Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 6/14/2019
This week was busy with the House considering over 100 amendments to a government funding bill. I met with students from Alexandria who were in Washington as part of their Close-Up program. We discussed some of my recent work in the Agriculture Committee and my efforts to promote bipartisanship. The Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research held hearings and I met with both the National and Minnesota Department of Veterans’ Affairs to discuss projects to improve veterans’ access to nursing homes and to fight veteran homelessness. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to move the “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” to permanently authorize funds to help first responders and victims suffering from cancer and other diseases as a result from their heroic efforts on 9/11. I was proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation to make sure that first responders and victims receive the help they deserve. On June 17th, signup for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program begins.
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
Multiemployer Pensions Act
I have been hearing from countless workers across the 7th District about the issues facing multiemployer pension plans and the future insolvency. In response, I signed onto the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act this week. The legislation would establish the Pension Rehabilitation Administration and allow for the creation of bonds to fund loans to pension plans facing insolvency. This issue came to prominence with the Central States Pension plan, but many others are in trouble as well. It is time we act to fix multiemployer pension plans so that workers’ hard-earned savings are protected for retirement. I’ve had many conversations with both Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress to make sure this issue is addressed as quickly as possible.
FEEDD Act Offers Flexibility on Haying and Grazing of Prevent Plant Acres
During my recent town hall meeting in Marshall, livestock owners shared their concern that the inability to plant commodity crops due to weather will cause feed shortages later this year. Bad weather has caused many farmers to forgo the planting of commodity crops. Instead, they will plant cover crops under prevent plant. The FEEDD Act, introduced this week by Reps. Angie Craig (MN-2) and Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large), will give USDA the authority to allow producers to using prevent plant to graze, hay or cut cover crops for livestock before the traditional November 1st release date. I cosponsored this legislation to provide much needed flexibility for our livestock farmers, and I will support it should it come to a vote on the House floor.
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing to discuss the state of U.S. agricultural products in foreign markets on Tuesday. The Subcommittee welcomed Ambassador Gregg Doud of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA’s Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. The Subcommittee heard testimony from the officials and described the effect trade uncertainty is having on American agriculture. Members questioned Ambassador Doud and Under Secretary McKinney about the Administration’s plan to clear up issues related to the United States – Canada – Mexico Agreement (USMCA), ongoing negotiations with China, the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP), the next round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments, and other topics.
On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research held a hearing on the research and extension needs of producers. Witnesses included an apple, pear and cherry grower from Washington, professors from Cornell University, the University of the Virgin Islands and the University of Florida, and the Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, California. The witnesses told the Subcommittee what Congress can do to support the development of techniques and technologies to strengthen American agriculture. Agriculture research has led to significant increases in yield and plant resilience, and researchers continue to develop tools to help farmers manage risk.
Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Signup Begins June 17th
Signup for the new Dairy Margin Coverage(DMC) program begins June 17th. This program provides protection to dairy producers when the difference (or margin) between the all-milk price and the average feed cost falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized this new program and we designed the program to protect dairy operations from large fluctuations in milk or feed prices.
Throughout the month of July, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and University of Minnesota Extension will conduct workshops comparing the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) and other risk management strategies including the Risk Management Agency’s Dairy Revenue Protection and Dairy Livestock Gross Margin programs. The two-hour workshop will outline differences between DMC and the old Margin Protection Program, as well as the coverage options available between all current programs.
Information about the workshops is listed below:
I met with Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap and representatives of CNH Industrial this week to discuss the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, the state of negotiations with China and Japan, the next round of trade mitigations programs and the continued impact bad weather is having on Minnesota Farmers. I was glad to see Jason Hausauer, manager of the Case IH plant in Benson, during my meeting with CNH Industrial. On Tuesday, I met with Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam to discuss agricultural conservation and federal efforts to support waterfowl populations.
U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs
I met with the VA’s program managers of the State Home Construction Grant program. The State Home Construction Grant program is the federal funding mechanism for state bids to build new veteran high-skilled nursing homes. The VA ranks projects all over the country on an annual basis based on a set list of criteria such as bed needs in each state, safety concerns, and others. I will continue to advocate on behalf of rural Minnesota communities that want to build these types of homes for as long as it takes.
Minnesota Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Minnesota is proposing to build three new state-run veterans homes in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston. I met with Commissioner Herke to discuss options to promote these projects over the next few years to the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs. We also discussed veteran homelessness and Blue Water Navy legislation related to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. The Blue Water Navy Act has passed both the House and the Senate and is waiting for the President to sign it into law.
Minnesota Soybean Growers
I met with a group of Minnesota soybean growers to discuss problems with the current trade situation, EPA’s current actions in undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and the late planting season Minnesota is experiencing this year. Agriculture producers like these men and women are a major reason why I introduced the RFS Integrity Act (H.R. 3006), which brings much-needed transparency to the small refinery exemption process.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby visited Washington to engage with Minnesota lawmakers about policy solutions to climate change. We had a frank discussion about what policies could achieve bicameral support, many of which have a long way to go.
On Wednesday, I met with students from Alexandria who were in Washington as part of the Close Up program. We talked a little about how the Agriculture Committee works and what I have done to restore and improve bipartisan operations of the Committee. We also talked about Alexandria’s amazing school, which is giving students opportunities to gain technical skills that are in high demand. With all the work being done on this issue in Alexandria, I am glad back in Alexandria on Monday to participate the State of Manufacturing event.
This week, I met with representatives from the snowmobile industry to discuss trail access, forest service, rules, and the state of the sport’s future. As a past snow machine racer, I will continue to work with sports clubs and the industry to ensure there is adequate trail access for sportsmen and women to enjoy in Minnesota.
Minnesota Horse Council
My staff met with Minnesota Horse Council Director Tracy Turner this week to discuss their activities supporting the horse industry Minnesota. The Council owns and operates the Minnesota Horse Expo, the Minnesota High School Equestrian Association and the Minnesota Horse Council Foundation. They discussed federal policies related to the humane transportation and processing of horses, as well as strategies to manage the country’s rapidly growing wild horse population.
Health Care Pulse
Minnesotans on behalf of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
Minnesotans advocating on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sat down with my staff in Washington to share their stories of how they came to be personally involved with the group and to talk about what steps we can take to prevent suicide. The advocates talked about the importance of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) as well as the need to maintain monitoring for the hotline in each state. The number of calls made in Minnesota increased dramatically in the last several years. It is important that we make sure research is funded and that people who are struggling realize there is hope and help.
Minnesota advocates representing the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association visited with my staff aide Rebekah Solem this week during their annual advocacy conference. The group thanked me for supporting them in their legislative efforts as I recently signed on to a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging them to remove non-invasive ventilators from the competitive bidding process. The group ultimately seeks a cure for ALS, a terrible disease that impacts an individual’s control over their muscle movements and becomes fatal just two to five years after diagnosis. Research has shown that veterans are disproportionately affected by ALS. Funding for such ALS research, which I support, is crucial. I will continue to support efforts to help individuals with ALS and their families.
University of Minnesota – Morris Student Government
The University of Minnesota-Morris Student Body President, Sam Rosemark, and Vice President, Josh Westfield, visited my Washington D.C. office this week. They shared stories of Minnesota students struggling with college affordability and the important strides our colleges are making to incorporating environmental sustainability. I’m proud to see the next generation of student leaders advocating for Minnesota education.
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
This week, members of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, or NAMIC, visited my office to discuss property and casualty insurance. They highlighted issues affecting the industry, everything from the national flood insurance program and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA reauthorizations, the Federal Insurance Office and state regulation to Medicare. I was honored to be awarded their Ben Franklin Award for my work during the 115th Congress for the insurance industry. I look forward to continuing to work together in the 116th Congress.
U.S. Commercial Service
This week, Heather Ranck and her staff visited my office to discuss the resources they offer to businesses to assist them with exporting goods, a huge benefit to business across western Minnesota and the Dakotas. Her office can assist small businesses with a variety of resources as they grow. I appreciate all the work she does to support commerce in Western Minnesota and I am thankful for our on-going partnership to grow the rural economy.
Lakewood Healthcare System Trail Blazers
Last week, my staff attended the TrailBlazer Event hosted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield to recognize the Lakewood Healthcare System’s approaches and collaboration to reduce food insecurities, use food as medicine, and reduce barriers accessing and using healthy food options. These approaches are important to communities like the 7th district in ensuring that people have access to healthy food and medicines.
Red River Basin Commission Meeting
This week, my staff attended the Red River Basin Commission Meeting in Morris, Manitoba. The Red River Basin includes Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, and a small part of South Dakota. Many of the Canadian Municipalities depend on the Red River Basin for their water source, making water one of their largest issues. The Commission Tour showed participants their new water treatment facilities.
Art Competition Winners
This year marked the 38th Annual Congressional Art Competition which honors and recognizes the artistic work from high school students nationwide. While we had many pieces submitted, I am pleased to announce the winners of the Congressional Art Competition representing the 7th Congressional District of Minnesota.
Aumbra Manley of Fergus Falls is this year’s winner of the 2019 Congressional Art Competition. Aumbra will have the chance to visit Washington, D.C to view her piece, Hidden Struggles in the U.S Capitol. Coach Solem by Olivia Hanson of Olivia will have her piece displayed in my Washington, D.C office. PTSD by Heather Post of Willmar will have her piece displayed in my Detroit Lakes office. Lastly, Through the Looking Glass by Ashlyn Schmidt of Clara City will be displayed in my Willmar office.
I always look forward to seeing the art competition entries and I am proud of how talented these young artists in the district are. I appreciate all the participants for their submissions and I look forward to showcasing this artwork in the United States Capitol and my offices.
This past week, the federal government spent close to $7.6 Billion on the national debt interest. This is nearly double the total funding the Department of the Interior allocated to the National Park Service for the 2020 fiscal year.
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.
75th Anniversary of the GI Bill
This Thursday, the Department of Veterans Affairs hosted an event on Capitol Hill to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the GI Bill. The GI Bill is used by Veterans to continue their education, provide housing loans, and enhance healthcare availability. As a member of the Veteran Affairs committee I will continue to support Veterans and GI Bill benefits. To celebrate this milestone, now through June 22, you can submit your GI Bill story or listen to remarkable stories of others.
950+ Agriculture Groups Call for Action on USMCA
Over 950 food and agriculture groups urged Congress to support the ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) with a letter to Congressional leaders this week. Companies like General Mills, Land O’ Lakes and CHS recognized the importance of USMCA to long-term trade certainty. As the most senior Democrat representative in support of the USMCA, I have consistently urged other members of Congress to bring up the bill as soon as it has the votes to pass.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
Last week I asked what you think Congress should do to make prescription drugs more affordable without impeding the innovated needed to find new cures. Here is what you had to say:
Here are some of the other ideas people shared on how to keep down prescription prices down:
This Week in History
On June 10th, 1922, Frances Gumm was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. You might know her better as Judy Garland, the famous actress of The Wizard of Oz. While in Minnesota, Garland’s parents ran a movie theatre that featured a variety of vaudeville acts. She had her world debut on that very stage, singing “Jingle Bells” for a local Grand Rapids Christmas show – she was just two-and-a-half years old.