Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 3/22/2019
Town hall meeting in Pipestone
This week, I hosted town hall meetings in Marshall, Alexandria, Redwood Falls and Pipestone to hear from folks about issues affecting communities across the 7th District. The conversations covered many topics related to agriculture, veterans and health care. Between town hall meetings, I met with business leaders in Fergus Falls and toured Aura Fabricators. I visited Redwood Valley High School to tour their new facilities and meet with Eagle Scout Matthew Lindbo. Matthew earned all 137 merit badges during his time with the Boy Scouts and I enjoyed talking with him about his experience. The Lugar Center released their ranking of the most bipartisan Members of Congress this week, and I am proud to again be ranked in the top 10 most bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
After hearing about the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cutbacks in staffing in Roseau and Lancaster I have worked with CBP and local leaders to try to restore service at those ports. This Tuesday I organized a meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Mayor Pelowski of Roseau, Mayor Olson of Lancaster, and local leaders. At the meeting business leaders expressed their concerns about the reduction of operating hours at the Roseau and Lancaster Ports of Entry along the Canadian border. Mayor Pelowski shared the negative impact this is having on Roseau’s local businesses like Polaris, retail stores, and gas stations. Reduced service hours also limit cross-border travel and has made getting to and from work difficult for those who live in the Northwest Angle or Canadians who work 2nd and 3rd shifts at the hospital. I will continue to fight to find a better solution for these communities.
American Soybean Association (ASA) National Director Joel Schreurs (TYLER), Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) Executive Director Joe Smentek (Mankato), ASA National Director George Goblish (VESTA), MSGA Vice President Jamie Beyer (WHEATON)
Executives of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association met with my office on Wednesday to discuss a range of issues affecting the profitability of producing soybeans and related products in the United States. Trade disputes with Canada, Mexico, and China are testing the foundation of foreign trade partnerships, and lengthy negotiations have created an uncertain future for American soybean farmers. Chinese retaliatory tariffs have caused the value of soybeans to drop significantly since they were implemented in July 2018. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would offer modest gains for American agriculture and would provide certainty for those who export to our neighboring countries. I urge Congress to vote to approve USMCA and officially set this agreement in place. We also discussed the need to extend the biodiesel tax credit that helps ensure soyoil-based biodiesel remains competitive in U.S. fuel markets. I recently signed onto a bipartisan letter to House leadership urging a multi-year extension of this important tax incentive.
Town Hall Meetings in Alexandria, Redwood Falls, Marshall and Pipestone
This week, I had the opportunity to speak with constituents at veterans town hall meetings in Alexandria, Redwood Falls, Marshall and Pipestone. At the town hall in Alexandria, I had the great privilege of recognizing fifty-six Vietnam-era veterans for their service and presented them with 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration pins. We also discussed issues such as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, the implementation of the VA’s MISSION Act, rumors of VA privatization, and much more. The event was co-hosted by my office, the St. Cloud VA Health Care System, and the Fargo Regional Office of the Veterans Benefits Administration. I appreciate everyone taking time to join in the discussions and I will take what we discussed with me to Washington in order to more strongly advocate for Minnesota’s veterans through my work the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Aura Fabricators in Fergus Falls
On Wednesday, I traveled to Fergus Falls where I met community and business leaders for lunch. We discussed a number of issues including tariffs and trade, healthcare, and workforce development. Following lunch, the group toured Aura Fabricators where they produce ornamental railings, overhead signs, trusses and steel bridge components and work with state transportation departments across the region. It was great visiting with the employees and owners of a company who has invested a lot in keeping their business in rural Minnesota.
Red River Watershed Management Board and Flood Damage Reduction Work Group Joint Meeting
On Thursday, I addressed the Red River Watershed Management Board and the Flood Damage Reduction Work Group during their 2019 Joint Annual Conference in Moorhead. We discussed the recently passed 2018 Farm Bill and I answered questions about how the bill could affect agriculture and rural communities along the Red River. I appreciate everything the Board and district managers do to reduce damage caused by flooding.
Pipestone Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet
I met with local business leaders during the Pipestone Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet on Thursday. Chambers of Commerce exist to promote local business and tourism, offering a platform for local leaders to share information and work together to increase the prosperity of the community. Local Chambers support strong networks of individuals and play an important role in communities of all sizes.
Redwood Valley High School and Eagle Scout Matthew Lindbo
I toured Redwood Valley High School’s new facilities during a visit on Monday. The new technical addition to the school includes increased room space and an open class room structure for courses in agriculture, mechanical engineering, business, construction, and health care careers. The high school is hoping to partner with the community for hands on training and mentorship in the future. During my visit, I met with Eagle Scout Matthew Lindbo. Matthew is one of only 330 Eagle Scouts in the history of the Boy Scouts to earn all 137 merit badges. I applaud Matthew’s dedication and the hard work he has done to succeed during his 11 years of scouting.
First Farmers and Merchants Bank
My staff met with presidents of First Farmers & Merchants Bank to update them on the rollout of the 2018 Farm Bill. The discussion focused mainly on issues affecting the dairy industry, especially the low profits many dairy farmers have seen over recent years. The new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program will provide price stability and sign-up is currently scheduled for June.
Highway 23 Coalition Annual Meeting
Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson-Kelliher
Today my staff attended the Highway 23 Coalition’s Annual Meeting. Minnesota’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson-Kelliher gave the keynote address which spoke about the projects that if approved a new gas tax could help address. I have long supported a reasonable gas tax increase at the federal level to address our rural transportation infrastructure. We know we need to do more but this could be a start towards fixing our existing roads.
Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership
Leaders from CAP LP visited my D.C. office this week to highlight their work helping families in Minnesota. As part of the Community Action Legislative Conference, CAP LP shared how the Community Services Block Grant’s Community Economic Development (CED) Discretionary Fund is creating jobs in the Seventh. I have continued to support CED and the opportunities it creates within rural Minnesota.
Minnesota Association of Development Organizations
The Minnesota Association of Development Organizations (MADO) visited my office to talk about the work Regional Development Commissions (RDC) are leading in Minnesota. MADO represents the 9 RDCs throughout our state. Current development efforts involve expanding access and affordability of rural broadband, supporting our existing infrastructure and building a stronger system for future growth. I appreciate the important role MADO plays in helping the Seventh succeed.
This week was the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools Conference, and representatives from Minnesota schools visited to discuss Impact Aid. Impact Aid helps schools located on or near tax-exempt federal property keep their classrooms open. I have proudly supported Impact Aid in the past and will continue to support strong funding for this important program.
NASSP and NAESP
The National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals were in D.C. this week to talk about the needs of Minnesota’s educators and students. Our public schools are the baseline for a strong community, so take the time to thank a public educator next week in honor of Public Schools Week.
Organizations Concerned About Rural Education
This week, my staff shared an update on the progress of my bill, the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act, with Organizations Concerned about Rural Education (OCRE). OCRE is a coalition of over to dozen organizations dedicated to public education and economic development in rural America, and I look forward to working with them to help support available and affordable child care.
Great Northern Regional Robotics Tournament
The Great Northern Regional Robotics Tournament was held at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks March 14-16th. There were fifty-two teams of 9th through 12th graders competing in the tournament. The teams were from Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, California, Manitoba and China. Several teams were from northwest Minnesota. They included Badger, Greenbush/Middle River, Stephen/Argyle Central, Thief River Falls and Warroad.
Society for Human Resource Management
Carri Pickett of Bagley and Sue Pederson of Audubon, both Human Resource Managers for Team Industries, paid my office a visit this week on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management. We discussed efforts to close the skills gap so employers can find the workers they need, ways to address the skyrocketing costs of education, and post-conviction employment. I will continue to work to facilitate partnerships between educational institutions and local employers so our students are being prepared for the workforce demands in Western Minnesota and I appreciate Carri and Sue's efforts to advocate for the needs of employers and students alike.
Employers Council on Flexible Compensation
This week members of the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) stopped by my office to discuss employee benefit programs, including healthcare flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), as well as impacts of things like the so called "Cadillac Tax" on higher cost employer-sponsored health coverage. I will continue to work to provide flexible options for individuals facing the growing costs of healthcare. Our workers need continued flexibility to make the decisions that are best for the care of their families.
Greenbush-Middle River Students
Students from Greenbush-Middle River visited my office through the Close Up program. They had a lot of good questions about Congress and how people get a start working in Washington. The students were also interested in one of the issues that I have been working on in their area to increase the number of hours border patrol agents are staffing the ports at Roseau and Lancaster. Cutbacks in the hours the ports are open is an ongoing problem for residents in the area. Before their meeting, the students toured the U.S. Capitol Building with my office.
With the growing threat of serious flooding throughout the Seventh, I wanted to share this resource which lets people report flooding in their area. Download the CRED app here and help us direct resources where they are most needed.
Service Academy Nights
If you know a student interested in applying for a nomination to a United States Service Academy, I encourage you to attend one of the U.S. Service Academy Information Nights hosted by Congressman Stauber, Congressman Emmer, and me. Programs, opportunities, and life at the academies, as well as the academy application process and the Congressional nomination process will be discussed.
This session is open to anyone interested in attending a military academy. For more information, please call Meg Louwagie, Academy Coordinator for Congressman Peterson at (507) 537-2299.
April 11th, 2019 at 6:30-8:30 PM – Bemidji High School, Lumber Jack Room
April 29th, 2019 at 6:30-8:30 PM – Windom High School, Lecture Hall
May 6th, 2019 at 6:30-8:30 PM – St. Cloud
VA Billing Accountability Act
I am proud to join Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) in introducing the VA Billing Accountability Act which sets specific billing requirements so veterans are not receiving long-delayed unbilled copayments for VA medical care. Our veterans shouldn’t be waiting months, or even years, to receive critical information about the status of the benefits they have earned.
African Swine Fever Outbreak Drops Chinese Pork Output
According to USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, outbreaks of African swine fever are expected to cause the Chinese swine herd to drop to just 374 million head by the end of 2019 – a 13 percent drop from 2018. Due to the outbreak, Chinese imports of pork are expected to increase by 33 percent this year, but due to retaliatory tariffs on pork, American exporters are not expected to see much benefit from this growing market.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
This Week in American History
On March 18th, 1858, Otter Tail, Becker, and Breckenridge Counties were formed. The first was named for the lake and river and is an English translation of the original Ojibwe name. Becker County honors George L. Becker, one of three representatives the new state of Minnesota had planned to send to Congress. When it was discovered that the state was permitted only two representatives, lots were drawn and Becker lost. Breckenridge County honors Vice President John C. Breckenridge, but when he later joined the Confederacy in the Civil War the residents of the county would vote to change the name to Clay County, honoring Unionist Henry Clay instead.
(Top) Students from Greenbush-Middle River High School
(Bottom)The Eastvold (FERGUS FALLS) and Kuhn (BEMIDJI) families also toured the U.S. Capitol Building with my office this week