Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 12/4/2015

2015 Capitol Christmas Tree

Dear Friends,

The Agriculture Committee heard testimony from Farm Credit Administration Chairman of the Board and CEO Kenneth Spearman this week at a hearing to review the Farm Credit System and its mission to provide credit to agriculture and rural America. This week, Congress approved the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” which I was proud to support. The bill reauthorizes federal highway and transit programs for five years and includes a provision to roll back the cuts to the crop insurance program included in last month’s budget agreement. I was also honored to receive the CRP Legacy Award from Pheasants Forever in recognition of my support for the program in past farm bills. Finally, we kicked off the holiday season with the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree.


Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Farm Credit Administration

The Honorable Kenneth Spearman, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration, visited my office to talk about the future credit picture for agriculture. USDA predicts a 36 percent decrease in farm income, but Chairman Spearman feels that the capital requirements for farmers are solid for the next few years. During the Agriculture Committee’s hearing on farm credit I explained that access to credit is one of the most important tools we can provide to our farmers and ranchers. The farm bill’s commodity programs work hand in hand with the crop insurance program to provide a safety net to ensure continued access to credit. Having a crop insurance policy in place gives lenders the certainty to know farmers will make good on their commitment and pay back their loans even during difficult times.

Minnesota Bankers Association

This week I met with Steve Daggett and Joe Witt of the Minnesota Bankers Association to discuss the state of banking in Minnesota, rural lending issues, and regulatory relief. Both attended this week's Agriculture Committee hearing on the Farm Credit System, and I appreciate their perspective on how we can work together to provide adequate credit to rural Minnesotans.

Pheasants Forever

Howard Vincent (CEO, Pheasants Forever), Chelsea Flaherty (St. Paul), Curt Anderson (Meeker County)

This week I was honored to receive the CRP Legacy Award from Pheasants Forever, recognizing my support for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) spanning multiple farm bills. Our work doesn’t end when with the passage of a new farm bill, which is why I have continuously pushed USDA to implement CRP in a way that balances a number of conservation and wildlife goals. I would like to see USDA enroll more large tracks of land with the program which will create better habitat for pheasants and other animals.

Bill Adams

On Tuesday I met with Bill Adams from Fergus Falls to get an update on a number of issues. Fergus Falls is a city on the move, and I always appreciate an update on what is happening in the city. Bill and I also talked about Medicare reimbursement rates for hospitals that are too large to be considered Critical Access Hospitals yet too small to take advantage of certain economies of scale like urban hospitals. These “tweener hospitals” find themselves in a tough position, and I will continue to work to ensure that the reimbursement rate for these hospitals are both fair for the hospital and the people who rely on its services. Bill and I also discussed a conversation that he and others are trying to initiate about the need for balanced health care. The idea is to improve care by having smarter health care, not just more health care.

Minnesota Cattlemen’s Convention

Grant Breitkreutz (REDWOOD FALLS), Dar Giess (Pierz), State President Tom Nolte (Sebeka), Mike Landuyt (WALNUT GROVE)

Leaders of the Minnesota and national beef industries gathered in Hinckley this week for the annual Minnesota Cattlemen’s Convention. Among the issues discussed was the de-listing of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act which would task the state, rather than the federal government, with wolf management efforts. I have long supported state controlled management for wolves, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has provided excellent management techniques when responding to problem wolves. Other topics of interest to Minnesota cattle producers are the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule and Congressional efforts to halt its implementation, GMO labeling, and extending tax relief to farms, ranches and small business.

Hutchinson Solar Array

Hutchinson is nearing completion of Minnesota’s first landfill cap-mounted solar array. Tom Meium of my staff participated in a grand opening event this week to commission the 400 kW municipal project which will provide the community with clean energy from the solar site on the closed landfill. The Hutchinson Solar Array was partially funded by a grant from Xcel Energy and other project partners including Ameresco, Hunt Electric and tenKsolar.

Minnesota Dairy Conference and Expo

Dairy farmers from across the state gathered in St. Cloud this week for the 2015 Minnesota Dairy Conference and Expo. This annual meeting provided dairy policy updates and workshops on production performance, dairy economics and industry trends. I appreciate the valuable input provided by the Minnesota Milk Producers in developing the Margin Protection Program in the last farm bill.

United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota

My staff assistant Meg Louwagie attended the United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota meeting this week.  Reports were given on many different areas including the Minneapolis and St. Cloud VA, the Fort Snelling Cemetery, and several different Minnesota veteran assistance organizations.

Legislative Update

Renewable Fuels Standard

The EPA released Renewable Fuels Standard targets this week, and while the announcement wasn’t everything we wanted, it is an improvement on the proposed rule. The Administration deserves credit for listening to our concerns and now needs to immediately start work on the numbers for 2017 and get the program back on track. Minnesota is well positioned for the kind of national energy policy we should be pursuing in the future.  Ethanol in particular plays an important role in our local economy and America's farm community. I have been a strong supporter of increased domestic production of renewable fuels as we work to decrease our nation's dependence on foreign oil and also decrease air and water pollution. I'll continue to support the production and use of biofuels produced in Minnesota to respond to the expanding market for renewable fuels.

Farm Credit System

The Agriculture Committee heard testimony from Farm Credit Administration chair and CEO Kenneth Spearman this week during its hearing to review the Farm Credit System. The farm bill’s commodity programs work hand in hand with the crop insurance program to provide a safety net to ensure continued access to credit. Having a crop insurance policy in place gives lenders the certainty to know farmers will make good on their commitment and pay back their loans even during difficult times.

Transportation Bill Conference Report

I voted in strong support of H.R. 22, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or the “FAST Act,” to reauthorize federal highway and transit programs for five years. The bill will increase funding for transportation and infrastructure projects in Minnesota, and most importantly, will give everyone from state officials to rural townships the ability to make plans and prioritize their transportation needs. You can’t undertake a major project like replacing a bridge when Washington is changing the rules of the game every few months, and this bill is a needed step forward that will create jobs and start the process of improving our transportation infrastructure system.

In addition to the transportation provisions, the bill also included a number of provisions that I strongly support including:

·         Crop Insurance Fix – I fought and secured a commitment from House Leadership that the $3 billion in cuts to the crop insurance program included in the budget agreement would be restored. This bill fulfills that promise and will protect farmers from cuts that would have threatened the integrity of this vital safety net for rural America.

·         Export-Import Bank Reauthorization – I supported a four-year extension of the Export-Import Bank charter this week, which helps U.S. companies with foreign competitors, would have its charter renewed through Sept. 30, 2019, but with a lower lending limit and other reforms. This is a substantial win for manufacturers, big and small, in keeping us competitive in today's economy.

·         Milk Hauling Provision – This provision will allow states to create a new permit to let milk haulers move more milk with fewer trips on interstate highways. Providing more regulatory flexibility helps our dairy industry stay competitive and keeps prices affordable or consumers.


Assistance to Firefighters Grant

The application period for entry into the Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program will extend from December 7, 2015 to January 15, 2016. The AFG program provides funds to assist fire departments and medical service organizations meet emergency response needs. AFG grant guidance is available online.

2016 Safety-Net Coverage

On Thursday, USDA announced that producers receiving coverage from the 2014 farm bill Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs are eligible to sign contracts to enroll in coverage for 2016 on December 7, 2015. Enrollment can be completed at FSA county offices through August 1, 2016.

Discovering the 7th

Built in 1883, the Fairfax Depot originally served the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroads. Now a local museum, the building houses relics from homes and businesses from the Fairfax area. The Fairfax Depot also serves as the primary rest stop along the non-motorized FairRidge Recreation Trail.

This Week in American History
Monument Completion, 1884 / Present

Washington, DC workers placed a nine-inch aluminum apex atop the newly completed Washington Monument on December 6, 1884. The 555-foot monument, the tallest structure in the world at the time of completion, was built using 36,000 blocks of marble and granite. A 1910 city law restricted the height of new buildings to ensure that the monument will remain the tallest structure in the District of Columbia. For information regarding visits to the Washington Monument, please call my office at (202) 225-2165.

2015 Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony