Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 6/28/2019
4-Hers from Clearwater County
This week, I welcomed 4-H students from the University of Minnesota extension program to my office in Washington. We talked about tariffs and our experiences in 4-H. I also had the pleasure to meet this year’s Congressional Art Competition Winner, Aumbra, for a reception in Washington this week celebrating young artists across the country. The Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry held a hearing on soil health. I also attended the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where they discussed learning from whistleblowers. I am happy to be back in the district and I look forward to celebrating the 4th of July.
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
During the agriculture appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2020, three amendments were offered that would have severely weakened domestic sugar programs. I understand how important the sugarbeet industry is to the 7th district, so I worked with my colleagues on the House Rules Committee to block those amendments from being voted on by the House. Similar proposals have been offered in the past and they threatened the sugarbeet industry when they were brought to the House floor. I was glad to see the House pass an agriculture appropriations bill without any anti-sugar amendments this week.
This week, I heard from small businesses near Lake of the Woods that prospective charter boat captains have been waiting a long time to receive credential approval from the National Maritime Center in Toledo, OH. They need these licenses to lead fishing expeditions, a major source of income for Lake of the Woods businesses.
I am working to flag these license applications for the U.S. Coast Guard. The center in Toledo is experiencing a six-week backlog as a result of the government shutdown earlier this year. Shutdowns have real consequences on constituents and businesses which is why I advocate to end partisan gridlock as soon as possible.
(Right) Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chair Abigail Spanberger (VA-7) and National Association of Conservation Districts Secretary-Treasurer Ian Cunningham (PIPESTONE)
On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hosted a hearing to discuss the methods and benefits of maintaining healthy soil. Federal programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) support farmers who implement farm practices that support soil health. These programs incentivize farmers to plant cover crops, create conservation crop rotations, reduce tillage, and manage erosion. Ian Cunningham from Pipestone spoke to the Subcommittee about the conservation practices he uses on his farm and the economic benefits of conservation he has seen through his work with the National Association of Conservation Districts.
(Left) Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit Subcommittee Chair David Scott (GA-13) and Ranking Member Austin Scott (GA-8)
The Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit Subcommittee heard testimony from leaders of international commodity exchange and future markets on Wednesday. The conversation focused on the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum to remove themselves from the European Union – also referred to as Brexit – and the effects their separation will have on global financial systems. The United Kingdom has long played a major role in clearing cross-border transactions between European nations and others. The Subcommittee discussed the structural and regulatory changes that must occur as the UK moves forward with Brexit.
I met with growers from the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association this week to get an update on the issues affecting the sugar industry. We discussed dietary guidelines, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and the anti-sugar amendments that were proposed for fiscal year 2020 agriculture appropriations. I told them how I advocated against those amendments and was able to block them from being voted on by the House. I also met with the Board and CEO of CHS Inc. to talk about the state of the farm economy. Difficult weather and trade disputes have made farming more difficult over the last couple years, and low commodity prices seem to be a new normal. We discussed how important it is that all Members of Congress understand the short- and long-term challenges facing agriculture. Both urban and rural representatives must do their part to ensure federal policies effectively promote our farmers.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
I attended the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation Hearing called “Learning from Whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” The Subcommittee heard about challenges faced by three whistleblowers at the VA as well as from a panel of experts who shared policy options for improving investigations of whistleblower claims and protecting them against unfair retaliation for their actions. Whistleblowers can play an important role in guarding our government against waste, fraud, and abuse by raising red flags.
Congressional Art Competition
Aumbra Manley from Fergus Falls is this year’s winner of the 2019 Congressional Art Competition. Aumbra and her mother Amber flew out to Washington, D.C. this week to view her artwork alongside the winners from other congressional districts. I met with them to talk about Aumbra’s piece and learn more about her goal to pursue an art degree when she attends MSU Moorhead in the fall.
If you are visiting Washington, D.C. and want to see Aumbra’s winning entry, get ahold of my staff to schedule a tour at http://collinpeterson.house.gov/services/tours-and-tickets
On Wednesday, I spoke with a group of 4-Hers who were in Washington D.C. for Citizenship Washington Focus, a week-long program for motivated youth. They were curious about everything from tariffs to my own experience in 4-H. I appreciate their enthusiastic attitude about solving the issues that are affecting their communities.
On Thursday, I sat down with Patrick Haggerty with This Week in AgriBusiness. We covered a range of topics including the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, and my concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It’s always a pleasure sitting down with Pat and discussing the issues affecting our nation’s farmers.
I sat down with several members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to discuss the importance of continued U.S. support for Israel, our closest ally in the tumultuous region. I have been a longtime friend of Israel, and recently cosponsored a bill (H.Res. 246) to oppose the Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) targeting Israel and another bill (H.R. 1837) to enhance defense provisions aimed to further assist the country.
Renewable Fuels Association
The EPA recently finalized a rule to allow E15 to be sold at retail stations year-round, but the agency continues to grant Small Refinery Exemptions which undermines Congressional intent of the RFS. Geoff Cooper visited with me to talk about renewable fuels and their benefits for rural communities.
National Renderers Association
My staff met with representatives of the National Renderers Association on Tuesday to discuss the infrastructure needs and regulatory concerns of the rendering industry. Renderers rely on roads and rails to move inputs and products efficiently through their systems and could benefit from upgrades that would increase capacity and weight limits. Renderers provide an essential service for many farms by recycling animal by-products into usable fat and protein products.
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives held their 2019 Washington Conference this week to give co-op leaders an opportunity to interact with federal policy makers. My staff met with board members and producers from Land O’Lakes and Edge Dairy Cooperative this week. Farmer cooperatives give individual producers a stake in much larger operations, promoting the collective well-being of all members. The co-ops called for quick resolutions to international trade disputes and passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. I agree that enacting the USMCA is the right move for our farmers and ranchers and I will continue to urge my colleagues to support it.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Minnesota advocates with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network including constituent Steve Nelson (BATTLE LAKE) visited my office this week. The group members shared their personal stories of how they came to be involved in the fight against pancreatic cancer. One of the points the group emphasized was the need for research funding and early detection as only 9 percent of those diagnosed make it past 5 years. The group thanked me for my support of creating and funding a Pancreatic Cancer Research Program at the Department of Defense.
Lewis and Clark Regional Water System
On Thursday my staff aide attended the annual meeting of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. As a long-time advocate for rural water systems, I am encouraged to see the noteworthy progress the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System has made this year, including delivering water to Worthington and Lincoln Pipestone RWS. This achievement completes its southwestern Minnesota development. Safe and reliable drinking water is critical for the success of our communities, and I look forward to another year of progress.
St. Cloud CVSO Meeting
My staff aide Meg Louwagie attended the County Veteran Service Officer and Stakeholder Meeting at the St Cloud VA Health Care System. This meeting discussed triage after hours, the VA becoming a smoke free campus, construction and removal of the wind turbine, Suicide Prevention Community Coalition Building, the new Mission Act and what those changes will mean for the CVSO and veterans. The St. Cloud VA will be conducting a VA Health Chat Trail this will include Veterans being able to download an app and receive immediate answers to their health care questions without having to travel to the clinic. This app would provide patients with easy and secure online access to chat with Clinical Call staff to address minor health questions, medication issues and more. St Cloud is a pilot location for this app before it is pushed out to all the VA Health Care Systems.
Taxpayer Advocate Congressional Seminar
This week my staff aide Meg Louwagie attended a Congressional Seminar hosted by the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Meg met with representatives from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC), IRS departs including Collections, Appeals, Counsel, and Criminal Investigations. Each agency and department gave a summary of how they work and the best way to assist our Constituents as they navigate their income tax issues.
In the month of June, the federal government will have spent over $31 billion to just the interest on our national debt. This is nearly eight times the amount that is spent to fund the U.S Census Bureau. This funding enables the Bureau to prepare for a through, accurate, and cost-effective 2020 Decennial Census.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
Below are the results to last week’s questionnaire on internet accessibility. As we know, many rural communities don’t have the option of affordable and reliable internet. These results, as much as they illustrate this growing problem, don’t fully capture Minnesota’s needs. Our neighbors without internet access couldn’t even weigh in. I will keep working to find a long-term solution to the digital divide and ensure no Minnesota household is left behind.
USDA Adds Flexibility for Cover Crop Management in Crop Year 2020
The 2018 Farm Bill called on USDA to modify the treatment of cover crops for USDA programs. The changes will add flexibility to when cover crops must be terminated while remaining eligible for crop insurance. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) developed new guidelines and policy provisions that will be available beginning with the 2020 crop year.
Farmers now know that insurance will attach at time of planting the insured crop. Cover crop management practices are covered by Good Farming Practice provisions, and the guidelines are no longer a requirement for insurance to attach. Additionally, NRCS is now recognized as an agricultural expert resource for cover crop management systems.
Be sure to consult your crop insurance agent with any questions on how cover crops could affect your coverage. You can also contact the RMA Regional Office in Saint Paul with questions regarding the termination of cover crops.
This Week in History
On June 25th, 1977, the first Grandma’s Marathon took place in Two Harbors to Duluth. Only 150 people participated. Now, 42 years later, the race is quite established. People from across the world make up the more than 18,000 runners that take part in the three-race weekend. Being physically active is a longstanding Minnesota tradition that has endured the test of time and will continue to be important for years to come.
This week, I had many constituents visit my office in Washington for a tour of the United States Capitol.