Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 9/2/2019
Chairman Bennie Thompson and Customs and Border Protection Officers
The August work period is coming to an end after this week, and I’ll be back in Washington to focus on a variety of issues affecting western Minnesota. I recently hosted Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson for a meeting in Roseau and Lancaster with Customs and Border Protection Officers. Reduced hours at Ports of Entry on the northern border have been a burden to local communities and businesses that depend on travel across the border, so I am working on to restore the hours of service. I held office hours in my Detroit Lakes office where I met with local leaders and businesses to discuss projects and legislation that will help western Minnesota. I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day Weekend!
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Serving the 7th
Addressing Questions about Market Facilitation Program
Sugarbeet farmers in the 7th District have contacted my office with questions about why some of their non-sugarbeet acres do not qualify for Market Facilitation Program payments this year. The issues occurred mainly for growers who farm across multiple counties and may have planted sugarbeets in a different county than last year. I called the Department of Agriculture and was able to get them to correct the problem and provide relief to our growers. I encourage you to contact my office if you are having challenges with federal programs like MFP. My office may be able to communicate your issues with government agencies to find a resolution for you.
Rural Stress Network
Earlier this summer, my Willmar office met with the University of Minnesota Extension’s Rural Stress Network to learn about their work with mental health and suicide prevention in rural communities. My staff made a connection with this network and an innovative healthcare organization who is also working on these issues. Both organizations were excited to connect and explore opportunities where they might collaborate and learn from one another. A thank-you note said “…your connection was spot on.” My office works hard to connect people and organizations that can build upon the good work happening in the 7th District and across Minnesota. If you have a project or an area of interest you’d like to share with me, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Last Thursday, I brought Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Bennie Thompson, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, local business owners, and hospital officials together in Lancaster and Roseau. I am fighting to restore hours of service at our local Ports of Entry to ease cross-border travel, help staffing needs at the hospital, and support the area’s economy. However, it is clear to me that CBP leadership is wearing blinders when it comes to the needs of rural communities they are supposed to be serving.
Click here to read a recent MPR story about the negative impacts early port closures are having on the nursing staff of Roseau’s hospital, LifeCare Medical Center.
Detroit Lakes Office Hours
Randy Kempfer, InVision
Dr. Randy Kempfer
Dr. Randy Kempfer from InVision Eye Care in Fergus Falls stopped by my office to visit with me about a couple of bills that have been introduced in Congress that address ways to make contact lens prescription verification safer and simpler, and to combat abusive practices in the vision and dental coverage markets. I agreed to sign on to H.R. 3975 and H.R. 3762 because I think it makes sense to make prescription verification simple and to make sure patients are more in control of their health care decisions. I appreciate the optometrists who practice in our 7th District communities and provide the care needed to rural populations.
Dan Rea, Cold Spring
Dan Rea, Senior Vice President of Coldspring
I had the opportunity to meet with Dan Rea from Coldspring USA, a natural stone manufacturing facility and bronze foundry located in Cold Spring, MN. Coldspring has 600 employees involved in the quarry, manufacturing and business operations. Their company has been involved in memorials, monuments and buildings all over the country, and wanted to meet to discuss the natural stone industry's issues that we're working on in Congress.
Glenwood State Bank
Representatives from Glenwood State Bank and their affiliated community banks in Osakis, Lowry and Detroit Lakes, stopped by on Wednesday to talk about a number of issues impacting community banks, especially in rural areas. Community banks employ more than 760,000 people across the United States, and in one in five U.S. counties, are the only physical banking presence. We had a broad discussion on tax and banking issues and the importance of keeping banks and their ownership local.
UTU Railroad Employees
I met with a local group of railroad employees representing the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transit Union (SMART-TD) to hear about their efforts to improve safety in the railroad industry. I have previously co-sponsored and again agreed to sign on to H.R. 1748, the Safe Freight Act, and H.R. 2449, The Railroad Yardmaster Protection Act, and I appreciated the conversation about challenges with train-pedestrian and train-vehicle accidents.
New Horizon Farms
This week I met with Dave Logan and Bob Taubert from New Horizon Farms based in Pipestone. Their operation employs approximately 150 people in the area and market around 425,000 pigs each year. Dave and Bob shared their perspective on trade policies and the impact to the agriculture community in Minnesota, and I updated them on issues we've been focused on in the House Agriculture Committee as we try to assess the challenges ahead in rural America.
David Pederson (MOORHEAD) and Erin Parish (AARP staff from St. Paul)
Representatives from AARP in Minnesota stopped by my office last week to visit about their efforts across Minnesota to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs. There are more than 89,000 AARP members in my district, and more than 664,000 members in Minnesota. We talked about the spike in insulin costs for diabetics, the cost of healthcare, and the challenges in caregiving. As a senior myself, I share many of AARP's priority concerns to strengthen Social Security, protect access to physicians, and reduce the cost of prescriptions and health care in general.
American Crystal Sugar Plant
The Red River Valley Education Foundation invited congressional staff to visit sugarbeet farms and the American Crystal Sugar plant near Moorhead this week. My staff joined others from across the country to see the early stages of the sugarbeet harvest first-hand. Sugarbeet production is centralized in western Minnesota and the Dakotas, so this trip gave congressional staff from outside the region a chance to see how the process works and learn the importance of sugarbeet production is to Minnesota. Staff were able to see the defoliating and harvesting of beets, visited piling sites near Ada, and saw the process of turning sugarbeets into American Crystal sugar.
My office visited Northern Woodwork Inc. in Thief River Falls. They met with President Lincoln Olson and the Production Manager, Corey Teie. Northern Woodwork produces a complete casework and millwork packages for their commercial customers. Raw wood comes to the factory and all the rest is done in-house. The beautiful cabinets, counter tops and many other things end up in banks, schools and a host of other places.
Batcher Block Opera House in Staples
On Wednesday, my staff aide Jacki Anderson traveled to Staples for a legislative tour of the Batcher Block Opera House that the city is hoping to restore and bring back to life. Local leaders toured the building and heard some of the best acoustics in the country. A restoration of this magnitude requires substantial investment but this will provide great tourism and economic development once it is fully restored. My office will continue to look for potential resources to support their effort and I look forward to hearing more about their progress.
Last week I asked people in western Minnesota how they would best describe the economy and if their business was expected to hire more people in the next six months. Here are the results:
The Minnesota State Fair opened last weekend and will close on Labor Day. During the Fair's 12 days of festivities, the federal government will spend almost $13 billion dollars on the national debt. That is more than one and half times the annual cost of crop insurance. The debt puts an undue burden on the federal budget and makes it more difficult to support important programs, like those that are important to our agricultural community.
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.
American Farm Bureau Federation
The American Farm Bureau Federation wrote a letter in strong support of H.R. 832, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, and H.R. 3125, the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019. I am working on these bills that would give students more healthy milk at school.
This Week in History
On August 26th, 2000, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial was dedicated at the state Capitol. Titled “Garden of Time: Landscape of Change,” the memorial was planted with native grasses and features a 100-foot trellis imprinted with the names of important suffrage leaders in the state’s history.