about my bill related to oral health, H.R. 1379, the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act, which seeks to make sure people born with congenital anomalies or birth defects can receive the medically-necessary treatments that they need. I introduced this bill after hearing from Minnesotans about how insurance companies often deny claims and appeals for any oral or dental related procedures.  My bill has great bipartisan support with more than 235 cosponsors.

American Horse Council

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My office met with advocates from the American Horse Council to discuss important issues in the horse industry. The group stressed the importance of reforming the H-2A and H-2B labor programs. These guest-worker programs are used widely across the agriculture sector to find labor in areas with low unemployment. The current programs require employers to navigate cumbersome regulations and maintain complicated records. The group also advocated for legislation that would give the National Park Service the resources they need to repair and upgrade trails in our National Parks.

American Federation of Government Employees

This week Andrew Peterson from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), visited my office to discuss the many issues facing our different branches of federal law enforcement, ranging from pension equality to pay scale differences. I am committed to providing the tools our law enforcement needs to carry out their work and protect the retirements they have paid into over their careers. 

Retired Educations Association of Minnesota

Lonnie Duberstein and Charles Hellie visited my office on behalf of the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota (REAM). I appreciate their work advocating on behalf of our career teachers and working to protect their pensions. I have been working to benefit teachers and pensioners since my work in the State Senate serving as Vice Chair of the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Commissions where we successfully bettered pension beneficiaries.

Service Academy Night in Windom

On Monday, my office held a Service Academy Information Night. Representatives from my office and the different military branches were present to answer questions and provide information on the application process. Applications are due to my Marshall office by Thursday, October 31st in order to be considered for an interview. Please send any questions to Meg Louwagie, at meg.louwagie@mail.house.gov, or (507) 537-2299.

4-H

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This billboard is from 4-H’s most recent campaign. As a former 4-Her and co-chair of the 4-H caucus, I know the valuable lessons that 4-H teaches.

Wind Turbine Blade

These wind turbine blades came in on a ship at the Port of Duluth and are being transported west to a South Dakota wind farm. One of my staff caught up with these at a truck stop in Erskine. These blades are roughly 250 feet long and require special vehicles to transport.

Violence Intervention Project

My office attended a program on Violence Intervention in Kittson, Marshall, Pennington,  Red Lake, and Roseau Counties in the 7th District. About 120 participants heard about the different types of domestic violence and the resources that are available to victims.

Ignite Your Future

On Friday, my staff aide Jacki Anderson joined 1200 sophomore students from area high schools at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson for interactive career explorations at the Ignite Your Future event. This event is a great way for student to learn about careers in technology, health care and many other fields. The hands on experience is like no other career fair.

Legislative Update

House Joint Resolution 2

I recently signed onto House Joint Resolution 2, a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. I have consistently supported campaign finance laws that make sure the voices of rural Minnesotans are not drowned out by special interest money.

Questionnaire Results

Last week I asked how you think the Administration’s abrupt change in support for our Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS impacts our national security. Here’s what you said.

 

 

The United States spent 7.5 billion this week on servicing the national debt. That is 2 billion more than what the US will spend on Veteran’s Pensions for the entire year. Instead of investing in more in our Veterans or other similar programs, the American people are forced to pay for  reckless spending.

As a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat, I have continually supported a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which would require Congress to get our fiscal house in order. I have also fought for Pay-As-You-Go legislation to ensure legislation doesn’t add to our debt and recently voted against the Democratic budget which would have worsened our fiscal situation.

Newsstand

House Energy and Commerce Hearing on Small Refinery Exemptions

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a subcommittee hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granting of Small Refinery Exemptions. Our farmers and rural communities rely on the RFS for their economic viability and I want to thank Chairmen Pallone and Tonko for scheduling this hearing. As co-chair of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, I am a committed to making sure renewable fuel policies are fought for in Congress.

Click here to read my statement on the hearing

Vote Clarification: H.J. Res. 77

On October 16th, the House voted on a Resolution which expresses Congress’ opposition to the decision to end U.S. efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria. An error was made during votes and I subsequently submitted a statement to the Congressional Record indicating that I would have voted yes for this Resolution.

This Week in History

On October 23, 1920, Sauk Centre native Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street was published. Sinclair Lewis went on to be the first American author to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.