Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 11/4/2019
Joining my colleagues to introduce the Farm Worker Modernization Act of 2019
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing about the Administration’s reckless administration of the RFS and my bill H.R. 3006, the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act of 2019 which tries to get things back on course. The Environmental Protection Agency undermined the RFS with their granting of waivers earlier this year, and I am glad that the Energy and Commerce Committee is also taking the steps to look into this. The House Agriculture Committee voted to pass H.R. 4895, legislation to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission through 2025. I also introduced The Farm Worker Modernization Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation aimed at providing agricultural operations access to legal workforces and creating a year-round visa program for dairies. Amongst all the committee hearings and meetings with constituents, the House of Representatives voted on a House Resolution on the process for future impeachment procedures. I continue to get hundreds of calls and letters which reflect how divided our country really is on this. While I opposed the resolution on the process, I will reserve my judgement on impeachment until all the facts have been presented.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution related to the process to consider impeachment. This was not a vote on whether the President should be impeached. Here is my statement following the vote.
“This impeachment process continues to be hopelessly partisan. I have been hearing from my constituents on both sides of this matter for months, and the escalation of calls this past week just shows me how divided our country really is right now. I have some serious concerns with the way the closed-door depositions were run, and am skeptical that we will have a process that is open, transparent and fair. Without support from Senate Republicans, going down this path is a mistake. Today’s vote is both unnecessary, and widely misrepresented in the media and by Republicans as a vote on impeachment. I will not make a decision on impeachment until all the facts have been presented.”
Serving the 7th
Market Facilitation Program Letter to Department of Agriculture
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) in May. Since signup began, many farmers have been surprised to find that their farms are not eligible for trade assistance through MFP, or that only certain acres are eligible for payment. USDA has created winners and losers among neighbors by implementing the program in this way and I sent a letter to Secretary Perdue describing the inequities created by this round of MFP. I urge USDA to consider the situations described in my letter and modify MFP for future rounds of payment. The changes should ensure that all producers affected by the ongoing trade disputes are treated fairly under the program.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the launch of FindTreament.gov, a website that can help connect people looking for treatment with 13,000 locations across the United States. I’ve heard from countless constituents and health care professionals in the 7th district about the need for mental health and substance abuse services, and increased access to health care professionals in rural communities.
On Wednesday, I convened the full House Committee on Agriculture to consider legislation to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The CFTC authorization expired in 2013, so its reauthorization is overdue, and I am glad to see we are on a bipartisan path to get it done. The legislation was unanimously approved by the Committee and can now be considered by the full House of Representatives. The bipartisan cooperation of House Agriculture Committee members sends a strong message to the Senate, who should consider this legislation once it passes on the House floor.
The Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research heard from organic farmers about the state of their industry last week. Farmers from across the U.S. shared their experiences producing vegetables, dairy and flowers organically. During their testimony, the growers shared some of the benefits and challenges of organic farming. They discussed the importance of maintaining soil health and the practices they use to do so. They also discussed the importance of maintaining strong standards for both domestic and imported organic products. The 2018 Farm Bill included provisions to expand the Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative, to support the collection of data related to organic farming, and it directed the USDA Secretary to mandate a national standard for imported organic products.
Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau
On Wednesday, I met with a group of crop insurance company and agency representatives who were in DC with the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB). We talked about how crop insurance has been helping farmers through the wet weather during harvest season and the prevent planting situation from earlier this year. I’ve heard from many farmers in my district who are doing all they can to get their crops out of the field, and it’s very important that crop insurance companies and agents provide flexibility where they can in this situation.
Agriculture Labor Reform Legislation Introduced
I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce the Farm Worker Modernization Act of 2019 last week. This legislation will provide agricultural operations with access to a legal and stable workforce, including a year-round visa program for dairies. Agriculture needs a reliable and legal source of workers and I appreciate the bipartisan group of members who worked with agriculture groups to create this bill that will move the conversation forward.
I am also glad to have the support of the 7th district’s dairy industry for this legislation.
“Labor continues to be one of the biggest items holding dairy farmers back. In a time of high stress, labor availability can truly be the difference between a farm making it to next year or not. Minnesota’s dairy farmers thank Rep. Collin Peterson, Rep. Angie Craig, and the over 40 other original co-sponsors of the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act. If passed, this bill finally provides dairy farmers access to the same pool of labor many in agriculture have utilized for decades. We look forward to a real dairy immigration program that considers the needs of both employee and employer for a successful relationship.” said Lucas Sjostrom, Executive Director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association.
“As a dairy farmer, I milk cows all year long, as opposed to harvesting a crop at a specific time of year,” added Bruce Maas, an Associated Milk Producers, Inc. (AMPI) dairy farmer from Redwood County. “I am grateful to Chairman Peterson for recognizing the unique labor challenges that dairy faces and working with Republicans and Democrats alike to push forward legislation that addresses dairy's workforce needs by allowing farmers like to me access a revamped guest worker program.”
“Securing access to a stable workforce is absolutely vital to the future of the dairy industry. As a dairy farmer, I milk cows 365 days a year, rain or shine or snow, so the current H2A seasonal guestworker program simply does not work for me and other dairy farmers,” said Brad Vold, a dairy farmer in Pope County and Land O’Lakes, Inc. co-op member. “I commend Chairman Peterson for his bipartisan work in advancing legislation that helps solve dairy’s unique workforce challenges by allowing dairy to access the H2A program.”
“I applaud Representative Peterson for joining a bi-partisan effort to secure a stable labor force for agriculture,” said Casey Schlauderaff, a Detroit Lakes dairy farmer and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) co-op member. “By cosponsoring the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, he continues to demonstrate his commitment to dairy farmers, ensuring we have the tools we need to succeed – a stable labor force, access to foreign markets and price risk management tools. Minnesota’s farmers are well represented by Chairman Peterson, and we appreciate his dedication to our success.”
Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing
On Tuesday, an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a legislative hearing to discuss my bill, H.R. 3006, the RFS Integrity Act. This important policy proposal will bring much-needed certainty back into the renewable fuels market place and prevent the EPA from making secret deals with companies that seek to avoid their biofuel blending requirements. Witnesses included an Iowa farmer, a National Biodiesel Board representative, the CEO of an ethanol trade association, and an oil coalition representative. You can watch a video of the hearing here.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs met to consider and mark up ten pieces of legislation. The legislation included a bill that would establish comprehensive reforms at the VA to address women veterans’ access to healthcare, benefits, and other resources while also initiating reports and studies to identify areas for improvement on these matters. The Committee noted that there are approximately two million women veterans in the United States today. Other bills considered during the markup dealt with adjusting requirements for VA construction projects and updating the GI Bill Comparison Tool that provides information on schools. Some of the bills are aimed at protecting family members of fallen servicemembers by allowing them to do things such as terminate cell phone contracts or residential leases if the servicemember has been killed in the line of duty. All bills were passed out of committee by voice vote.
While I was at a markup at the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) visited with my office about the importance of the U.S-Israel relationship. As a follow up to the meeting, I agreed to join a bipartisan letter which urges the UN to enforce existing resolutions to work with the Lebanese government to disarm groups that are not under the government's control. The presence of heavily armed militants positioned in Lebanon threatens the stability of the region.
Economic Development Commission for Kandiyohi County and the City of Willmar
Two representatives from the Economic Development Commission in Kandiyohi County stopped by my office to discuss the continuing need for broadband in Western Minnesota. Broadband is a necessity for any community to succeed in education, telemedicine, agriculture, or business. I am committed to finding bipartisan solutions that will bring internet connectivity to every household.
Representatives from Minnesota chapters of the United Steelworkers visited my office to discuss the state of labor in Minnesota and movement on the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, which I cosponsored and passed in the House earlier this year. I am working to protect large multiemployer pensions from insolvency and will continue to work with Members on both sides of the aisle so workers can keep their hard earned retirement benefits.
Blue Ribbon Ceremony at Lincoln Elementary
Lincoln Elementary in Alexandria is one of ten schools in Minnesota that was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School. At a ceremony on Tuesday, my staff presented principal Brendon Bogart with a U.S. flag that was flown over the Capitol.
Round Table with Governor Walz in East Grand Forks
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz came to East Grand Forks to hear what the disastrous wet weather has done to our harvest. Governor Walz was joined by several others, including Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, Commissioner of Management and Budget Myron Frans, Minnesota Director of Homeland Security Joe Kelly, and State Director of the Farm Service Agency Joe Martin.
Staff from my office, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Smith’s office were able to join the meeting. They discussed the need for more timely propane availability and a reasonable working relationship with the State Patrol as farmers struggle to complete harvest. Farmers expressed worry about their financial future and how that would impact others in towns beyond themselves. There was no doubt that this year will leave many farm families financially strapped.
Enbridge Pipeline 3
My staff aide LeRoy Stumpf attended a meeting in Mahnomen on Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline replacement. The new pipeline will be thicker than the current pipeline. Enbridge is working with the local communities to train and hire local people for this project.
Ortonville Water Tower
Ortonville Economic Development Authority held a contest for the design of their new water tower which was recently finished. The Economic Development Authority had 101 submissions.
Living Memories of World War II in Norway
Rev. Aamen Gjovik from Fargo shared stories from his childhood during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Aamen was born in Knaben, Norway which had a molybdenum mine, the only one in Europe. The Nazis wanted this metal to make their tanks much more difficult to penetrate. Many of Aamen’s family members were forced to work in these mines under harsh conditions. Not too far from Knaben was Rjukan, Norway where the Vermork Hydro Electric plant operated to make heavy water to cool nuclear reactors. The Nazis wanted this heavy water to speed up their development of the atomic bomb and was eventually sabotaged by the Norwegian Resistance. The Nazis moved all the heavy water to ships to send it to Germany and the Norwegian Resistance sunk the ships. Aamen Gjovik said it was a hard existence for his family.
Last week I asked you about excessive student loan debt. Here is what you had to say:
On Thursday, Minnesota and the United States celebrated Halloween. According to the National Retail Federation, the United States will spend 7.4 billion on Halloween items this year. That is almost equal to the 7.5 billion that was spent servicing the national debt this week.
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.
Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment
Open Enrollment began on November 1st and will close on December 15th. Now is the time to enroll in a health care plan or make changes to your existing plan. Go to HealthCare.gov to shop and save on insurance plans.
Epilepsy Awareness Month
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy is a medical condition that affects approximately 1 in 26 people – one of the most common neurological disorders. Spreading awareness about epilepsy is an important way to recognize this disorder and help support people living with epilepsy.
USDA Announces Hemp Program
The United States Department of Agriculture announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program last Wednesday. The 2018 Farm Bill included provisions allowing American farmers to produce hemp and this rule will increase regulatory certainty for these farmers. The interim rule includes information relating to the development of state and tribal hemp management plans, record keeping requirements, hemp testing and disposal standards, and licensing requirements.
This Week in History
On October 31st, 1991, the “Halloween Blizzard” began. A record snowfall of 24 to 36 inches blanketed the area from Duluth to the Twin Cities.
Visitors from Minnesota’s 7th
The Schrupp’s from Willmar