Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/17/2020

February 20, 2020
Newsletter

Calling to congratulate the 7th District’s newest appointees to West Point Military Academy

Dear Friends,

This week I was honored with three awards for my work fighting Lyme disease; supporting a rural manufacturing industry; and leadership in the agriculture industry. The fight in each area is ongoing but reflects some of the work I do for Western Minnesota. Early spring is always an active time with groups flying out to share their priorities. The Minnesota State Board of Trustees shared an update on education and workforce issues, AFGE Local 1969 discussed ongoing challenges in the VA, and Minnesota Pork Producers spoke about the labor shortage in agriculture. I participated in Agriculture and Veterans’ Affairs hearings on economic opportunities from local agriculture markets and the VA’s transition to the MISSION Act, respectively. The Administration released its budget for 2021 this week. I don’t support the $500 billion in cuts to Medicare and don’t think the $25 billion in crop insurance cuts will fly as farmers struggle to recover from the tough weather last year and the financial strain from the tariff war.

Sincerely,

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Congressman Collin C. Peterson

Minnesota 7th District

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LEFT to RIGHT: Legislator of the Year Award from the Agricultural Retailers AssociationLyme Champion Award from the Center for Lyme ActionKeeper of the Flame Award from the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association

Serving the 7th

I sent a letter with the entire Minnesota Congressional Delegation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting additional financial assistance for Minnesota. I heard from Minnesota officials and constituents about problems with FEMA significantly underestimating damages and recovery costs when assessing for severe weather and flooding during the spring of 2019. Minnesota deserves a fair share of financial assistance for disaster relief so the state can respond to future severe weather events. To prevent similar misestimations in the future, my colleagues and I also asked FEMA to undertake a full review of the procedures it used when creating its estimate of the damages in Minnesota.

Click here to read the letter to FEMA

West Point Military Academy Appointments

 

LEFT: Evan Lee and his parents (LESTER PRAIRIE)

RIGHT: Kai Holm and his family (MOORHEAD)

This week, I called two outstanding young men to announce their appointment to West Point Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Congratulations to Evan Lee from Lester Prairie High School and Kai Holm of Moorhead High School.

To read more about their appointments on social media, follow these links to my posts:

Chairman’s Corner

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue stopped by to update me on the status of rolling out the additional disaster provisions for sugar beet producers as well as those who had quality losses in 2019.

Minnesota representatives of the Agriculture Retailers Association came in to discuss the ongoing trade negotiations, transportation issues and some of their regulatory priorities. We spoke about the coming planting season and the possibility of flooding in Northwest Minnesota. I was honored to accept their “2019 Legislator of the Year Award” for my work on the 2018 Farm Bill and the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The Minnesota Pork Producers Association met with me to discuss priorities for the pork industry. They stressed the importance of a long-term solution to labor shortages in agriculture. I support visa reform that would improve our guest-worker programs to ensure rural businesses have the access they need to succeed. We also discussed animal health research and biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of diseases like African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.

Leaders of Holstein USA and the USA Rice Producers Association visited with me. The Rice Producers shared their needs regarding trade, disaster assistance and other issues affecting their growers. Holstein USA’s Minnesota Director, Spencer Hackett, discussed agriculture labor shortages and product labeling that is affecting the dairy industry.

Kathy Zeman

On Tuesday, the Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research hosted a hearing to discuss economic opportunities from local agriculture markets. Executive Director of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association Kathy Zeman was invited to testify before the subcommittee. Kathy shared her experience with local food system development in Minnesota and how farmers’ markets have increased food access in the state. She shared how the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association has benefitted from the Farmers Market Promotion Program grants authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. I was happy to meet with Kathy after the hearing to discuss her work.

White Earth Nation

District III Representative Eugene Tibbetts, Chairman Michael Fairbanks, Secretary-Treasurer Alan Roy, District I Representative Ray Auginaush

I had lunch with leaders of White Earth Nation to discuss tribal issues in the State of Minnesota. We discussed the Band’s transition to renewable energy, as well as how land transfer proposals in the state could affect White Earth. I understand White Earth has concerns with the proposed Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) Land Transfer. I will not support any transfer of White Earth land that does not have the Band’s support.

Veterans’ Affairs

On Wednesday, I attended a joint hearing by the House Veteran Affairs' Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations and Subcommittee on Health entitled “MISSION Critical: Examining Provider Relations During the Transition to VA’s New Community Care Program.” There has been a lot of confusion and frustration reported as the VA transitions from the Choice program to the MISSION Act. The intent of the hearing was to discuss how the VA and third-party administrators are working to improve provider relations, including through education and outreach, so Veterans can get timely care when such care is inaccessible at VA. While some regions have already transitioned, Minnesota is transitioning this month from TriWest to Optum as a third-party administrator. If you experience any problems with this transition, please reach out to my office at (507) 537-2299.

I met with the Minneapolis VA to talk about issues impacting government employees working at the VA. We discussed VA vacancies, which are concerning as they contribute to increased wait times for Veterans. The group also brought up H.R. 1195, the Law Enforcement Equity Act, a bipartisan bill which would expand the definition of a law enforcement officer to include police officers at the VA, Department of Defense, and U.S. Mint, as well as Federal Protective Service officers. I agreed to sign on to the bill, and the group thanked me for my support.

Veterans attending the SAVE OUR VA National Conference and a delegation of AFGE members also sat down with my staff to share their how staffing shortages the MISSION Act, and mental health is affecting them and the veteran community.

  

LEFT: Save our VA advocates

RIGHT: AFGE members and my staff

Minnesota State Board of Trustees

The Minnesota State Board of Trustees visited my office last week to discuss priorities for educators throughout Minnesota. The Board represents 30 state colleges and 7 state universities. As Congress continues our work on the Higher Education Act Reauthorization, I will focus on ensuring affordable access to education for all our students.

Center for Lyme Action’s Congressional Lyme Champion Award

The Center for Lyme Action’s honored me with their “Congressional Lyme Champion Award.” The award is given to Congress members who “exhibit extraordinary leadership in pursuit of a cure for Lyme disease." I am Co-Chair of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus and have worked with my fellow Republican co-chair on a number of bipartisan letters, amendments, and bills to address Lyme and other vector-borne diseases that devastate folks across the United States. I was pleased that my legislation, Ticks: Identify, Control, and Knockout Act," also known as the TICK Act, passed both House and Senate last December and was signed into law by President Trump.

Dauntless Air

I met with Dauntless Air CEO Brett L'Esperance to learn more about their unique fleet of Fire Boss planes. Headquartered in Appleton, Dauntless Air leads the way in aerial firefighting. As a pilot, I am encouraged to see a Minnesota company using their planes to fight fires and saves lives throughout the country.

Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association’s Keeper of the Flame Award

I am honored to be the inaugural House of Representatives recipient of the “American Keeper of the Flame Award” from the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. I have been working with Central Boiler out of Greenbush to try to bring some common sense to the EPA for quite some time and have asked the White House for some relief as well. The Administration has the authority to help small businesses, and I hope they will come through for Central Boiler, their workers, and rural folks who want a low-cost heating alternative for their homes.

Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) Annual Conference

The Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) held their Annual Conference at the College of St. Benedict, and my staff aide Grant Herfindahl was able to attend alongside farmers from across Minnesota. SFA seeks to promote environmental stewardship, economic resilience, and strong, diverse communities. Attendees discussed topics such as soil health and addressing farm stress. Sustainable farming practices can help farmers naturally improve soil quality and increase production, which can be a great benefit for farmers and rural communities.

Minnesota DHS Commissioner

Tamir Elnabarawy (Director of Federal Relations), Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, Rebekah Solem

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead updated my office on the Department’s work at the state-level. She was accompanied by MN DHS's Director of Federal Relations, Tamir Elnabarawy, a former staff member of mine. The delegation talked about human services appropriations as well as cuts to the SNAP program.

Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police

Representatives of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police visited my office to share their priorities for this Congress. They advocated to guarantee the collective bargaining power of police officers across the nation and to protect Social Security benefits for individuals collecting a government pension. They discussed retirement inequities that exist between federal law enforcement officers and proposals to create a new federal offense for instances when an officer is targeted for simply being a member of law enforcement.

Minnesota National Guard Enlisted Association

Ray Kennedy, Minnesota National Guard Enlisted Association President

The President of the Minnesota National Guard Enlisted Association, Ray Kennedy, stopped by my office to discuss topics impacting the Minnesota National Guard, such as Tricare, Duty status reform, and DD214 updates. As a former member of the North Dakota National Guard, I appreciate the service and sacrifice of all those who serve in uniform.

Lead for Minnesota

Benya Kraus

Executive Director of Lead for Minnesota Benya Kraus met with my staff to provide an update on the organization’s efforts in Minnesota. Between 2000 and 2010, all but two counties in Greater Minnesota saw an out-migration of 24-29 year-olds. Lead for Minnesota recruits, trains and places young leaders in two-year paid fellowships in their hometown or home state communities that ambitious plans but lack the capacity to attract and retain the next generation of leaders. Lead for Minnesota is hoping to place fellows in cities across Minnesota.

Click here to learn more

Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Rural Health & Primary Care

Zora M. Radosevich (Director, Office of Rural Health & Primary Care, Minnesota Department of Health)

The Director of the Office of Rural Health & Primary Care at the Minnesota Department of Health, Zora Radosevich came by to talk over issues related to rural health care in Minnesota. These included economic development, transportation, and workforce issues, as well as more specific health issues like oral health, opioid and substance abuse, and trauma care. Over a quarter of Minnesotans living outside of urban areas, and it is important to address their unique health needs.

Special Olympics International

Special Olympics International brought student advocates to my office to share their story. Unified Physical Education helps high schoolers form unique connections through general education and special education student partnerships. Our public schools are leading the way in ensuring impactful education for every student.

Prairie Island Indian Community

Prairie Island Tribal Council President Shelley Buck visited my office to talk about their home in Southeastern Minnesota and their desire to relocate their community. Parts of the Prairie Island Community are prone to flooding and are near a nuclear power plant. President Buck outlined their plan to relocate and have their new location recognized as part of the Tribe’s Reservation.

Neurofibromatosis North Central

Charlie Hanson, Meghan Hanson, Michael Johnson

Minnesotans with the National Neurofibromatosis (NF) Coalition met with my health care staff aide Rebekah Solem this week to talk about Fiscal Year 2021 funding for NF research. They thanked me for once again leading a bipartisan House letter to appropriators in support of NF research that is being conducted at the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and the National Institutes of Health.

UMN Water Resources Center

The UMN Water Resources Center visited my office to discuss the ongoing research on our state’s water resources. The Center studies impaired waters, stormwater management, agricultural practices, and other water issues. Minnesota’s water is the baseline for our farming, tourism, trade, and health, and I will continue working to support this important resource.

North Country Trail Association

Andrea Ketchmark of the North Country Trail Association shared their progress the organization has made on the North Country Trail since last year. The North Country Trail connects 8 states from Vermont to North Dakota. While there are still some gaps in the current route across Northern Minnesota, the North Country Trail Association is working to connect all parts of the 4,750-mile hiking trail. The project receives some funding from the federal government, but much of the trail maintenance is done by volunteers.

National Federation for the Blind

Minnesota advocates with the National Federation of the Blind met with my staff aide Rebekah Solem to promote their legislative priorities. Their priorities included making digital technology more accessible to those who are visually impaired and making accessible technology more affordable. The advocates also shared how they’ve faced barriers in the classroom and the need for legislation for accessible educational materials. I plan to continue working with the Federation to ensure blind Minnesotans have the social, educational, and professional opportunities they deserve.

Debbie’s Dream Foundation

Minnesotans Gabrielle Bousak and Colt Blunt were in Washington advocating with the Debbie’s Dream Foundation which works to cure stomach cancer. They shared their stories and are looking to gain Congress’s support for stomach cancer research.

Winter in the 7th

My staff shared this photo of fish houses on Lake Minnewaska near Glenwood.

Questionnaire Results

Last week, I asked you if you support additional resources to meet the goal in the State of the Union speech of providing vocational and technical education in every high school. Here is what you had to say:

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So far this month, the federal government has spent around $17 billion servicing our national debt. For reference, that is roughly $1 billion more than the entire 2019 budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which helps communities prepare for and recover from disasters. The debt places a large strain on the federal budget and only makes it more difficult to support important agencies like FEMA.

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.

Legislative Update

Bridging Responsible Agricultural Conservation Efforts Act

I recently introduced H.R. 5799, the Bridging Responsible Agricultural Conservation Efforts Act with my Republican colleague, Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-15). The legislation would provide clarity for landowners and consistency when federal agencies designate wetlands under current federal law.

Click here to read more about this legislation

Newsstand

White House Agriculture Budget Request

The Administration’s budget is calling for a $25 billion cut to the crop insurance program. At the same time, the USDA is forecasting net cash farm income to decrease 9% in 2020. Farmers are struggling to recover from the tariff war and severe weather, and I will fight these reckless cuts.

Click here to read more about my views on this topic

MDH says Minnesota at Low Risk for Coronavirus

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has stated that the risk of infection from coronavirus for the Minnesota public remains low. MDH is taking precautions by having residents returning from mainland China self-monitor with public health assistance and quarantining anyone returning from the hard-hit Hubei Province. The MDH still recommends taking the same precautions for avoiding the cold and flu, including washing your hands, staying home when you are sick, and covering your coughs.

Click here to read more from MDH

Don’t Delay Purchase of Flood Insurance

Spring is on its way, so take time now to consider if you need flood insurance. Only a National Flood Insurance Program policy obtained through your insurance agent can protect your property and possessions. There is a 30-day waiting period for policies to take effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to purchase it.

Click here to read more about this topic from FEMA

FEMA Resources on the Great Lakes High Water

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region V office held a webinar this week on high water in the Great Lakes region.

Click on any of the following resources to learn more:

This Week in History

On February 9th, 1895, the University of Minnesota’s School of Agriculture faced off against Hamline University in the world’s first intercollegiate basketball game. The matchup was held on Hamline’s campus and organized by Hamline’s athletic director Ray Kaighn. Kaighn learned the sport from its inventor James Naismith and even played in the first game Naismith organized at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Under Naismith’s original rules, teams played with nine men on the court who shot at peach baskets without backboards. The University of Minnesota won by a score of 9 to 3, a high score compared to the first game Kaighn participated in where only one basket was scored.

Visitors from the 7th

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The Schultz Family (ATWATER)

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White Earth Nation Leaders

Dana Goodman (AUDUBON) and Sheila Whiteface (St. Paul), advocates with the National Johnson-O’Malley Association, stopped by to thank me for my support of Native students.

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Minnesota DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead and DHS Federal Relations Director Tamir Elnabarawy