Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 5/3/2019

May 6, 2019
Newsletter


Dan Frericks (MELROSE)

Dear Friends,

This week, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss the difficult issue of veteran suicide. The Committee investigated the VA’s data collection methods and strategies for informing veterans of the mental health resources that are available to them, such as the Veterans Crisis Line. House Agriculture Subcommittees held hearings on the dairy industry and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Melrose dairy farmer Sadie Frericks testified before the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee on Tuesday. She shared her experience operating a family dairy farm and her family’s risk mitigation strategies.

Sincerely,


Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Serving the 7th


My office in Willmar – Kandiyohi County

Are you having a problem with a federal agency? My office may be able to help. My staff can determine whether your issue is with the federal, state, or local government. If we determine that your issue is of a federal nature, we will have you sign a Privacy Act Authorization form to allow us to contact that agency on your behalf.

My office assists Minnesotans with a range of issues. Including, but not limited to passport and immigration issues, Social Security, Medicare, military and/or veterans benefits, IRS, Federal Student Loans, federal retiree benefits, Federal Workers Compensation, US Postal Service, and FEMA assistance. My office can assist you if the agency has failed to do what it is supposed to do, has made errors without correcting them, or if they have given information that is unclear. However, congressional assistance is not a means of expediting a case or bypassing the agencies established procedures, so it is important to consider the agency’s standard processing times.

To find out more about how I can help you, please contact one of my offices and a caseworker will discuss your situation with you. My office is available to assist you in any matters that fall under my jurisdiction as your federal representative.

Chairman’s Corner

Last week, I led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to South and Central America to see firsthand the state of the nations’ agriculture industries and determine what openings the Administration’s trade policy has created for our competition. We were fortunate to see a lot of Brazilian agriculture, and one thing that stood out was the quality of the crop there. They are double cropping corn and cotton and getting fantastic yield on both. They have got better access to new traits and new technologies than our guys, and they are right on our heels. Right now, it costs the Brazilians as much as twice what it costs us to ship soybeans to China, so we’ve still got an advantage, but we’ve got to invest in our own infrastructure—things like locks and dams and ports—if we want to stay ahead.

The delegation met with President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and President Mauricio Macri of Argentina to discuss agricultural trade and the relationships between our nations. President Bolsonaro is actively looking to close the gap by seeking billions in private investment to improve the country’s infrastructure, with a focus on increasing the capacity of its agricultural supply chain. Overall, my takeaway from the trip is that as competitive as the South Americans are, they will only become stronger with time. Our missteps on trade policy are only helping them along in that effort. It is only a matter of time before investments to improve infrastructure cut into our competitive advantage, and the Chinese are happy to buy everything the South Americans can grow until we figure our trade mess out. That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence.


(Right) Sadie Frericks and her son Dan

The Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday to review the state of the dairy economy. The subcommittee heard testimony from dairy farmers from different regions and production models, as well as cooperative and academic experts. Minnesota native Sadie Frericks shared her experience with the Subcommittee. Sadie owns and operates Blue Diamond Dairy with her husband Glen and their three children near Melrose. She told the committee about her family’s decision to enter the dairy industry 14 years ago and the decisions they have made to deal with uncertainty about milk and feed prices. They chose to mitigate some of the price risk by setting a price floor through the new Dairy Revenue Protection (Dairy-RP) insurance. Sadie expects that the farm bill’s Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program will help their family mitigate risk and secure profits going forward. During the hearing, I asked if she had decided what coverage she plans to elect through DMC. She said she plans to enroll at the $9.50 coverage level for the whole five years.

The Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee heard testimony from Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Christopher Giancarlo at their hearing on Wednesday. The Chairman updated the Subcommittee on the state of the CFTC and current issues facing the agency. Chairman Giancarlo spoke about his commitment to transform the CFTC into a 21st Century regulator by adapting the agency to today’s increasingly digital markets. The Chairman explained that the rate of market changes and technological developments, including blockchain and cryptocurrencies, require the CFTC to constantly adapt its regulations. He also spoke about the CFTC’s enforcement policies under his Chairmanship and the agency’s response to swaps market reforms passed by Congress in the Dodd-Frank Act.

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing

Every day, 20 veterans commit suicide. This is unacceptable and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing this week to explore VA efforts at collecting accurate data, conducting analysis on that data, and developing effective preventative measures.  Experts who testified at the hearing stated that interventions including eased access to care, increased outreach, and education on available mental health services can go a long way in reducing that troubling statistic.

The VA administers a confidential crisis line that veterans can use if they need someone to talk to. That number is 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or they can visit www.VeteransCrisisLine.net

Subcommittee on Health

On Thursday, I attended a Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing regarding the barriers impacting women veterans’ access to healthcare. Women comprise nearly 20% of serving military personnel and 10% of the veteran population. However, 75% of women veterans do not use VA healthcare and face numerous inequities when accessing health services that they need. This hearing was meant to investigate why these shortfalls exist.

I offered to lend the Agriculture Committee room to host this hearing as various House office buildings are under partial construction.

Lake Region Healthcare


Kyle Richards (CEO, Lake Region Healthcare), Bill Adams (ERHARD)

I met with Kyle Richards and Bill Adams on Wednesday to talk about my bill, H.R. 1323, the Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act, and how it would positively impact the hospital in Fergus Falls and others that are similarly situated across the 7th district. This bill provides Sole Community Hospitals with increased funding to hire staff and expands the 340b Drug Pricing Program to help these facilities purchase medications for patients. This is a good bipartisan bill that would help even out the disadvantage some hospitals face in attracting employees due to their proximity to “Frontier State” facilities, which are able to take advantage of a provision impacting the area wage index and offer higher wages to their employees.

Minnesota Rural Electric Association


MREA members on the House Agriculture Committee balcony

I have always been a strong supporter of our rural electric cooperatives which provide affordable and reliable electricity to our rural communities. Members of MREA visited Washington this week to advocate on behalf of their cooperatives. We discussed broadband development, FEMA assistance following major natural disasters, and other issues.

Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota

I sat down with members of the ICBM this week to discuss banking in rural America. We had a long conversation about changes to the dairy program and how community intuitions can assist farmers throughout the changing markets. I appreciate all these individuals do to help farmers and rural American through difficult times and markets.

Minnesota Nurses Association

Minnesota nurses in town for the National Nurses United conference visited my office to talk about a number of issues impacting nurses. They stressed the importance of adequate staffing so that those at their most vulnerable can be properly cared for. They also expressed support for legislation that would put patient health at the forefront.

Minnesota United Snowmobile Association

This week members of MnUSA visited my office to talk about snowmobiling in Minnesota and trail access. As a longtime rider myself, I am committed to preserving access for snowmobilers across the state. We recently had some success in the Grygla/Fourtown area with connecting trails to complete a circuit. We must continue to allow our public lands to serve the sportsmen who enjoy and care for them. 

Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition


Diane MacGibbon (Roseville), Rebekah Solem, Christine Norton (President, Cottage Grove)

Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition advocates met with my staff aide Rebekah Solem this week. The group expressed their appreciation for my support of the Department of Defense (DOD) peer-reviewed Breast Cancer Research Program. They also talked about other legislation that will impact people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which has no cure. Entirely comprised of volunteers, the Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition was formed in 1991.

We Are Golf

This week, a group representing all aspects of the Golf Industry visited my office to discuss golf in Minnesota. They highlighted concerns with the tax code and issues to make the game more accessible for all individuals. Their efforts are aimed at bringing the game of golf to as many people as possible.

National Electrical Contractors Association

This week, members of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) visited my office to discuss trades, infrastructure investment, and the need for funding for apprenticeship programs. I fully support accessible trades education, and commend all the work the Electrical Contractors are doing to provide education and empower workers to strengthen our infrastructure.

National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology


Jackie Semrad (Bloomington), Paula Stommes (Lakeville), Deb Kalk (Brooklyn Park), Rebekah Solem, Nancy Perlich (MORTON), Tim Havel (Hazelwood, MO)

Minnesotans working with the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART) and the National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) visited my office to talk about Complex Rehab Technology and its related services, as well as legislation relating to these issues. Complex Rehab Technology is medical equipment specially designed for individuals with high-level disabilities or severe medical conditions. In meeting an individual’s unique needs, this equipment is designed to help people maintain their independence and boost their quality of life. The group talked about manufacturing facilities for these products in the 7th district, including Morton.

Kelsey Melgaard

Kelsey Melgaard, a Detroit Lakes native, is a student pharmacist at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Kelsey stopped by my Washington, D.C. office to chat with my health care aide to learn about federal policies that may affect her future career.

Fargo VA Quarterly Veteran Service Officer Meeting

My Military and Veterans Outreach staff Meg Louwagie attended the Quarterly Veteran Service Officer meeting at the Fargo VA Health Care System this week. The attendees were briefed on the VA Mission Act, as well as addressing specific issues in the area. Topics of discussion ranged from genetic testing for more precise care to issues of pre-authorizations as the VA transitions from Health Net to Tri West.

Civil Servant of the Year

My staff aide Jacki Anderson was a part of the Blue Ribbon Panel to select winners in five categories for the 42nd Annual Civil Servant of the Year for 2019. The Customer Service award went to McKenzie Enebo, a registered nurse with a VA care system. For Innovation the award went to Armando Gutierrez, an Aircraft Engine Craftsman with the DoD Air Force Reserves.  Larry Robertson with the Veterans Administration in the Regional Benefits received the Unsung Hero Award. The award for Leadership went to Gloria Jones, a claim specialist with the Social Security Administration. The award for Excellence beyond Expectations went to Jill Pravatiner, Supervisory Human Resource Specialist with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

VA Research Day

Every year, the Minneapolis VA Health Cares System sponsors a Research Day to highlight the incredible research done at the VA. This year, VHA Chief Research & Development Officer Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD presented Dr. Erin E. Krebs an award for her outstanding work that received the 2017 Lederle Award for her study in Chronic Pain Management. My staff aide was briefed by Dr. Ronald Bach on his continued research on Chronic Inflammation and the underlying cause of Gulf War Illness and Burn Pit Syndrome.  This research is looking at blood biomarkers and the correlation between deployment-related chronic multisymptomatic illness. Dr. Bach’s research is almost complete but he still looking for military personnel who served in the 1990-91 Gulf War that are now suffering from multisymptomatic illness to participate in this study.  If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr Bach at bachx003@umn.edu

RiverView Health in Crookston

Groundbreaking took place for RiverView Health's new hospital and clinic replacement project in Crookston this week. The $51 million project will include building an 80,000 square foot facility, and was planned by focus groups made up of community members and staff who work with the patients on a daily basis. Although many rural hospitals struggle to recruit physicians, RiverView has been able to recruit and practice here.

Northwest Private Industry Council


Kristine Anderson, Executive Director of the Northwest Private Industry Council

Kristine Anderson, Executive Director of the Northwest Private Industry Council, recently accepted a position at Digi-Key Corporation. Kristine’s knowledge of Minnesota’s Work Force Development Programs and her organizational skills have helped Private Industry Council understand difficult issues. Helping people find gainful employment can be a challenging task. Typically, the board’s work includes a variety of programs including education, training, financial resources, and counseling.

Service Academy Night

My staff held the second of three Service Academy nights in Windom this week. My staff aide Meg Louwagie and representatives from Air Force Academy, Air Force ROTC, West Point and the Naval Academy met with students and parents from the southern part of the district to explain the nomination process and answer questions about the Service Academies. 

On Monday May 6, 2019 my office be hosting the last of our Spring Service Academy nights with Congressman Emmer’s office in St Cloud MN. Details for this event are below.

Monday, May 6, 2019

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

St. Cloud Library

Mississippi Community Room

1300 W St. Germain Street

St Cloud MN 56301

So far in 2019, the federal government has paid over $132 billion servicing the national debt, an amount equivalent to the cost of Pell Grants for the next four years. In other words, we’ve spent more to make debt interest payments in four months than it takes to provide 7.2 million low-income students with financial assistance over four years.

The debt puts an undue burden on the federal budget and makes it more difficult to fund programs that make our country more prosperous.

As a fiscally conservative Blue Dog democrat, I have been an advocate for fiscal responsibility for decades. I have continually supported a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and fought for Pay-As-You-Go rules to ensure legislation doesn’t add to our debt.

*Legislative Update

This week, I introduced two bills to reduce the regulatory and tax burdens shouldered by agriculture and transportation workers.

H.R. 2460 - Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act

  • Cosponsor: Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN)
  • Current Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requirements place unrealistic burdens on our producers and ag haulers. This bill directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to examine HOS and ELD regulations to identify obstacles to the safe, humane, and market-efficient transport of livestock and other perishable agricultural commodities. It’s a good start to ensuring our farm commodities are being transported safely and our agriculture community is not stressed by unnecessary regulations.

H.R. 2381- Modern, Clean, and Safe Trucks Act

  • Cosponsor: Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
  • This legislation would repeal the federal excise tax (FET) on heavy trucks was created in 1917 to help pay for World War 1. When introduced, the FET was 3%, but has since increased to 12% and become an outdated burden. Currently, FET revenue goes into the Highway Trust Fund. While we need to invest in our infrastructure, truck sales are inconsistent year-to-year, making the FET an unreliable source of revenue. Therefore, the tax only serves as a barrier to investment in safer, cleaner fleets and to entry for small businesses.

I have 7 other bills currently pending in the House. These pieces of legislation address important issues impacting America’s agriculture and rural communities. Each policy has a bipartisan backing, and I have been working hard to drum up more support from my congressional colleagues.

H.R. 1323- Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act

  • Cosponsors: Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and 1 additional member
  • This bill provides Sole Community Hospitals with increased funding to hire staff and expands eligibility for the 340b Drug Pricing Program to help these facilities afford increasingly expensive medications for patients. Since its introduction Rep. Tom Cole has signed on, and I am working to get more support.

H.R. 1379- Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act

  • Cosponsors: Rep. David Young (R-IA) and 47 additional members
  • In the past month, 28 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.

H.R. 1488- Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act of 2019

  • Cosponsors: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and 4 additional members
  • Over the past two months, 4 Congress members have joined this bill to create a grant program that helps child care providers complete required certifications or improve child care facilities within child care deserts. This shortage has become a crisis in Minnesota and across the country, especially in rural communities, making it increasingly difficult for employers to recruit and retain workers.

H.R. 1697 / 1698- Electronic Logging Device Exemptions for Small Carriers & Agricultural Businesses

  • Cosponsors: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT)
  • I reintroduced two pieces of legislation to prevent unreasonable regulations from hurting our truckers and livestock. These bills aim to exempt businesses operating ten or fewer commercial trucks (H.R. 1697) and agricultural businesses (H.R. 1698) from the requirements of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. Since introduction, 9 more representatives have signed onto the bill for small carriers and 8 have signed onto the bill for agricultural haulers.

H.R. 2072- Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act of 2019

  • Cosponsor: Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN-08)
  • Last month, I introduced this bill to 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.

H.Res. 45- Resolution Honoring the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Anniversary

  • Cosponsors: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) and 19 additional members
  • Since introducing this bill in January, we have added 19 new cosponsors. This resolution congratulates the American Farm Bureau Federation for a long tradition of advocacy on behalf of agriculture and rural America and for holding its 100th annual convention.

Newsstand

Energy Grant Opportunities

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has compiled a list of energy-related grants provided by local, state, and federal governments. There is a large span of opportunities, from energy research and development to infrastructure improvements. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be dispersing grants to provide energy assistance to rural communities. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will award money to fund clean and electric alternatives to heavy-duty vehicles and equipment or their engines. You can find the Commerce’s full list of energy grants through the Funding Opportunities Database on their website.

MinnRoast 2019

Last weekend was the annual MinnRoast event where I joined everyone’s favorite Minnesotan politicians, journalists, singers and actors. This year the Minnesota congressional delegation put together a video about our annual Hot Dish competition. I was sure to keep my Hot Dish recipe a secret. For this year’s competition, I decided to sit back and let someone else win.

Click here to see our Hot Dish video.

Last Week’s Questionnaire Results

Last week, I asked for your thoughts about how our access to foreign markets has changed over the past year, and also whether you thought we were moving ahead or falling behind the competition on trade. Here is how you answered:

This Week in American History

On May 1st, 1933, the Great Depression and the dust bowl had hurt farmers throughout the nation, and they had responded to foreclosures by organizing the Farmers’ Holiday, which attempted to stop the sale of farm products until prices rose. Willmar’s John Bosch, who revered the nonviolent Mahatma Gandhi, led the Farmers’ Holiday Movement in Minnesota.


Sadie and Dan Frericks (MELROSE), and my district staff aide Mary Bertram and her sisters Pat, Lane and Margaret toured the U.S. Capitol Building with my office this week.