Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 4/5/2019
Today I joined Senator Tina Smith at an event in Litchfield to discuss the new dairy provisions in the farm bill. Earlier this week, I met with Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey and folks from the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, Land O’Lakes, and Marvin Windows. I also took questions from high school students visiting from Hawley and New York Mills. I was glad the Administration decided to hold back on the threat of immediately closing the border which would have devastated agriculture producers in Minnesota and driven up costs for consumers. Minnesota farmers continue to pay the price for the ongoing trade war. That is why I have been vocal about my support for the renegotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. The main benefit of the deal is not any of the new provisions, only that it is better than no deal at all. The brinkmanship over trade is leaving our agriculture economy in a lurch for yet another season and I continue to share the impact of these policies with the Administration’s trade team.
Serving the 7th
I led a letter, along with H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which urges the agency to provide better certainty for wood heater manufactures across Minnesota and the United States. The letter asks the EPA to finalize their proposed rule to allow an extended sell-through timeline for certain wood heater models as soon as possible and include wood and pellet stoves in the final rule. I am proud to lead this bipartisan letter that seeks to help our Minnesota wood heater manufacturers and retailers. These businesses provide good-paying, valuable jobs in rural communities that are struggling to make ends meet. Our letter supports those businesses and the economic benefits they provide to my constituents.
Rural Utilities Service
I led an appropriations letter with a bipartisan group of 238 other Members asking the House Appropriations Committee to provide full funding to the RUS Electric Loan program. This program provides financing for furnishing and improving electric service in rural areas and for implementing demand side management, energy efficiency and conservation programs, and on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems. Electric cooperatives have an excellent record of paying back these loans, and the program routinely generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury.
Dairy Meeting with Senator Smith in Litchfield
Today, Senator Tina Smith and I met with Minnesota dairy leaders in Litchfield to hear about the issues facing the dairy industry. Farm profitability continues to be a challenge for dairy producers as low milk prices and rising input costs have forced many operations around the nation to cease production. Growers asked us about the new dairy provisions in the farm bill and how they will provide relief for Minnesota’s dairies. The Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program will provide more flexible coverage tools for less money during this difficult time. Last week, I led a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to prioritize the implementation of DMC to provide relief for our dairy farmers as soon as possible.
Representatives from the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association met with me on Wednesday to talk about the transportation, trade, and wildlife management issues affecting cattlemen in Minnesota. We discussed Hours of Service limits for commercial truck drivers and the challenges they present for haulers of livestock and other perishable agriculture goods. I recently introduced H.R. 1689 – The Agricultural Business Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2019 to support agriculture haulers by eliminating costly stops and delays related to Hours of Service rules. Gray wolves continue to take animals from producers in northern Minnesota. The Cattlemen and I agree that Congress should give Minnesota the authority to manage its wolves to prevent further livestock losses from an already stable wolf population.
Land O’Lakes Board Members stopped by my office to provide an update on their operations and the federal issues affecting their producers. We discussed the timeline for implementing the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program that will provide better risk management tools for dairy farmers. We also discussed the ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
On Tuesday, USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Ted McKinney met with members of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee for a closed-door discussion on USDA’s role in trade negotiations and foreign market development. I joined the conversation to hear USDA’s perspective on current trade issues. On Wednesday, the Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the possible effects of proposed rule changes regarding Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) on SNAP. The Subcommittee heard testimony from folks on both sides of the issue and had a lengthy discussion on the realities of food assistance programs and workforce participation.
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held two full committee hearings this week which dealt with oversight of MISSION Act implementation and the VA’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2020. One of my top priorities this Congress is to advocate for federal funding matches for the new veterans home proposals in Bemidji and Montevideo. These projects have worked for years to secure enough state and local dollars to apply for a federal fund match, and it is important the VA understands that both of these homes will greatly benefit our growing rural veteran population.
Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey
I met with Minnesota’s new Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Tony Lourey on Tuesday to discuss a number of issues within his purview, including SNAP and health care in Minnesota. I congratulate Commissioner Lourey on his new role and look forward to working with him.
Marvin Windows and Doors
Marvin Windows and Doors is a bedrock business with a large manufacturing base that employs nearly 3,000 people in Warroad. We discussed the reduction of hours of the Roseau and Lancaster land ports of entry, the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, and changes to building codes.
Department of Veterans Affairs Seal
Assistant Secretary for the VA’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs Brooks Tucker presented me with the Seal of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This is proudly hanging in my Washington office for all visitors to see.
Students from Hawley and New York Mills
On Wednesday, I met with students from Hawley and New York Mills. I fielded questions from them about a number of issues and gave them some straight talk about what really goes on behind the scenes. In my opinion, too much time gets wasted on flash in the pan controversies which distract from the real issues that need to be addressed. While I told them that America always figures out what to do eventually, the media’s focus on the controversy of the day makes it hard for the real story to break through all the noise. One example was the trade war. We talked about how the trade war is hurting the farm economy and no one is asking why all the trade aid payments to farmers were put on the country’s credit card without being paid for. Young people will have to live with this debt and more people need to demand answers about how decisions made by today’s leaders will impact their future.
2019 State of the White Earth Nation
The 2019 State of the White Earth Nation took on a different tone this year with the recent passing of Chairman Terrence “Terry” Tibbetts. Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation, presented a proclamation on behalf of Governor Tim Walz declaring April 4 as Chairman Tibbetts Day in the State of Minnesota. I extend my gratitude to the Terry and Carol Tibbetts family for their many years of public service to the White Earth Nation. My deepest condolences to the Tibbetts family and all the members of the White Earth Nation.
Minnesota Rural Education Association
This week was the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium in D.C. and I was pleased to have representatives of the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) visit my office. MREA brings together school officials, teachers, and the communities they serve to advocate for rural school districts throughout greater Minnesota. I am a proud advocate for our rural schools and will continue to support them as education reforms come up in Congress.
Minnesota Bankers Association
Members of the Minnesota Bankers Association paid my office a visit to discuss regulatory relief and taxation issues within the financial services industry. I will continue to work to right-size regulations, so our smaller community institutions are not burdened by regulations intended for large systemically important institutions. I appreciate all the work the MBA puts into creating accessible credit to rural Minnesota.
St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce
Small business owners and advocates from the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce visited my Washington D.C. office this week to talk about general business issues, as well as energy, transportation, and healthcare reform. Small businesses are pivotal to the success of our local economies and I will continue to support our community brick-and-mortar businesses.
Minnesota Funeral Directors Association
A group representing the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association paid my office a visit to highlight concerns relating to organ and tissue donation, as well as in support of burial rights for American Veterans. I am pleased to work with these fine individuals who assist grieving families through tough times by cosponsoring the BRAVE Act, which improves benefits for veterans’ families upon their deaths. I look forward to continuing to work together so these small businesses can continue to serve our communities in times of need.
The Minnesota-North Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association visited my office on behalf of the state’s dementia patients, their families, and health care providers. Every 65 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the United States and there is currently no cure for this terrible disease. The advocates also discussed with my staff the importance of caring for early onset patients who may not qualify for certain services. The advocates thanked me for my support, including recent efforts to support research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DOD).
American Coalition for Ethanol
My staff aide Zach Martin met with members of ACE to discuss ethanol issues. There is no doubt that the biofuels industry has been under attack by this EPA. The agency is overusing its authority to grant small refinery exemptions to companies that do not need them and introduced a proposed rule which discourages investment in biofuels. These policies are hurting rural communities in my district.
Child Care Aware
Child care advocates from Child Care Aware visited my office to talk about the urgent need for affordable quality child care. Many areas in Minnesota have waiting lists years long, and action is needed to find solutions. That is why I introduced the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act, which helps alleviate some of the growing costs child care providers face.
Water Environment Federation
Wastewater, storm water, and drinking water are all critical parts of our infrastructure for ensuring public health. Many of our small and rural watersheds face rising costs and increasing regulatory burdens. I led an appropriations letter again this year asking for full and robust funding for two pivotal USDA programs: the Small Watershed Program and the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations.
Muslim Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill
This week, I was pleased to have had members of CAIR MN and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota pay visits to my office to discuss issues facing the Muslim communities in America. From legislation aimed at preserving visa status to combatting islamophobia across the country, I am pleased to work with members of the Muslim faith to advance sound policy in these areas. Cities like Willmar have shown the welcoming spirit of Western Minnesota, and I appreciate hearing stories of communities throughout the 7th.
Mortgage Bankers Association
This week, Jordan Bucher of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Pete Hinrichs of Compeer Financial met with my staff aide Richard Lee to discuss lending in rural America. The conversation covered issues including changes to the FHA, regulations impacting housing, and future GSE reform. I will continue to work for sensible regulations that create access to capital in rural America so we can have a robust housing market.
Professional Insurance Agents of Minnesota
Joe Plaetz of Lucan and Greg Sather of Savage visited my office on behalf of the Professional Insurance Agents of Minnesota (PIA MN). They had a lively discussion on crop insurance, flood insurance, and the future of the Federal Insurance Office and state regulators. I appreciate the work they do educating Minnesotans on the necessity of insurance products and helping them through the tough times when the policies are needed most.
Representatives of the Center for Victims of Torture and NETWORK Lobby visited my office to discuss immigration reform and protections for DACA recipients, TPS, and DED holders. I recently sent a letter to the Administration with the Minnesota Delegation to request an extension of DED for the Liberian community, which the Administration then granted. I will continue to work for sensible immigration policies and border security that encourage healthy immigration patterns.
American Association for Justice
This week, members of the American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, paid a visit to my office to discuss forced arbitration clauses and the ability for Americans to have trials by jury. I look forward to continuing to work with these wonderful attorneys as they continue to serve the interests of Minnesotans in their search for justice.
Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act
This week, I introduced the Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act with Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota’s 8th district joining me as the lead Republican. This bipartisan legislation will increase the charitable driving reimbursement rate - bringing it in line with the business rate. This will allow volunteer drivers participating in senior transportation programs, Meals on Wheels, or other activities where individuals volunteer their time and vehicles to serve the public good to be properly reimbursed for their vehicle usage. We must work to ensure these programs have adequate resources so costs do not prohibit individuals from volunteering their time to serve their communities.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act Discharge Petition
I was proud to sign onto a Discharge Petition for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act this week. I have been a strong supporter of life throughout my tenure in Congress and we must continue to protect the unborn. This bill, of which I am also a cosponsor, will ensure any child who survives an abortion attempt is given the medical care they deserve.
Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act
This week, we added another four Republican co-sponsor to H.R. 1379, the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act. The newest members to join this effort are Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), and Brian Babin (R-TX). This legislation would ensure that health plans will cover medically necessary services needed for people born with congenital anomalies due to diseases such as Ectodermal Dysplasias.
Gold Star Spouses Day
Gold Star Spouses Day is observed each year on April 5 as a memorial for the fallen, a remembrance day for the survivors, and an appreciation for those who should never be forgotten for their support and service to the country. Take a moment today to pay tribute to the surviving husbands and wives of our fallen service members.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
This Week in American History
On April 4, 1893, the Minnesota state flag was adopted just in time to grace a state-sponsored exhibit at the World's Fair in Chicago. Designed by Amelia H. Center of Minneapolis, the flag depicted the state seal ringed by a wreath of white lady slippers and surrounded by nineteen stars, representing Minnesota as the nineteenth state (after the original thirteen) to be admitted to the Union. The flag would be modified on March 18, 1957, when the white flowers were replaced with pink-and-white lady slippers.
What’s the Story?
Darwin resident Francis A. Johnson began constructing a twine ball in 1950. For twenty-nine years, Johnson spent four hours each day adding twine to the ball until he passed away in 1979. Weighing in at nine tons and measuring twelve feet wide, the ball is a point of pride for the Darwin community as holder of the world record for “Largest Ball of Twine Rolled by One Man”. Today, it sits across from the town park, where it has become a popular stop for road tripping tourists. Darwin Mayor Josh Johnson brought these “World’s Largest Twine Ball” souvenirs to my office this week to ensure that the City of Darwin is always well-represented in Washington, D.C.