Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 1/18/2019
This week, I was appointed to serve on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. I asked to join this Committee so I can bring more resources to the challenges facing veterans in Minnesota and across the nation. In this role, I will fight to secure federal funding matches for veterans home projects in Bemidji and Montevideo, and to improve health care for veterans suffering toxic wounds of war caused by exposure to Agent Orange and burn pits. I met with national and Minnesota agriculture groups this week. During each meeting, we discussed concerns about the effect of the government shutdown. Minnesotans continue to contact my office sharing hardships that have come from the shutdown. This shutdown is hurting our economy and dividing our nation. I will continue to support legislation to immediately reopen the government as we work together to address security concerns at our nation’s borders.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Appointed to Serve on House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
In the 116th Congress, I will serve on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, a position I previously held from 1995 to 2001. Having served in the North Dakota National Guard from 1963 to 1969, I will bring my personal military experience and perspective to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. As a veteran, I look forward to returning to the committee and working with Chairman Mark Takano and Ranking Member Phil Roe. Congress needs to explore options to improve healthcare and support services for our nation’s fast-growing veteran population.
One of my top priorities is to secure federal funding matches for proposed 72-bed veterans homes in Bemidji and Montevideo. Local communities and the state legislature have already raised significant funds for both homes. The state will submit formal funding requests to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), and I will actively support each federal match application as they are considered by the agency.
Another priority is to focus the committee’s attention on toxic wounds of war such as exposure to Agent Orange and burn pits. During a visit to the Fergus Falls Veterans Home, I met a Vietnam veteran who suffers from Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS), a blood disorder and precursor to cancer. Although this veteran was exposed to Agent Orange, he continues to be denied medical coverage for this disease because the VA does not currently recognize a link between MGUS and exposure to Agent Orange. In response, I led a letter with former Ranking Member Tim Walz and 27 Members of Congress to urge the Office of Management and Budget to add MGUS, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension to the presumptive list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure.
Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Matt Lohr
Matt Lohr and Kevin Norton
On Tuesday, Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) new Chief Matt Lohr and Associate Chief for Conservation Kevin Norton visited my Washington, D.C. office. We discussed the effect of the government shutdown on agriculture and impacts for federal conservation programs. We also discussed NRCS policies for approving applications to enroll land into the Wetland Reserve Easement program. WRE easements are intended to take unproductive or environmentally sensitive land out of production to restore natural land features, improve water quality, reduce flooding, and improve wildlife habitat. I would like to see NRCS focus their efforts to ensure that productive farmland is kept out of wetland easements. Language was also included in the farm bill to ensure that NRCS or willing landowners keep enrolled wetlands functioning through maintenance and restoration efforts.
AgCountry Farm Credit Services
Howard Olsen, Vicki Hicks and AgCountry CEO Mark Knisely
I met with representatives of AgCountry Farm Credit Services on Tuesday to discuss the state of the farm economy in Western Minnesota. In recent years, high supply levels, shifting consumer desires, and trade disputes have contributed to depressed prices for farm goods. These changes have led many producers to closely examine their financial plans for the coming years. The folks from AgCountry shared what they are doing to help their clients plan for the future and manage risk during uncertain times. AgCountry is a customer-owned part of the Farm Credit System that provides loans and related financial services to producers in parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Agriculture and Immigration Reform
This week, I met with Mike McCloskey of Select Milk Producers and Fair Oaks Farms and Chalmers Carr of Titan Farms to discuss potential paths to immigration reform. We are committed to finding a bipartisan solution to reforming our broken immigration system, particularly as it pertains to agricultural workers. Congressman Filemon Vela joined us for the meeting. He is a member of the Agriculture Committee and represents a district along the southern border that has been heavily involved in discussions around immigration reform. This is an important issue that affects many aspects of American life and I am working with folks on both sides of the aisle to get something done that creates stability for migrants and the U.S. businesses that rely on their labor.
100th Anniversary of the American Farm Bureau Federation
Earlier this week, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) held its 100th anniversary convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. In honor of the occasion, I introduced a resolution in the House that recognized AFBF for its work in representing farmers and rural communities across the country. I’ve worked closely with Farm Bureau members in Minnesota and look forward to continuing that productive relationship in the years to come.
Harley Anez Appointed to Air Force Academy
Kami and Harley Anez with Willmar Senior High School Principal Paul Schmitz
One of the privileges of being a member of Congress is nominating motivated and qualified students to the Military Academies. Last week, I was honored to call Harley Anez, whom I nominated this year, to tell him he will receive an appointment to the Air Force Academy. I am confident that Harley be successful as he begins his service to our country. Congratulations to Harley and his family!
David Torgeson Announces Retirement from Minnesota Wheat Growers Association
David Torgeson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Growers Association, announced his retirement this week. Mr. Torgeson has served as the Association’s Executive Director since 1990. Thank you, Dave, for your years of leadership, and for your efforts to support Minnesota’s wheat growers.
Red River Basin Land and Water International Summit Conference
The 36th Annual Red River Basin Land and Water International Summit Conference was held this week in Grand Forks. The 3-day event covered a number of topics including flood damage reduction, water retention initiatives throughout the basin, and drainage and regulatory challenges. Members of my staff were able to attend and get updates at the event, and I appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Red River Basin Commission and all the partners who work on water issues related to weather, climate impacts and other challenges in this region.
Perham Health – Silos to Circles
(Left) Maggie Fresonke, Population Health Coordinator at Perham Health, was presented an award from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota for her work to develop the navigator program in the Perham region.
On Thursday, Perham Health hosted an update on the Silos to Circles initiative that the Perham region has been working on over the last couple of years. Silos to Circles is supporting four rural communities across Minnesota in their efforts to create better coordination among health care providers and agencies that assist seniors in their communities. In Perham they have created an in-person navigator system to connect seniors to the services that are available to help them remain independent and stay in their homes longer. This collaborative infrastructure is a great way for seniors in the Perham area to find resources and get questions answered, and I’m grateful for the work of all those involved in finding better solutions for challenges in health care.
Small Grains Update
Farmers came together to hear about new varieties of corn, wheat and soybeans from the researchers at the University of Minnesota on Thursday. This year, the conversation covered many issues affecting agriculture recently. The impact of trade disputes on markets, the 2018 farm bill and the partial federal government shut-down. Agriculture has seen better times, and discussions like this one allow producers an opportunity to share information that can help them adapt to changing conditions. There is uncertainty and risk in agriculture and I will continue to do what I can to ease those concerns in Congress.
Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission
My staff attended a housing workshop last week hosted by the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission. Over 40 participants gathered to share examples of programs and strategies to address dilapidated housing including housing studies, demolition programs and accessing federal funds that flow through Minnesota’s Small Cities Development Program. For more information you can visit www.umvrdc.org
Temple Grandin Speaks at University of Minnesota Crookston
World-renowned autism activist, best-selling author and animal welfare behavior expert Temple Grandin, Ph.D. was at the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) this week. Temple has designed nearly half of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States, she has written over twenty books, and her life was featured in an Emmy Award winning HBO movie, Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin spoke about working with and teaching children with autism to develop their talents. She is a strong believer in hands-on training and experience, internships, and early socialization, particularly for those who have autism and other developmental challenges. My staff attended this event at UMC this week.
Legislation Creating Loan Program for Workers Affected by Government Shutdown
This week, I joined Rep. T.J. Cox and 82 other members to introduce legislation that would assist federal workers who are not receiving their paychecks during the government shutdown. The legislation would create a loan program through the Department of the Treasury and would provide loans up to $6,000 with no fees and no interest. This money would then be immediately repaid to the treasury once paychecks went out. I urge leadership to act immediately to move this common-sense legislation, so we can give folks the assistance they need. Although this is good legislation, the real solution is to open up the government and I support doing just that.
Farm Service Agency (FSA) Offices Open for Limited Services January 17, 18, and 22
USDA announced on Wednesday that certain Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices would reopen temporarily on January 17, 18 and 22 to perform limited services for farmers and ranchers. These services include assisting producers with existing farm loans, processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018, continuing expiring financial statements and opening mail to identify priority items.
SCAM ALERT! – Fake Social Security Administration Calls
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has become aware of reports of fraudulent telephone calls from individuals claiming to represent SSA. In them, unknown callers are using threatening language to warn unknowing victims that they will be arrested or face other legal action if they fail to call a provided phone number or press the number indicated in the message to address the issue. In some instances, these unknown callers switch tactics and communicate that they want to help an individual with activating a suspended Social Security number. Such calls are a scam and are not coming from official SSA representatives. SSA encourage you to report any suspicious calls to Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or submitting a report on the OIG website. SSA also urges you to read and share their Social Security Matters blog, which provides more information on the nature of these fraudulent calls, as well as instructions on how to report such activity.
This Week in American History
Judge Aaron Goodrich
On January 14, 1850, the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court opened for its first term, with Judge Aaron Goodrich presiding. There were only three justices on the Territorial Supreme Court and their operations were very different from the system of today. Each of the territory’s justices oversaw trials of a district court within the territory and later convened as a group to review the decisions of those district courts.
What’s the Story?
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation was founded in 1981 to protect and advance the interests of hunters, anglers and recreational shooters in federal and state policy. I joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation in 1991 and have always looked for ways to support sportsmen through my work in Congress. For example, the 2018 Farm Bill will add 3 million acres to the Conservation Reserve Program that incentivizes farmers to take land out of production and grow native grasses instead of crops. These conservation practices can prevent runoff from entering fresh water sources, and the grass often becomes a new habitat for wildlife. I have this photo and trophy from one of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s annual Congressional Shoot-Outs in my Washington, D.C. office.