Rep. Peterson's Newsletter and Questionnaire 6/22/2020
Tracking wolves that killed a local farmer’s livestock
I hosted a Congressional Biofuels Caucus event with seven members of Congress and leaders from the ethanol industry. The ethanol industry is facing several challenges, including a rogue EPA, closed export markets, and a weak domestic market for fuel because of the pandemic. The ethanol industry is hopeful that language I worked to include in the HEROES Act will provide some relief.
I met with Minnesota Realtors to discuss a range of topics, including the need for reliable rural broadband and their experience dealing with federal coronavirus programs. It is important that we support all areas of our economy affected by COVID-19 as Minnesota and the U.S. continues to safely reopen.
At a 160-acre pasture, I joined a farmer in tracking wolves that killed six of his calves. It can often be difficult to get compensation for cattle that have been killed by wolves. When evaluating livestock losses like these, I think we should trust farmers more and base the decision on whether to offset farmers’ losses on their word and the evidence at hand.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
House Biofuels Caucus’s Ethanol Industry Town Hall
Hosting the House Biofuels town hall on the ethanol industry
I hosted a virtual town hall meeting with members of the bipartisan House Biofuels Caucus and executives from national ethanol groups to hear from producers about the state of the ethanol industry. Leaders and producers from the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers, and Growth Energy told the Caucus how the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) reckless implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) has harmed the industry and made a disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic even more threatening for the ethanol industry. The EPA has granted an increasing number of Small Refinery Exemptions in recent years. The exemptions let oil refiners skirt their RFS blending obligations, reducing demand for ethanol and the commodities our farmers produce. Federal courts found that EPA violated the law in granting exemptions and, rather than become right with the law, the agency continues to entertain new waivers that will further undermine the RFS and the livelihood of producers in Minnesota.
Members on both sides of the aisle agree it is well past time for the Administration to honor the law and uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard. My bill, H.R. 3006, the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act would increase transparency in EPA’s consideration of refinery exemptions and allow Americans to hold the agency accountable.
I participated in a virtual meeting with representatives from the Minnesota Realtors. This non-profit organization is dedicated to helping the state’s real estate professionals thrive and grow their businesses. Some of the topics we discussed were the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, the need for reliable rural broadband and electronic notarizations.
Wolf Livestock Depredation
Examining a carcass with federal trapper, wildlife biologist, and local farmer
Beef cattle producers in many counties struggle keeping their calves safe from predators, like coyotes and wolves. At this time of year, young calves in the pasture can make especially easy prey for wolves. The federal and state wolf depredation programs compensate cattlemen for lost livestock, but only if they can prove it was killed by wolves, since they are classified as an endangered species.
I had some first-hand experience recently while tracking wolves that killed six calves in Northern Minnesota. There were only partial remains of a calf left. With a wildlife biologist and federal trapper, the farmer and I searched the 160 acre pasture to find evidence of the wolves. Even with the farmer having seen wolves chasing deer on his land, neighbors provided photos of wolves in the area, and the partial remains of one of the calves, more proof was needed. I think we should trust the farmer more and base the decision on whether to offset farmers’ losses on their word and the evidence at hand.
Large wolf footprint measuring 4 inches across
I continue to work with Minnesota manufacturers across the state who are dealing with the tariffs, retaliatory tariffs and exclusion process associated with the trade war with China. Last week, I asked you about the trade war. Here’s what you said:
Do you think the U.S. is winning the trade war with China that escalated with the exchange of tariffs and retaliatory tariffs in 2018?
Do you think the U.S. should work with our allies to confront China’s abusive trade and economic practices?
AGRI Farm to School Rapid Response Grants
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is expecting to up to $124,000 in funds through two Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) mini-grants to respond to COVID-19 disruptions to Farm to School markets.
Grants for school districts are intended to begin, diversify, and expand purchasing from Minnesota producers during the pandemic. School districts may apply for $1,000 to $5,000, and no match is required.
Grants for food vendors are intended to support equipment purchases that will help them meet product needs for schools during the pandemic. Farmers, ranchers, agricultural cooperatives, restaurants, processors, food hubs, food distributors, and food service management companies are eligible to apply for $1,000 to $5,000. There is a 1:1 match requirement.
Applications will be reviewed twice monthly through August 12, 2020 or until funds run out. Funding is prioritized to support Minnesota’s Emerging Farmers, including Black, Indigenous, Farmers of Color, beginning farmers, women, and Veterans.
To apply as a school, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/f2srapidresponseschools.
To apply as a food vendor, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/f2srapidresponsevendors.
New Social Security Benefits Portal
The Social Security Administration announced the first of several steps to improve the public’s experience on its website. The newly redesigned retirement benefits portal helps folks learn, apply, and manage retirement benefits, as well as learn how to create a personal “my Social Security” account online. More improvements are planned for later this year.
Free Parenting Resources for Veterans
Parenting can be both rewarding and challenging. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is providing resources to help Veteran and military families raising young children or babies.
The State of Minnesota has launched a new website staysafe.mn.gov for all guidance created by state agencies to help businesses, organizations, and individuals stay safe while Minnesota continues to open.
Other updates can be found at the State of Minnesota’s COVID-19 dashboard at mn.gov/covid19. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is providing additional updates and Material and Resources for COVID-19 response. To get tested, talk to a doctor, local clinic, or Find Testing Locations near you.
Additional information can be found on my website at collinpeterson.house.gov/covid-19-resources.
Stay Safe MN
The State of Minnesota’s Stay Safe MN website offers resources and tips for staying safe.
- Stay Safe MN: Individuals and Families
- Materials and Resources for COVID-19 Response
- Videos for COVID-19 Response
Many constituents have called my office to express concerns over long-term care visitation during the pandemic and the impact isolation can have on long-term care residents, who are at greater risk of COVID-19. The state government has released guidance for outdoor visitation and window visits at long-term care facilities. For additional guidance, recommendations, and resources, visit Long-term Care: COVID-19.
CDC Case Surveillance Report
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report describing the demographic characteristics, underlying health conditions, symptoms, and outcomes among over 1.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Cover smart. Do your part. Slow the spread.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has put out a video of high-speed visualization illustrating air when breathing and coughing using home-made masks.
Small Business Relief Grants
More than $60 million will be available in grants to small businesses affected by COVID-19 through the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development. The program provides $10,000 grants to small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. Businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Businesses must have a permanent physical location in Minnesota and be majority owned by a permanent resident of Minnesota.
The application period will begin on Tuesday, June 23 and close at 5:00 PM on Thursday, July 2.
Health Care Spending Flexibility
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has advised that new rules under the CARES Act provide flexibility for health care spending while more people need at-home services.
High deductible health plans (HDHP) temporarily can cover telehealth and other remote care services without a deductible or with a deductible below the minimum annual deductible otherwise required. For more information, click here.
The CARES Act also modifies rules for tax-advantaged accounts (HSAs, Archer MSAs, Health FSAs, and HRAs) so that additional items qualify as reimbursable “qualified medical expenses.” This includes the cost of menstrual care products. These rules apply to amounts paid after December 31st, 2019, and taxpayers should save receipts of their purchases so they are able to submit reimbursement claims.
Economic Impact Payments
The Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also referred to as stimulus checks or individual rebates, are a major piece of the CARES Act.
Additional information and answers to common questions can be found on the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center page, which has recently been updated.
You can also call the IRS EIP phone number at 1-800-919-9835 to find information to frequently asked questions and have the option to speak with a representative.
UPDATE: Nursing homesand other care facilities have been reminded by the IRS that Economic Impact Payments belong to their recipients, not nursing homes or care facilities. The IRS urges folks to warn your loved ones. For additional information, click here.
- Filers: Check on the status of your EIP by visiting the IRS’s Filers: Get My Payment web-portal. Accessing Get My Payment more than one time per day may lead to getting locked out of the portal with no way to get it unlocked.
- Non-Filers: For Americans that are not required to file taxes, make sure you still receive your payment by using Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here by October 15.
- Social Security & SSI Guide – View the guide for Social Security and SSI Recipients.
- Scams – The IRS urges you to beware of schemes offering you a faster path to your Economic Impact Payment and other phishing schemes. Don’t engage potential scammers online or on the phone. Learn more about EIP related scams.
EIP Prepaid Debit Card
Nearly four million people are being sent their Economic Impact Payment by prepaid debit card, instead of paper check. These cards will arrive in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. The Visa name will appear on the front of the card. The name of the issuing bank, MetaBank, appears on the back. Information included with the card will explain that the card is an EIP Card. Learn more at www.eipcard.com.
Smithsonian’s Distanced Learning Resources
The Smithsonian Institution is providing resources and opportunities for students and families wanting to continue distanced learning.
- This Week’s Learning Activities Choice Board
- A new choice board is posted here each week, along with all previous choice boards.
- Calendar of free online events with Smithsonian Experts
- Talking About Race – Tools and guidance to empower your journey and inspire conversation.
- Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.– Engage with the profiles of revolutionary men, including Muhammad Ali and W.E.B. Du Bois, who have altered American history and culture.
2020 Census Update
By now you have received several invitations to fill out your census information. If you haven’t responded yet, a Census Worker will soon be visiting you. They will have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. If you are still concerned, you can call 1-800-865-6384 to verify the person is an employee of the U.S. Census. U.S. Census data is kept confidential for 72 years with only the U.S. Census Bureau able to access the data.
The Census determines how federal funds, totaling billions of dollars, are allocated to states and local communities. It also determines how many seats each state gets in Congress, and Minnesota came close to losing a congressional seat in 2010. The aggregated data and statistics are also used lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and others to provide better provide everyday services, products, and support the community. Let’s make sure each of us are counted for Minnesota.
Vote in the Congressional Art Competition
There are 10 finalists for the 2020 Congressional Art Competition’s People’s Choice Award in Minnesota’s 7th District. Vote for your favorite to help select the winner.
2020 Congressional Art Competition People’s Choice Finalist