Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 5/24/2019
Tuesday’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Hearing
Click here to watch my remarks from the hearing.
This week, I introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act to combat abuses of authority at the Environmental Protection Agency and to ensure that rural communities like Minnesota’s 7th district can depend on a robust biofuels market. There was a Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on reviewing animal pest and disease prevention, where I raised the issue of concern about African Swine Fever. Students from Concordia College paid my office a visit during their annual visit to Washington. They toured the Capitol and talked with my staff about working at the Capitol. This Monday is Memorial Day, and I am looking forward to being home in Minnesota and reflecting on our servicemen and women.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
Honoring World War II Veterans
After hearing from residents in Western Minnesota, I wrote and led a letter with the Minnesota delegation urging the President to prepare to call a non-presidential state funeral for the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. This would serve as a distinguished recognition to those who received the Medal of Honor during World War II and all 16 million American men and women who served in uniform during the conflict, including 326,000 Minnesotans.
Under Secretary Greg Ibach
Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) response to China’s retaliatory tariffs. The USDA will provide trade aid through Market Facilitation Program payments to producers, Food Purchase Distribution Program purchases of affected commodities’ surpluses, and the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program’s development of new export markets.
The Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday to review animal pest and disease prevention and response capabilities. I asked the Under Secretary about the USDA’s ASF research and their engagement with individual producers on the topic. He stated that ASF is a particularly difficult disease and the USDA is still learning about it. They are working with Canada and other partners to develop better diagnostic and biosecurity measures. Even so, the USDA is still up to 8 years out from developing a reliable vaccine. In the meantime, USDA is monitoring ASF across Europe and Asia and engaging individual producers in prevention measures.
Under Secretary Ibach expressed his appreciation for the new prevention and response tools provided by the 2018 Farm Bill. On top of increasing support for NAHLN, the Farm Bill created the National Animal Vaccine Bank and National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. These programs add to our previous infrastructure to detect, diagnose, respond to, and prevent the entry of any pests or diseases. They will hopefully keep our district from suffering hardships like those felt by hog farmers from the high path avian influenza outbreak.
Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe
Premier Scott Moe
I welcomed Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe during his visit to the U.S. Capitol. We discussed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the recently announced news that the United States was lifting Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum on the two countries. I remain an early supporter of USMCA and hope Congress will begin consideration of the trade deal soon.
Action on Biofuels
This week, I led a Congressional Biofuels Caucus letter calling on the EPA to significantly improve the agency’s proposed rule regarding selling E15 year-round and making major alterations to the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market. Although the first section of the rule provides better certainty involving E15 sales, the proposal also includes provisions which tilt the playing field towards large and profitable refineries at the cost of farmers. Rural economies are hurting, and we can’t afford to miss out on more markets for our crops.
Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act
On Thursday, I introduced a bill to stop the EPA from undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) along with Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and the Congressional Biofuels Caucus co-chairs. Refineries who oppose blending homegrown renewable fuels into the fuel supply continue to game the small refinery waiver system. By setting a June 1st petition submission deadline each year, the EPA will have time to account for renewable fuel gallons stripped from the market due to these waivers. The bill also increases transparency in the process by making information on petitions subject to public disclosure. This bill is supported by Growth Energy, Fuels America, National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association, National Biodiesel Board, MN Corn Growers Association, and MN Biofuels Association.
Consolidated Telephone Company Groundbreaking Ceremony
On Monday my staff aide Jacki Anderson joined the Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) CEO and General Manager Kristi Westbrock along with board members and staff in Browerville for a groundbreaking ceremony kicking off their Todd County Broadband Project. The project will deploy fiber to 600 rural homes and business. CTC was awarded a $2 million dollar grant from USDA’s Community Connect Program as part of the project financing. I know the folks in Browerville and Todd County are grateful for this project, and we all look forward to it being completed.
The Rural Broadband Network Advancement Act
I introduced H.R. 2929, the Rural Broadband Network Advancement Act, with Rep. Mullin of Oklahoma to help close the digital divide and increase internet access for rural Americans. This bill would require that all users and beneficiaries of our telecommunications network support building and maintaining broadband coverage in rural areas. As a member of the Rural Broadband Task Force and a lifelong advocate for rural communities, I will keep working to find solutions that guarantee every American has access to a reliable network.
This week, students from Concordia College in Moorhead visited my office. Each year they send a group of students to visit Washington to learn more about their government. They had questions about everything from the status of the trade war to the process for passing and implementing legislation like farm bills. In addition to the meeting with my office, the toured the White House, the Treasury and the Kennedy Center.
Rural Letter Carriers
This week, Mark Glatzel and Tom Sharpe of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association stopped by to discuss issues facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). I will continue to advocate for maintaining robust service standards and working to keep the USPS from privatizing. The USPS serves as a vital lifeline for rural areas like Minnesota’s 7th district and we must ensure it continues to serve the people as it is mandated.
Health Care Pulse
From top left: Minnesota Radiological Society, American Association for Homecare, Emergency Nurses Association
A number of health care groups visited my office this week. On Wednesday, radiologists representing the Minnesota Radiological Society and the American College of Radiology stopped in to talk about surprise medical billing, student loan interest issues, and Medicare access to radiology services. I also heard from the Emergency Nurses Association as they thanked me for my support of H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. I am an original co-sponsor of this bill which ensures that steps are taken by health care employers to prevent violence and ensure the safety of workers and patients. The group dropped off a deck of cards with personal notes written by nurses in Minnesota who have directly experienced these concerning issues in the workplace.
The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine also visited my office on Wednesday to discuss new technologies and therapies such as cell and gene therapy which is having life-saving successes. For example, Gary Gilder of Fargo came to talk about the impact chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy had on his life and what doctors said was a miraculous recovery from lymphoma. The advocates mentioned how the current payment system is not able to handle new technologies that are described as highly personalized, curative, and one-shot treatments. They would like to make sure the system allows access to such treatments. On Thursday, the American Association of Homecare visited with my staff to talk about issues impacting durable medical equipment suppliers and their patients. They discussed legislation addressing competitive billing practices.
It was great to hear from different groups on healthcare issues. I will continue to work with constituent groups to address the concerns they have and support common sense measures to fix problems in the health care industry.
Minnesota Society of CPAS
Luke Selvig (Isanti), Chris Piche (Plymouth), Geno Fragnito (MNCPA Director of Government Relations, Woodbury), Linda Wedul, MNCPA President (Farmington)
This week, the Minnesota Society of CPAs stopped by my office to discuss tax reform, disaster relief provisions, and IRS services for tax practitioners during the filing season. As a CPA, I appreciate everything this team does in assisting individuals and businesses navigate the tax code. I will continue to work with them to provide sensible relief for filers, and work to get much needed guidance from the IRS on the changes in the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Employee Stock Ownership Plans
This week Stephen, Staci and Kris came to the office to discuss the state of Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) with my staff. I appreciate the work their companies do to promote equity for employees and help grow their retirement. Oxygen Service Co. was recently highlighted as the MN/Dakotas Chapter of the ESOP Association’s Company of the year, and Arvig in Perham is 40% owned by its employees.
On Tuesday, members of American Bikers for Awareness, Training, and Education (ABATE) Minnesota visited my Washington office to talk about issues important to the motorcycle community. I have been happy to support efforts that prevent motorcycle profiling and ensure our road is safe for everyone to use.
My staff was attended and participated in the Northwest Regional Listening Session hosted by Explore Minnesota. Explore Minnesota works to promote state tourism. The Explore Minnesota Office finished a statewide series of six meetings in anticipation of the development of their 2020-2021 strategic plan. These meetings were an opportunity for our tourism industry to share ideas and provide valuable insight into the issues and challenges that affect businesses, organizations, and communities statewide. In the 7th district, tourism is continuing to grow and contribute to the local economy.
VA Health Care Research
This week my Staff Meg Louwagie was given an update on the Golf War Illness by Dr. Nicole Baldwin at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Dr. Baldwin worked with Dr. Ron Bach who is doing research on blood markers that indicate inflammation that can be linked to GWI. Dr. Baldwin’s research involves a telephone survey of Veterans who served from 1990-1991 in the Gulf War and met all of the GWI criteria. Multi-symptom Illness is found at a higher rate in Veterans who have served versus those whom have not. Dr. Baldwin’s research is pointing to neuro-inflammatory and metabolic mechanisms and suggests anti-inflammatory or antioxidant treatments. This research will reach beyond the Gulf War Veterans as over 60% of post 9/11 Veterans are experiencing the same symptoms as GWI. Dr. Ron Back is still looking for 6 Veterans to participate with his GWI blood marker research. Please contact him at 612-467-4418 or Ronald.Bach@va.gov
The government will spend over $3 billion to pay off interest on the federal debt just over Memorial Day weekend. That is more than we will spend funding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Opioid Safety Initiative and veteran homelessness programs in one year.
In my work on the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs (HVAC), I find it important to recognize issues that make it more difficult to fund important veterans’ programs, especially as we honor America’s service members on Memorial Day.
As a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat, I have continually supported a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution which requires 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 recently voted against the Democratic budget which would have worsened our fiscal situation.
H.R. 1379 - Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act
Since its introduction, 80 cosponsors have signed onto this legislation to ensure health plans cover medically necessary services for people born with congenital anomalies due to diseases such as Ectodermal Dysplasias.
African Swine Fever
In this week’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee hearing, I expressed the concerns of swine producers in Minnesota about African Swine Fever. We might be years away from developing a vaccine to protect American herds, so I'm committed to making sure that USDA has the resources they need to keep our food supply safe.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
Last week we asked your thoughts on year-round E15 sales. Here is how you responded:
This Week in American History
On May 20th, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh of Little Falls begins his famous trans-Atlantic flight to Paris, which took him thirty-three and a half hours. Terminal 1 of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport is named after Lindbergh. His father served as a U.S. Congressman for Minnesota, and his mother was a teacher at Little Falls High School.
The Molitor family (left, ALEXANDRIA) and the Berglund family (right, TWIN VALLEY)