Rep. Peterson's Newsletter and Questionnaire 9/21/2020
Beautiful fall colors in ERSKINE
The Fall Equinox begins September 22nd
It continues to be busy as the Administration rolls out additional agriculture support payments and I work to ensure that funding I worked to pass for agriculture and rural communities in May gets across the finish line. I attended the National Farmers Union fly-in and the Minnesota Farmers Union virtual meetings and discussed the need for additional pandemic relief and resources. I also met with leaders from the Minnesota Pork Producers Association to discuss how hard their industry has been affected and what Congress needs to do moving forward.
I spoke at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ virtual Congressional Reception on my bipartisan bill, H.R. 1379, the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA). I also visited with members of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and virtually participated in the House Veteran Affairs’ Committee meeting where we considered five bills including the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020 (Veterans COMPACT Act).
The House Agriculture Committee hosted a ceremony for the unveiling of a portrait of Representative Michael Conaway of Texas, former Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. The portrait was inducted into the House of Representatives’ art collection and I was happy to join members of both parties to celebrate with Congressman Conaway. Since the House Committee on Agriculture was created on May 3, 1820, Texas has been home to five Chairman, while Minnesota has had only one.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Representative Conaway Portrait Ceremony
Portrait unveiling ceremony in the House Agriculture Committee Hearing Room
On Tuesday, a portrait of Representative Michael Conaway (R-TX), former Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, was unveiled and welcomed into the House of Representatives’ art collection. I joined fellow committee members in the House Agriculture Committee hearing room to reminisce on all the hard work Representative Conaway has done in the Committee.
During his remarks, Representative Conaway mentioned he was humbled for the experience as Chairman “of witnessing the hard work of Americans to feed, clothe and fuel the world and used it to help fight for America’s farmers, ranchers and the entire agriculture industry in the decisions that affect their lives and future generations.”
I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues to better serve the agriculture industry and the people of Minnesota’s Seventh District.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ virtual Congressional Reception
I was honored to speak on my bill, H.R. 1379, the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA), at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ virtual Congressional Reception. This morning event kicked off their virtual Advocacy Day, where the group lobbied in support of the passage of my bill in more than 50 virtual meetings that day. H.R. 1379 seeks to eliminate the problem of unfair coverage denials by ensuring that kids born with congenital anomalies or birth defects such as cleft palate or ectodermal dysplasias can get medically necessary treatments. This bipartisan bill has strong support with 310 cosponsors and passed out of the Energy & Commerce Committee on voice vote. I am continuing to fight to get this bill passed and appreciate the endorsement and support of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.an mental health care and prevent veteran suicide.
HVAC Hearing on VA's Medical Supply Chain
Veterans' Affairs Officials Testifying
On Wednesday, I attended the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations hearing, “Modernizing VA’s Medical Supply Chain: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic.” This was a hybrid hearing where some of us attended in person and some Members participated virtually. We heard from witnesses including Department of Veterans Affairs officials, the U.S. Government Accountability Office Director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, and the President of the Coalition for Government Procurement. The hearing examined the supply chain’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic thus far, as well as planned improvements and modernization efforts. Subcommittee hearing members discussed VA’s successes and challenges with things like acquiring essential supplies in a timely and cost-effective manner, effectively monitoring supply inventory levels at VA Medical Centers, and preparing for the transition to new acquisition and supply systems.
HVAC Full Committee Markup
House Veterans’ Affairs full Committee meeting
On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a Full Committee Markup to consider legislation within the Committee’s jurisdiction. The Committee voted on five bills including the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020 (Veterans COMPACT Act), which included provisions related to veteran suicide prevention, such as VA police crisis intervention training, as well as improving care and services for women veterans. Other bills included the VA FOIA Reform Act of 2020, the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2020, Veteran’s Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act, and a bill to extend certain employment and reemployment rights to members of the National Guard who perform State active duty. All of these bills received strong bipartisan support, and we reported them out of the Committee and to the House on voice vote.
Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
On Thursday, I met with chamber members from throughout the Seventh District for their virtual fly-in event. I provided an update on Congressional issues and took questions from participants. We talked about the need for more workers in manufacturing, protecting businesses and addressing the next COVID package. I’m proud to have a membership in several local Chambers across the district and always enjoy visiting with Chamber members virtually or in person.
Haying and Grazing on Prevent Plant Acres
Poor planting conditions this spring and meat processing disruptions from the pandemic have intensified concerns that there will be livestock feed shortages in Northwestern Minnesota this fall. USDA is allowing producers in North Dakota and South Dakota counties to hay and graze cover crops planted on prevented planting acres without penalty starting on September 1st instead of November 1st. Counties in Minnesota faced similar conditions to those faced in the Dakotas, so I sent a letter to USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey asking him to clarify why Minnesota counties were not given the same flexibility.
Click here to read my letter to Under Secretary Northey.
National Farmers Union Virtual Fly-In
I spoke to Farmers Union Members from across the country during their Fall Virtual Legislative Fly-In. We discussed the need for additional resources to address the pandemic’s effects on livestock producers and the biofuels industry, the importance of broadband access for rural communities, and other pressing issues in agriculture. Producers across the nation are still facing the effects of the pandemic and Congress should pass another bill that includes the essentials needed to weather the pandemic, not unrelated spending on partisan projects.
Minnesota Farmers Union
Videoconference with the Minnesota Farmers Union
I spoke with Minnesota Farmers Union members about ongoing negotiations for COVID-19 relief legislation and other issues of interest for Minnesota farmers. We discussed the need for more small meat processors and ways to give livestock producers more marketing options. We discussed concerns with inspection and labeling of foreign agriculture products and the need to ensure appropriate labeling of imported products. It is important that Americans know where and how their food is made and I will continue working to ensure imported products are properly labeled and inspected.
Minnesota Pork Producers Association
I met leaders from the Minnesota Pork Producers Association virtually last week. Hog and turkey producers were among the hardest hit by the meat processing disruptions that occurred early on in the pandemic and we discussed what Congress needs to do to address that impact and what needs to be done to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future. We discussed the importance of keeping African Swine Fever and other foreign animal diseases out of the country, and negotiations for reauthorizing Mandatory Price Reporting.
Polk County Annual Farmers Union Meeting
Elaine and Allen Torpet, Judy Moen, Polk County Farmers Union President and Bryan Klabunde, Minnesota Farmers Union Vice President
The Polk County Annual Farmers Union Meeting honored two long time members who contributed many years of building their communities and helping the youth understand the importance of rural life. Allen and Elaine Torpet from Fertile, Minnesota and Kenneth Pazdernik from Ada, Minnesota.
Elaine Torpet talked about the leadership training she received and how she used it to testify before a Congressional Committee on healthcare issues. Mrs. Torpet said, “the most important thing were the people we met and the friends we made.”
EPA Denies Dozens of Retroactive Refinery Waivers
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) denied dozens of petitions for retroactive small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard last Monday. In recent years, the EPA has granted an increasing number of SREs that reduce demand for biofuels like corn ethanol and biodiesel. I am glad the Administration came around and finally closed the door on the use of retroactive waivers. Unfortunately, significant damage has already been done to the ethanol industry and corn prices are still lagging from the billions of gallons of ethanol that have already been waived by EPA. The Administration now needs to follow through on its promise to be strong on ethanol and ensure the lost gallons are accounted for, and that blending requirements for conventional ethanol do not fall below the 15 billion gallons they are promised in the Renewable Fuel Standard law.
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Videoconference with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Minnesota advocates with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, including Danielle DeVillers (PERHAM) met virtually with my staff aide Rebekah Solem for their annual Lobby Day. The group shared personal stories about why they advocated on behalf of cancer patients and their families. They thanked me for my past support and discussed their priorities, which included funding for cancer research at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health as well as funding for cancer programs at CDC.
In last week’s questionnaire I asked, to what degree do you see the public healthcare crisis and the economic crisis being linked? Here is what you said:
Based on the new reporting from Bob Woodward, which indicated that the Administration was downplaying the severity of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the early days of the outbreak, I asked what you thought about the information you have received from the federal government about the Coronavirus. Here is what you said:
Congressional App Challenge
This is the first year my office is hosting the Congressional App Challenge. The Challenge is a nationwide event that students in Minnesota’s 7th District can participate in. Students can choose to work individually or in teams to create an “app.” Apps will be judged by a panel who will pick the winner for Minnesota’s 7th District. As a member of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) caucus, I’m proud to host this competition and excited to showcase Western Minnesota students’ work.
The deadline to apply is Monday, October 19.
Learn how students can participate in the challenge and attend educational webinars by visiting www.CongressionalAppChallenge.us.
National Small Business Week
The Small Business Association will host their annual National Small Business Week from September 22nd-24th to recognize all the contributions made by small businesses and small business owners. This year, the Small Business Association honored two residents of Northwest Minnesota. Congratulations to the 2020 Minnesota Veteran’s Business Champions of the year, Sean Richards and Joe Lyons. Richards and Lyons are engineers for the American Crystal Sugar Factory in Moorhead and are dedicated to helping Veterans achieve the American dream.
For more information or to register for National Small Business Week, go to: www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week.
Extended Deadline: IRS Dependent EIP
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the deadline for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients to enter their qualified dependent’s information to receive the $500 Economic Impact Payments (EIP).
The deadline is Wednesday, September 30 and applies to those who:
- Receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits, or SSI payments;
- Did not file a 2019 or 2018 tax return;
- Have a qualifying child under age 17; and
- Did not already enter information in the IRS’ Non-Filer Tool for themselves and at least one child.
Visit the IRS website for more information and to apply.
VA Natural Disasters Debt Relief
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced it had extended debt relief to Veterans impacted by natural disasters through the suspension of debt collection for up to 90 days or extending repayment terms on preexisting VA debts.
To request assistance for financial debt relief, contact the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648.
This Week in History
Photo courtesy of The Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs and The Minnesota Historical Society
On September 26, 1992, the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated and placed on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds to honor all those who served our country during the Vietnam war.
Views from the 7th
September 22nd is the beginning of Fall which means the crisp weather has officially arrived. Fall is one of the favorite seasons for many because of the changing colors, the decline of insects, and the pleasant temperatures. It is a good time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.