Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 5/31/2019
This week with Congress in recess I was glad to spend time in Minnesota hearing from constituents and honoring our service men and women over Memorial Day. On Wednesday, I visited with Duane Donley, a World War II Veteran from Perham that celebrated his 95th birthday last week. I requested that a flag was flown over the Capitol in his honor, and I had the pleasure of presenting it to him in his home. I also held a Town Hall in Marshall, where I answered questions from approximately 250 local farmers about issues about disaster and trade programs. Tomorrow I will be hosting another Town Hall on veterans’ issues in Lancaster. I also pushed FEMA to reimburse counties for disaster damage repairs that were approved in 2018, but are still being held because of bureaucratic barriers.
Serving the 7th
Counties in the 7th district are still waiting to be reimbursed by FEMA for approved 2018 disaster declaration projects. My constituents have shared their experience with FEMA’s unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and my office is fighting to obtain the reimbursements they should have received long ago. A typical reimbursement process can take as long as 6 months, but 9-12 months in unacceptable. All necessary steps have been taken by Cottonwood, Redwood and Renville Counties, but FEMA has neglected their duty to process the reimbursements. I will continue working with these counties to make sure these issues are resolved in a timely manner.
Agriculture Town Hall in Marshall
On Thursday, I met with farmers in Marshall to discuss planting decisions, the next round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments and the farm bill. The weather has not been kind to farmers in our part of the state and many are still trying to get into the field. The recent announcement of additional MFP payments has raised questions for farmers who are considering their options under crop insurance prevented planting provisions due to weather delays. USDA has released few details of the new MFP program, and the details that have been given are changing. Until yesterday, all guidance from USDA said that new MFP payments will be based on planted acres. Yesterday, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said he is considering payments for farmers who file prevented planting claims. USDA argues that they are structuring the new MFP so that it will not impact planting decisions, but the announcement could not have come at a worse time. Farmers need certainty when making planting decisions. The weather, the trade war, and an unclear MFP program have raised many questions and put farmers into a very difficult position this spring. I said it to the farmers in Marshall, and I will say it again here. Farmers should plant what makes the best economic sense for their operation with the markets we have. Do not make any decisions based on what you have heard about government payments as news about what the Administration is planning to do is changing day by day.
Several cattlemen asked about moving up the November 1st release date for cover crops planted on prevented plant land. I have been working on this issue with USDA and they agree that the weather’s impact on forage will be significant. We will continue to evaluate options for additional haying and grazing on these lands. Farmers at the meeting asked questions about a range of other topics. We discussed the challenges of negotiating a farm bill that preserves important safety nets for farmers. I also answered questions about the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program and the updates to ARC and PLC.
Duane Donley Flag Presentation
Last week, Duane Donley of Perham celebrated his 95th birthday. Mr. Donley is an accomplished World War II veteran and community member, so I requested that a flag be flown over the Capitol in honor of his birthday and service. I had the honor of visiting Mr. Donley at his home to hand deliver his flag and plaque commemorating his service to the country and the Perham community through farming and volunteering.
On Friday, I went on Joel Heitkamp’s show to discuss USMCA and the issues of the day. It’s always a pleasure to join Joel for a lively discussion.
EPA Final Rule on E15
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule which extends a Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for 15 percent ethanol (E15), permitting sale of the renewable fuel through the summer months. The EPA’s announcement arrived just ahead of this year’s driving season. While I am still reviewing the details, it looks like EPA listened to our advice by allowing E15 to be sold year-round. Although this may be caught up in the courts, allowing year-round sales of E15 is a step in the right direction for our rural economy. I have heard concerns about how the rule treats ethanol plants that sell directly to retailers and will continue to work with EPA on this issue.
Alternative Fuels and Chemicals Coalition
My staff met with the CJ Evans and Dr. Rina Singh of AFCC to discuss the various federal definitions of renewable biomass. Woody biomass is a feedstock that can be made into renewable fuels and virtually any chemical based on the enzyme used in the process.
Serving Our Troops
This Memorial Day weekend, my staff Meg Louwagie helped serve steak dinner to families of soldiers who are deployed overseas. Families met at the Saint Paul River Centre at the same time deployed soldiers were treated to a special meal. This event brings together families via live video for dinner. The 34th Infantry Division Red Bulls are expected to return home late this summer.
Roundtable Discussion with Senator Klobuchar and Staff
My staff Grant Herfindahl attended a public roundtable discussion moderated by Senator Amy Klobuchar’s staff with state and local health officials, first responders, health care providers, and treatment professionals to discuss the efforts to address the opioid and meth crisis in Western Minnesota.
Fagen Air Museum
This week, my staff visited the Fagen Air museum at the Granite Falls airport. The museum is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of WW II aircrafts, where majority have been completely restored and in flying condition. During his visit, my staff Grant was able to see one of the planes land. On June 6th at 11 AM, there will be a program followed by afternoon vintage WWII planes flying weather permitting in the afternoon.
RiverView Health Receives Award
This week, RiverView Health in Crookston received an award for being one of the “Best Places to Work in Healthcare.” Carrie Michalski, RiverView’s President and Chief Executive Officer talked about their amazing and committed team. She attributed their success to their openness to learning new ideas, processes, and the ability to respond to their needs. This year, RiverView Health is the only Minnesota Healthcare organization to receive the honor.
In the month of May, the federal government spent $32.75 billion on national debt interest. That is equivalent to funding Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) budget for pensions, education benefits, and mental health care for veterans for 15 months.
In my work on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (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 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 recently voted against the Democratic budget which would have worsened our fiscal situation.
Hearings over new tariff plan expected to last 2 weeks
During the upcoming month, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will conduct hearings on President Trump’s most recent proposal to tariff Chinese goods. The proceedings are scheduled to begin on June 17th and are anticipated to take up to 2 weeks to allow for the testimony of a possible 500-600 witnesses.
President Trump’s plan would impose a 25% duty on the $300 billion worth of Chinese goods that remain unaffected under current tariffs.
In 2018, USTR conducted a six day hearing with over 350 witnesses testifying for President Trump’s 25% duty on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That tariff was initially set at 10%, but this past month the President increased it to the 25% in response to recent breakdown of trade negotiations with China.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
Last week, I asked an opened-ended question about what you think lawmakers and the President should work on together this year. Here are some of the responses.
And maybe the best feedback:
This Week in American History
On June 2nd, 1859, the steamboat Anson Northup began working on the Red River. To boost trade along the river and forge a relationship with Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), Minnesota businessmen offered $2,000 to the first boat to deliver cargo to Fort Garry. Mr. Anson Northup navigated his Mississippi steamer North Star up the Crow Wing River as far as possible before dissembling the boat and continuing over land. The crew of sixty men and sixty-four horses transporting the dissembled steamer lost their way near Detroit Lakes. They were found by a rescue party and led to Lafayette on the Red River. The boat, renamed for its owner, reached Fort Garry on June 5. Resold at their destination, the newly renamed Pioneer stayed in service until 1861.
Morstad group, Staebler Lustila group, and Slotts tour groups