Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/24/2020
My office gave Ann and Ron Christensen (BATTLE LAKE) a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building
As a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I led the Minnesota House Delegation in a letter advocating for increased counseling services at Vet Centers in rural Minnesota. The available mental health counseling services in Minnesota are insufficient to meet the needs of our veterans, and some areas of greater Minnesota lack access to any of these services at all. In addition, I joined my fellow members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in asking President Trump to add to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, so veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals can get the treatment they need.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who answer my questionnaire each week. Listening to you is the most important part of my job. I encourage you to continue responding to the questionnaire, as well as emailing and calling my office about your concerns, so that I can best represent Western Minnesota.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
I led the Minnesota House Delegation on a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs on veteran-specific counseling services in underserved, rural areas of Minnesota. My colleagues and I asked for support in increasing the level of Readjustment Counseling Services (RCS). The RCS provides readjustment, family, bereavement, and military sexual trauma counseling services. This letter is meant to kickstart a process to engage local communities and stakeholders, including Veteran Service Officers, to determine the areas of greatest need and bring more Readjustment Counseling Services to greater Minnesota.
This letter has received support from the state officials and veterans’ organizations across Minnesota, including the following:
- Governor Tim Walz
- MN Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke
- MN VFW Commander Chad Solheid
- American Legion Department of Minnesota Commander Mark Dvorak
- Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota Department Adjutant Trent Dilks
- Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans President Neil Loidolt
- Former Director of Duluth and Sioux Falls Vet Centers, Navy Veteran Phil Ringstrom
Call to Grant Relief for Agent Orange Exposure
As a Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I am fighting to ensure that Veterans receive care for the diseases they develop from exposure to toxic chemicals during their service. I joined a letter to President Trump asking him to act now to add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, parkinsonism, and hypertension to the Department of Veterans Affairs list of presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. Veterans need care now for their service-related illnesses, and I urge the Administration to do the right thing.
Port Hours of Service in Lancaster and Roseau
Community leaders from Lancaster and my staff aide Richard Lee
Roseau Mayor Jeff Pelowski, Lancaster Mayor Michael Olson, and other community leaders shared the ongoing issues their communities face following the Administration’s decision to limit the hours of operation at the ports along the Canadian border near those communities. I have been working diligently with the Administration to get these ports’ hours extended. With changing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) priorities, the agency has ignored concerns about how reduced crossing hours impacts the communities and businesses that operate along our northern border. I am committed to resolving this issue and protecting the interests of our communities at the northern border.
Mayor Jeff Pelowski (ROSEAU), staff aide Richard Lee, & Community Development Coordinator Todd Peterson (ROSEAU)
Small Business Administration Meeting in Willmar
The City of Willmar, Kandiyohi EDC, Heritage Bank, and other members of the EDC Finance Corporation joined my office in hosting the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Willmar. SBA Acting Director Brian McDonald and Lead Economic Development Specialist Twila Kennedy were in town to learn more about a proposed renaissance district. The district aims to attract projects and investors to the opportunity zone and other areas considered prime for redevelopment. It is important to encourage redevelopment in rural areas, and creating additional incentives is a great way to do so.
Beltrami Island State Forest Trail Network
Fourtown Grygla Sportsman Club members & staff aide Richard Lee
The Fourtown Grygla Sportsman Club gave my staff aide Richard Lee a tour of the parcels of land that DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and I were able to transfer to complete the trail network through Beltrami Island State Forest. I will continue to work so our public lands can be used for their intended purposes: providing access to recreation for the public who invests so much time into their care and management.
Views from Beltrami Island State Forest
International Crop Expo
The International Crop Expo was recently at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. The arena was full of tractors, combines and other farm equipment and vendors. Large crowds attended various informational meetings on small grains, soybeans, potatoes, weed control and marketing. My staff aide LeRoy Stumpf visited with farmers, who shared their cautious optimism about the weather and how 2020 may turn out for them.
Keynote speaker Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, praised the United States – Mexico – China Agreement (USMCA), the recent trade agreement that I have been supporting since 2018. Dr. Kohl also spoke about how he believes there will be more change in the next decade than the last 70 years and gave management strategies for the 2020s.
UMN Center for Farm Financial Management
Associate Director Robert Craven, Economist Rachel Purdy, & CFFM Director Kevin Klair
Economists from the University of Minnesota shared an update on their work at the Center for Farm Financial Management (CFFM). Over 3,000 farmers across Minnesota share financial information from their operations with CFFM to develop a database allowing them to compare their financial management practices to other producers. CFFM’s database lets producers see how their expenses compare to similar farms, offering insight that can help them be more profitable. The Center for Farm Financial Management receives grants from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and I was happy to support that program in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Advocating for New Marketing Opportunities
Matt Perdoni & Shane Werk (HERMAN)
Matt Perdoni and Shane Werk visited my office to advocate for new marketing opportunities for livestock producers. They discussed the PRIME Act, legislation that would expand the sales opportunities for meat products produced by custom meat processors. Among other topics, they also explained how procedures of the House of Representatives could be used to create new markets for our farmers and ranchers.
Minnesota Blue Cross Blue Shield
Scott Keefer (St. Paul) & staff aide Rebekah Solem
Scott Keefer with Minnesota Blue Cross Blue Shield stopped by my office to discuss health care legislation that impacts Minnesotans, including bills intended to lower the price of prescription drugs and to address surprise medical bills.
Habitat for Humanity
Douglas County Executive Director Lori Anderson (ALEXANDRIA) & Greta Gaetz
Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County came to D.C. for their annual Habitat on the Hill advocacy day. Habitat for Humanity has built or improved more than 90 homes in Douglas County, helping to provide affordable housing. Our rural communities depend on housing options for growth and vitality. I have been a longtime advocate for affordable housing, and Habitat for Humanity is an important piece of that puzzle.
Last week, I asked you if you believe the Administration has the authority to redirect $3.9 billion dedicated for national guard equipment, military aircraft and ship construction to the southern border to build more sections of the border wall. Here is what you had to say:
Then, I asked those of you who responded that the Administration does have this authority, whether it should be used to redirect funds to complete the outstanding veteran-related projects in Western Minnesota including a veterans cemetery in Redwood Falls and veterans’ homes in Montevideo and Bemidji. Here is how you responded:
This past week, the federal government spent approximately $7.5 billion paying off our national debt. This is roughly $500 million greater than the government spent funding the National Science Foundation (NSF) last year. Minnesota received $88 million from the NSF in 2018 to invest in fundamental research, cutting-edge small businesses, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for our students. The debt places an undue burden on the federal budget and makes it more difficult to fund agencies like the NSF.
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.
AARP Foundation offering Tax Assistance
Tax season is here. As a CPA, I know how important it is to have trained help when preparing your tax returns. Low and moderate-income taxpayers in the 7th District may consider AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, a volunteer-led program that assists taxpayers with tax return preparation and e-filing. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is available free to taxpayers with low- and moderate-income, with special attention to those 50 and older.
Grain Bin Safety Week & NGFA Resources
Governor Walz declared this past week to be “Grain Bin Safety Week” in Minnesota. Farming is among the most hazardous industries in the United States. In 2017, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 416 farmers and farm workers lost their lives due to work-related injuries, and every day about 100 agricultural workers suffered an injury that led to lost work time. While grain bin accidents make up a small proportion of all farm-related injuries and fatalities, they can happen quickly, and all farmers should take proper safety precautions.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has created resources to keep farmers up to date on safety practices and is working to raise awareness around grain safety.
- Visit NGFA’s Safety Page to access informational and education resources.
- Watch NGFA’s latest grain bin safety video.
- Learn more about OSHA and NGFA’s “Stand-Up for Grain Safety Week” in April.
Census Bureau Hiring for 2020
The US Census Bureau is hiring up to 500,000 temporary, part-time census takers across the country. The positions offer competitive pay, flexible hours, paid training, and weekly paychecks. The Census Bureau highly encourages anyone 18 or older to apply, particularly recent high school graduates, college students, veterans, retirees, military spouses, season workers, and people who are bilingual. Those who already have jobs and want to earn extra income on evenings and weekends are also encouraged to apply.
National Entrepreneurship Week
We just wrapped up National Entrepreneurship Week which celebrates those who take risks to start their own businesses. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) seeks to help entrepreneurs by providing programs, expertise, and access to capital that help small businesses succeed. Have you ever thought of starting your own business?
This Week in History
On February 19th, 1902, the pink-and-white lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae) was named the state flower by the Minnesota legislature. The designation was adopted after it was discovered that the variety of lady slipper originally chosen by the state Senate to be the official flower in 1893 was not native to Minnesota. Lady slippers are rare wild orchids recognizable by their brilliantly colored bloom that thrive in damp woods, swamps, and bogs. They can live up to 50 years but develop very slowly, often taking up to 16 years to produce their first flower. Lady Slippers are protected by a 1925 state law that forbids them from being picked.