Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/10/2020
Performing the opening music at the National Prayer Breakfast
For this Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, I was joined in Washington by Minnesota Corn Growers’ Association President Les Anderson. On Wednesday, I participated in a joint oversight hearing from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Women Veterans Task Force, before meeting with the Minnesota Rural Water Association and Minnesota VA officials. I sat down with a liaison from the White House about my priorities for 2020. I told the liaison that the White House needs to get some of their agencies in line – and they need to start by showing some progress on a range of issues from supporting veterans to jobs in Western Minnesota. The meeting ended with a commitment to make progress on the issues I raised. I also met with several national agriculture group representatives, including Marv Zutz of Red Lake Falls who serves as Executive Director of the Minnesota Barley Growers. On Thursday morning, I played the opening music for the National Prayer Breakfast with a group of bipartisan colleagues and the House Chaplain. Here is a short video of us rehearsing.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
I led a bipartisan letter from members of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus to the USDA in support of a biofuels infrastructure program. The program aims to increase the sale of biofuels in the domestic market by increasing the number of biofuels retailers. If the USDA implements our recommendations, Minnesota farmers can expect to experience increased demand for crops used to produce ethanol and biodiesel.
The 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast
On Thursday morning, I attended the 68th National Prayer Breakfast and was honored to be part of the bipartisan House Prayer Breakfast Group that played the opening music. We sang Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light.” The National Prayer Breakfast is hosted each year by one Republican and one Democrat and attended by more than 3000 people from around the world with the intent of coming together for prayer, encouragement, and fellowship. This year’s breakfast highlighted topics of religious freedom and bipartisanship, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Arthur Brooks. Dr. Brooks spoke of loving those with whom you may disagree.
LEFT: Minnesota Corn Growers’ Association President Les Anderson
RIGHT: National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance
Minnesota Corn Growers’ Association President Les Anderson attended the State of the Union Address as my guest on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I met with representatives from national agriculture groups to discuss the pressing issues affecting their sectors of the industry. Leaders of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance visited my office to discuss alfalfa research programs and price discovery options for the crop. We also discussed what a potential futures market for alfalfa could look like. I discussed the ongoing trade disputes and gave an update on USDA’s plan to address quality losses from flooding to the National Barley Growers Association.
National Barley Growers Association
Dry Pea and Lentil Council and the American Pulse Association
The Dry Pea and Lentil Council and the American Pulse Association discussed barriers to trade with China are affecting their growers. I was honored to accept the National Sorghum Producers’ Congressional Award for 2019 during my meeting with their leadership. During each meeting, I stressed the importance of maintaining the bipartisanship of agriculture in Congress. Congress cannot support American agriculture with the support of only one party, and I am working to maintain the bipartisanship of the Agriculture Committee as Chairman.
Receiving the National Sorghum Producers’ Congressional Award for 2019
On Wednesday, I attended the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation and Women Veterans Task Force Joint Oversight Hearing, "Examining How the Department of Veterans Affairs Supports Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma." This is an important topic with some unique aspects.
The VA witness talked about its ongoing efforts to improve how it supports those who have experienced MST through improvements to claims processing, working to increase awareness of the services VA makes available for both men and women, and increasing and improving training of VA staff who work with survivors of MST. Our Veterans deserve the best care, and to be treated with respect and compassion. I hope the VA will continue to work to address challenges and barriers that prevent both male and female Veterans from seeking care for military sexual trauma.
Robert P. McDivitt (VA Midwest Health Care Network Director), Lisa J. Simoneau (Medical System Director, Sioux Falls), Brent A. Thelen, Ph.D (Health Care System Director, St. Cloud VA Health Care System)
I met with a delegation of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) officials from the VA Midwest Health Care Network (VISN 23). The Network serves more than 400,000 Veterans in Minnesota and surrounding states. We talked about changes the VA is making as a result of the MISSION Act, Veteran suicide prevention, and my support for funding state VA homes, such as the ones we are working to get established in Montevideo and Bemidji.
Power & Communications Contractors Association
The association for businesses that construct electrical power facilities and lay telephone and broadband systems was in town to build support for action on broadband. They have been going office to office explaining why rural broadband and my bill, the Universal Broadband Act, is important. I am hard at work finding solutions for the digital divide and welcome the support of the folks that spend day-in and day-out building our nation’s broadband systems.
Minnesota Rural Water Association
I met with the Minnesota Rural Water Association (MRWA) for an update on the state of our rural water and wastewater systems. MRWA provides support and training for watersheds throughout the state. I have been a proud advocate of our regional water systems and will continue to push for full funding so every community can access safe, affordable water.
Minnesota Association of Small Cities
Jacob Kolander (VESTA), Shannon Mortenson (WARREN), Joel Young (Chatfield), Cap O’Rourke (MAOSC Executive Director)
The Minnesota Association of Small Cities (MAOSC) visited my office to talk about unique challenges facing Minnesota communities with populations under 5,000. According to MAOSC, 708 of Minnesota’s 853 cities fall under this size. Our small cities represent a unique facet of rural life, and I am proud to work for the support needed to preserve this way of life.
Education in Minnesota
Heather Bakke, Education Minnesota and National Education Association Director
Minnesota education leaders from several organizations and institutions met with my office throughout the week. Heather Bakke of the National Education Association and Education Minnesota came to address education funding, school infrastructure, and the state of education in Western Minnesota. I always appreciate the efforts of our teachers in rural Minnesota to provide quality education for our youths.
Minnesota School Board Association
The Minnesota School Board Association discussed issues facing public education in Minnesota. Public schools succeed in educating every child and deserve support for this important work. That is why I have advocated for full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) to ensure schools have the resource they need.
Melissa Dingmann, MSU Moorhead’s Director of Scholarship and Financial Aid
Melissa Dingmann, the Director of Scholarship and Financial Aid at Minnesota State University Moorhead, paid my office a visit. Higher Education should be affordable and accessible for every household, and federal financial aid can make college degrees a reality for many Minnesota families As Congress prepares for the Higher Education Act reauthorization and debates how best to address the national student debt, I am glad to rely on input from Minnesota educators first and foremost.
Martin Graefe (BEMIDJI) and Christine Schulze (MOORHEAD)
The National Council for Languages and International Studies spoke to my staff about the importance of language studies. The Concordia Language Training Center in Bemidji is one of eight Language Training Centers in the United States. Their programs immerse language learners into the environment that a target language is spoken, helping learners achieve a higher level of proficiency. They act as a trainee center for the Department of Defense and can help those learning English as a second language. I am proud to be supportive of this work.
West Central Initiative’s Legislative Breakfast
My office participated in the West Central Initiative’s Legislative Breakfast on Thursday. A number of important issues in the region were discussed, including childcare, rural broadband, water levels, and attracting workers to West Central Minnesota. Participants included state legislators, county commissioners, and other local leaders.
Minnesota Healthcare Nonprofits
LEFT: Shannah Mulvihill (Executive Director), staff aide Rebekah Solem
RIGHT: Stratis Health President & CEO Jennifer P. Lundblad, staff aide Rebekah Solem, Superior Health Quality Alliance CEO Tania Daniels
Leaders from two Minnesota nonprofits visited with my health care staff in Washington this week. Mental Health Minnesota's Executive Director,Shannah Mulvihill, expressed her thanks for my support of legislation to establish a 3-digit suicide prevention hotline that will make it easier for people in crisis to get help. I also recently signed a letter to the Energy & Commerce Committee in support of this 3-digit hotline. In addition, Shannah spoke about the Minnesota Warmline and the work of certified peer specialists who help callers in a peer-to-peer environment.
Stratis Health President and CEO Jennifer P. Lundblad and Superior Health Quality Alliance CEO Tania Daniels to talk about the work they do in Minnesota. Stratis Health is a Minnesota-based nonprofit focused on improving health care quality and safety through collaboration and innovation. Stratis serves as the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization in Minnesota. It is one of eight member organizations in the Midwest that comprise Superior Health Quality Alliance, whose mission focuses on improving the quality of health care. The group talked about health care issues impacting Minnesota, such as mental health, workforce attraction and retention, palliative care, and opioid use.
Minnesota Drug Abuse Prevention
LEFT: Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators
RIGHT: Madeline Waage (BADGER) and Steph Heppner (WARROAD)
Two groups dedicated to fighting drug use in Western Minnesota stopped by, as well. My friends from the Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators (MSANI) discussed the state of enforcement in Western Minnesota. I appreciate all the work these officers put into protecting our communities and will continue to work to give them the tools and resources needed to complete their fine work.
Madeline Waage and Steph Heppner, with the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, shared their work educating kids on the dangers of drugs in Minnesota. I am thankful for their efforts to protect our youth and will continue to support funding that enables folks like Madeline and Steph to keep our communities and youth safe from the dangers of harmful substances.
Minnesota Local Taxpayer Advocate
Minnesota Local Taxpayer Advocate Kathleen Kemp
Kathleen Kemp, the Minnesota Local Taxpayer Advocate, paid a visit to my office to highlight the services her office offers to Minnesotans in need of assistance with the IRS. If you need help with the IRS or any other federal agency, always feel free to reach out to my office.
University of Minnesota Extension SNAP Ed
University of Minnesota Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP Ed) Director Mary Caskey shared the 2019 SNAP-Ed Report with my staff last week. The report outlined some of the projects SNAP-Ed has been working on over the last year. SNAP-Ed helps low-income individuals, families, and communities make diet and lifestyle choices to improve their health and prevent obesity. Their SuperShelf program partners with food shelves to organize products in a way that promotes healthy choices and increases access to nutritious food. In addition, SNAP-Ed offers programs that introduce children to gardening and programming to help individuals lower their risk of diabetes through diet and exercise.
These are just some of the projects SNAP-Ed is working on. Click here to learn more.
Mining in Northeast Minnesota
Mining Minnesota, Save the Boundary Waters and representatives of Twin Metals visited my office last week to discuss H.R. 5598, the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act. This legislation would ban copper-nickel mining on approximately 234,000 acres of federal land in the Rainy River Watershed of the Superior National Forest in Minnesota.
Last week, the media wanted to know if I would attend the USMCA signing ceremony at the White House. This was a fair question because of my leadership role pushing for the trade deal, and also timely because of reports that no other Democrat was invited to the event, even though the USMCA bill passed 385 to 41.
As the first Committee Chair to support USMCA (all the way back in 2018!), I was honored to receive an invitation. Unfortunately, the invitation came the night before the ceremony, and I was already scheduled to do the following during the same time block:
- Attend a Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing on the issue of veteran suicide prevention (one of the tragic cases involved the Minneapolis VA),
- Attend an Agriculture Committee Roundtable on the implementation of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (to prevent farmer suicides), and
- Meet with a constituent on a bill I’m working on to delist gray wolves
I asked you what you thought I should have done to best represent Western Minnesota. Here is what you had to say:
In just the past twenty-four hours, the federal government has spent about $1 billion paying off interest on our national debt. The government spent the same amount on the Single Family Direct Loan Program last year, which helps struggling families obtain decent housing in rural areas. Our national debt is a problem, and it forces important programs to compete with the consequences of government irresponsibility.
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 voted against the Democratic budget which would have worsened our fiscal situation.
USDA Issues Third Payment of 2019 Market Facilitation Program
On Monday, USDA announced that they have begun issuing the third payment of the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and producers should receive them shortly. The Administration is cautioning farmers that they do not intend to issue additional MFP payments in the future. If you have questions, you can contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
Aquaculture Boosts Economies in Western Minnesota
Minnesota is the 3rd largest producer of soybeans, and aquaculture can provide a new market for Minnesota soybeans. American aquaculture has the potential for significant growth. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, we import nearly 90% of the seafood Americans eat. I am working on legislation to streamline the permitting process for offshore aquaculture and promote aquaculture research to help develop this market.
Fish and Wildlife Service Solicit Public Input on Cormorant Management
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued their advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) relating to management options for double crested cormorants. I am glad to hear that FWS is finally moving forward with the process of issuing depredation permits of double crested cormorants. Over the years, I have authored numerous bills to address this issue, including the Cormorant Relief Act. Overpopulated flocks of cormorants pose an ongoing threat to our native fisheries and aquaculture facilities. This will finally allow the state to take a more active role in their management.
Farm Income Forecast for 2020
USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released their projection of farm income in 2020 last week. ERS expects net cash farm income will decrease $10.9 billion (9.0 percent) in 2020. ERS expects a 36.7 percent decrease in direct government farm payments, which include Federal farm program payments paid directly to farmers and ranchers but exclude USDA loans and insurance indemnities. This decrease is due in part to an expected decline in payments from the Market Facilitation Program.
USDA Collecting Input on New Beginning for Tribal Students Grant Program
USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture is hosting a listening session to gather input for the development of the New Beginning for Tribal Students competitive grants program that was created by the 2018 Farm Bill. This program will help increase Tribal students’ enrollment and graduation rates by creating an inviting space for Tribal students to be successful. At this listening session, NIFA will gather information from partners and stakeholders on what the Request For Application should contain.
The listening session will be held on Feb 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ET). Join into the listening session online.
Meeting number: 966 104 794
Join by phone call-in number: 1-816-4234261 (US)
Toll-free number: 1-888-844-9904 (US)
Access Code: 421 323 3
This Week in History
On February 6, 1862, Redwood County was established. The name comes from the English translation of Chan Sha Ayapi, the Dakota word for one of the county’s rivers. Redwood County had previously been part of Brown County. This newly established territory became, in addition to Redwood, the counties of Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, and Yellow Medicine.
Visitor’s from the 7th
Minnesota Barley Growers