Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 7/29/2019
USDA Roundtable on the Market Facilitation Program
Last week, Congress doubled down on a bill loaded with more red ink. I voted against the budget bill because it will increase the debt by $1.7 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Together with the tax bill, these two bills added $3.5 billion dollars to our nation’s debt. I used to work with Republicans who were fiscally conservative to force Congress to make tough decisions and live within our means. What happened to my fiscally conservative allies?
People often ask what being a member of Congress is like. While it is frustrating that leaders continue to recklessly spend at the expense of future generations, I’m honored to work on behalf of my constituents on a variety of issues. Thursday was a great example of the range of issues that come across my desk. Here is a peek at one day.
On Thursday morning, my first appointment was with another Member of Congress to discuss the crop insurance industry. Following that meeting, the Agriculture Committee held a briefing on the details of a number of issues including the trade aid and disaster assistance programs. I would have preferred to see aid in the form of higher target prices, but farmers are hurting, and I am supportive of the Administration’s effort to help. After the briefing I called the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Lighthizer about the impact the tariffs were having on a major manufacturer in my district. He committed to me that he would provide substantial assistance. This is something I’m sure I’ll be following up on going forward. After the call, I had a few minutes to review some of the bill recommendation, scheduling requests, and other updates compiled by my staff.
At this point, I was still on schedule. That didn’t last long as my next meeting was with the Acting Director for the Fish and Wildlife Service. FWS easements have been a huge issue in the district for farmers, county engineers and landowners. This meeting was especially important, so I brought in my staffer who works on these issues in the district so he could directly relay the countless calls and meetings many of my constituents have shared. We covered the outrageous behavior by some FWS officers, and by the end I think we made progress. The Acting-Director committed to visiting the district to meet with farmers to see firsthand what is happening on the ground.
I was only about 15 minutes behind schedule, when it was time to meet with the Congressional Liaison from the White House. I gave them a frank overview of what is going on in the farm economy. I also used the opportunity to again talk about the large manufacturer and the issue they were having with tariffs. I agree that China is a bad actor, but it is important that our manufacturers aren’t at a competitive disadvantage for doing business in the U.S.A. After the meeting with the White House liaison, I met with the National Farmers Union. We talked about the farm economy and different options to support it through these tough times.
Up next was a group from the rural electric association. Jared of Bemidji and Greg from Grand Rapids were in the meeting to talk about a bill important them. I had been briefed on the issue and was able to share some information from the bill’s sponsor about its outlook for passage. The meeting was short as votes were called. About an hour later, I returned to the office to sit down with the University of Crookston Chancellor Mary Holtz-Clause. We talked at length about a number of workforce issues that covered so many of the issues that I hear about from businesses in the district. We also talked about ways in which the University can provide more opportunities for students in areas where young people can get a start in agriculture and make a living.
After the meeting there were more votes, and the welcome news that legislative business was canceled on Friday which means that I can come home to Minnesota that much sooner. I look forward to seeing you around the district this August, and thank you again for the honor of letting me serve you
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
Passage of the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act
Over the past years, I have heard from countless workers throughout the district about the issues facing multiemployer pension plans. As a result, I cosponsored legislation that would create a bond program within the Treasury Department to pay for loans that will be made to multiemployer pension plans so they can resolve their finances. Last week, the House passed the Multiemployer Pensions Act. It is time we get this legislation signed into law so we can keep these plans that so many workers have paid into over the years from insolvency.
Minnesota Soybean Growers Association
I met with leaders of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association on Wednesday to discuss the timeline for enacting the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the details of the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and need for federal investments in infrastructure. Prices for many commodity crops have fallen steadily over the last few years and outbreaks of African Swine Fever in China and retaliatory tariffs on American goods have further reduced prices for U.S. soybeans. A swift end to the trade war and improvements to our transportation infrastructure would greatly increase the competitiveness of our growers overseas.
Details of Market Facilitation Program Announced
USDA publicly released the details of this round of Market Facilitation Program payments on Thursday. The information included county payment rates for eligible planted acres, as well as payment rates for dairy, hog and specialty crops. Sign-up for this round of payments begins at Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices July 29th and ends December 6th.
Minnesota Rural Electric Association
Jared Echternach, CEO Beltrami Electric (BEMIDJI) and Greg Randa, CEO of Lake Country Power (GRAND RAPIDS)
On Thursday, I met with Minnesota Rural Electric Association to discuss important issues relating to the upkeep of electrical infrastructure. It is so important that we make sure that electric utilities have the tools they need to keep energy safe and reliable in our rural areas.
Friend of the Farm Credit Award
On Wednesday, I was the recipient of the 2019 Friend of Farm Credit Award from the ArgiBank District Farm Credit Council (ADFCC). I have long supported the Farm Credit System in its mission to provide loans and financial services to America’s farmers and rural communities. I’m honored to receive this award and look forward to working with Farm Credit for years to come.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Last week I met with Margaret Everson, Principal Deputy Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), to discuss how to improve easement enforcement and conduct wetland management in a way that provides certainty for landowners. She is making plans to come to the 7th to meet many of you and to understand some of the difficulties we experience with FWS. It was a productive meeting and the first of many.
Market to Market Interview
I was interviewed by Delaney Howell of Market to Market about the state of agriculture. I was asked about China and the tariffs and I told her that I warned folks years ago that China would try to cheat us on our trade deals. It was one of the reasons I voted against them joining the WTO.
University of Minnesota Crookston
Chancellor Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause, Sarah Neimeyer, Director of Federal Relations
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Holz-Clause to talk about the exciting work the UMN Crookston is doing. Crookston is doing a great job preparing students for good paying jobs that are available in the region. The Chancellor and I talked about the importance of getting students in the pipeline early, so they have an idea about options they have in the future. This means that universities need to work with both secondary education providers and businesses to make sure that students are prepared for success. The Chancellor understands that education doesn’t just happen inside the university walls, and I am happy to help the university with the things they are working on.
House Veterans’ Affairs Hearing
Last week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a Full Committee hearing on how the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is measuring veterans’ access to care and what the agency is doing to report accurate wait times. “Wait times” are generally thought of as the amount of time it takes to get an appointment with a provider. This process was found to be tampered with in the past, and I called for the resignation of the secretary at that time because we needed accountability and new leadership in order to fix the problems in the system. It is critically important that our veterans receive timely access to care when they need it.
Minnesota Department of Transportation
On Friday, I headed to Willmar to meet with Minnesota State Representative and Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner, Margaret Anderson Kelliher as well as other DOT staff, the Minnesota Asphalt Association, area contractors, communities and constituents to learn more about the technological advancements in asphalt and other industry changes. I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more and connect on these topics.
Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association
Tim Rudnicki is pointing to the price of ethanol on the chalk board in my office
Tim Rudnicki, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, visited with my office to discuss a number of issues important to the biofuels industry and the farmers they support. He thanked me for my sponsorship of H.R. 3006, which would stop the Administration from recklessly allowing the EPA to sign off on waivers that undermine the success of the RFS. These waivers have reduced the market for biofuels by over 2 billion gallons at a time when farmers are struggling to find a profitable market for their corn and soybeans. The MN Bio-Fuels Association has done great work helping to get retailers to offer higher blends of ethanol like E15. I know that when drivers have a choice at the pump, ethanol which is cleaner and less expensive, will sell itself. If the rest of the country were more like Minnesota, our ethanol producers would be able to compete for billions of gallons in the fuel market.
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Several representatives working with the National Alliance to End Homelessness came to my office last week to share the important progress Minnesota is making to ensure everyone has a home. Minnesota is on track to become the next state with “functionally zero” veteran homelessness. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs created the nation’s first statewide registry of homeless veterans, and with coordination from partners like the FM Coalition for Homeless Persons and StreetWorks MN, we can continue this work and find homes for everyone who needs them.
Health Care Meetings
Minnesota Association of Service Dog Providers
Dan Fudge (Paws for Purple Hearts), Mickie Douglas (K-9 Caring Angels), Rebekah Solem, Matt Decker (Paws for Purpose Hearts), Sonny Madsen (K-9 Caring Angels), Frejya (service dog)
Representatives of member organizations of the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans met with my staff aide Rebekah Solem on Thursday to talk about the benefits of service dogs helping military veterans who are suffering from issues like post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other trauma. The dogs can be trained specifically for the needs of the veterans they serve. For example, a dog can be trained to recognize a specific symptom that might indicate a veteran is beginning to panic and help shorten or stop the panic attack. The group also emphasized these dogs can be utilized in ways that improve veterans’ mental health and can reduce or eliminate the need for medication in some cases.
GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer
Jennifer Smith (Annandale, MN), Michelle Gydesen (Oakdale, MN), Shelly Engfer-Triebenbach (OSAKIS, MN), Rebekah Solem, Elizabeth Schnobrich (Saint Michael, MN); Ann Kuzj (Cottage Grove, MN)
Minnesota advocates for the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer visited my Washington office last week to express the critical need for research funding. Lung cancer causes more cancer deaths than any other type, and it is estimated that 2,260 Minnesotans will die this year from lung cancer. This devastating disease has impacted more non-smoking women than non-smoking men, and the advocates emphasized the need for more research and more screenings. I am supportive of the group’s efforts and have once again signed on to the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventatives Services Act this Congress.
Independent Living Council
Anita Olson (FERTILE), Rebekah Solem, Gloria Lafraniere (BAGLEY)
Constituents with the Minnesota Statewide Independent Living Council (MNSILC) visited with my staff aide Rebekah Solem last week to talk about the value of independent living services for people with disabilities. The group talked about the personal benefits as well as cost benefits of making sure there are services available so that individuals can remain as independent as possible. They also pointed out there are “hidden” disabilities than can be overlooked, such as mental health issues, and it is important that these issues are addressed as well since they can be just as disabling as the more visible ones.
School Social Work Association of America
Last Monday, Michelle Halverson of Sibley East Public Schools, visited my office representing the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA). School social workers provide mental health services to students in the school setting and provide consultative services to families, teachers and administrators. School social workers play a significant role in addressing social and emotional barriers to learning, improving the school climate, preventing school violence and promoting school safety, and providing crisis intervention.
American Legion Boys and Girls Nation
Kindra Peterson (UNDERWOOD), Cody Hollerich, Gunnar Oldre (Luverne), Griffen Olsen (Farmington)
American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State of Minnesota sent four senators to attend Boys and Girls Nation in Washington D.C. last week. The Minnesota Senators joined others from across the nation to hold mock Senate sessions and learn from national leaders about policy making in Washington. Three of Minnesota’s Senators met with my staff aide Cody Hollerich, who is a former Minnesota Boys Stater, to talk about their experience with the Boys and Girls State programs and see the House Agriculture Committee hearing room.
Minnesota Broadcasters Association
The Minnesota Broadcasters Association visited my office on Wednesday to discuss the important role local radio and television broadcasters play in our communities. They gave an update on STELAR (the Satellite Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization) and the Local Radio Freedom Act. Local broadcasters play an important role in emergency services, economic development, and community building.
Minnesota Craft Distillers
Tina Werni and Michael Swanson (HALLOCK)
Last week, Tina Werni of 45th Parallel Distillery and Michael Swanson of Far North Spirits in Hallock stopped by the office to discuss the state of taxes on small distilleries and breweries and how to incentivize growth in their market. I was please to sign onto the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act this week to help these small businesses grow. The craft beverage industry is a driver of tourism and business in rural Minnesota, and I will keep working to help these businesses thrive.
Last week, Skylar Borchardt and Brian Casey of Thrivent Financial visited my office to discuss the important work they are doing to help their communities and members save for the future. I appreciate their investments into bettering their communities and the hard work they do to help their members secure a strong financial future.
Minnesota Extension Rural Stress Task Force
My staff met with University of Minnesota Extension’s Director of the Rural Stress Task Force Emily Wilmes along with two of her colleagues. They discussed stress in our rural communities, specifically within the agriculture community and what they are doing to help. Extension has resources that can help, spreading the word about these resources as often as we can will be helpful.
Do you know someone that needs support?
The Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline provides Free, confidential, available 24/7. This call center is located in Minnesota. Calls are answered by trained staff and volunteers. If you or someone you know is struggling with stress, anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts — call. Sometimes it's easier to talk to someone you don't know. 1-833-600-2670 x 1
For more information on the resources that can help with rural stress go to: https://extension.umn.edu/rural-stress
Inter-County Community Action Agency
Last week, my staff attended a meeting of Inter-County Community Action Agency about two programs: the Weatherization Program and the Head Start Program. This meeting was preparation for the upcoming start of school and the winter seasons.
Yellow Medicine County First Responders
Last Wednesday, first responders from Yellow Medicine County stopped an out-of-control bus that was driving on the wrong side of the road. After getting many 911 calls, the Granite Falls police, as well as a local fireman, slowed the bus down and put it into park. There weren’t any kids on the bus, and no injuries occurred. The driver, suffering a medical emergency, was rushed to the Granite Falls hospital. I am thankful for the brave people that helped de-escalate this situation and commend them on a job well done.
Stopping Bad Robocalls Act
Last week, the House passed H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. As a cosponsor of this bill, I am glad to see Congress finally do something to go after these callers. I will keep working to curb the onslaught of robocalls Minnesotans face every day.
To learn more, see my press release.
Over the next six weeks, the House of Representatives will be in recess. During this time, the federal government will spend over $45 billion to pay off interest on the federal debt. This is equivalent to the yearly amount of money needed to repair and modernize the Interstate Highway System.
As a member of the Public Works and Infrastructure Caucus, I think it is important to identify obstacles that handicap the funding of significant infrastructure programs, especially when they play such vital roles in the lives of all Americans.
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.
Last Week’s Questionnaire Results
Last week, I asked what actions you support to get our fiscal house in order? Here is what you said:
People also submitted a number of other ideas. The most common suggested item was to repeal the Trump tax cuts. Here are a few:
“Don't allow any budget or bill to be passed until the Congressional Budget Office has determined the cost. Eliminate the unfairly low or tax rates or loopholes for wealthy individuals and corporations.”
“Repeal the Trump tax cut and drastically increase tax rates for incomes over $1M and institute a wealth tax on wealth over $50M. And remember what a balanced budget amendment would have caused in 2008.”
“It works in Minnesota!”
“Stop starting wars! Especially ones that seem to never end.”
“Balanced Budget Amendment without taking even more/hurting low income people even more! No SNAP/rent assistance cuts; no SSA/SSI, Medicare/Medicaid cuts!”
“Audit the Pentagon”
“Change the water drainage law to encourage storage rather than drainage onto property of others to reduce cleanup/repair expenses to the government, taxpayers. and victims.”
Visitors from Minnesota’s 7th
Visitors from (clockwise starting top left): Alexandria, Sauk Centre, Roseau, Howard Lake, Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Crookston, Park Rapids, Frazee