Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/13/2015

Community Partner Donor Recognition Mural
Western Community Action

Dear Friends,

The House Agriculture Committee held two hearings this week, with USDA Secretary Vilsack and CFTC Chairman Massad appearing before the Committee. The Committee also submitted its budget views and estimates letter to the House Budget Committee. I met with members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) board to discuss the importance of state and tribal educational institutions as pathways to employment. I also introduced legislation this week to restore state control of Western Great Lakes Gray Wolf population management to the state, and offered my support for a measure that will allow for safer and more efficient transportation of fuel. Finally, I encourage 7th District high school students to participate in this year’s Congressional Art Competition.



Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

State of the Rural Economy

Opening Remarks

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday held a hearing to review the state of the rural economy. USDA Secretary Vilsack testified before the Committee on a wide range of issues and provided the Committee with an update on implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA has done a pretty good job with implementing the bill but I am concerned with some of the issues that have been raised at farm bill meetings I’ve attended in Minnesota. I’m also concerned that, even though the farm bill provided budget savings, farm bill programs are still being targeted for budget cuts. I urged the Committee to stay together in opposition to any cuts to farm bill programs or any opening of the farm bill. I also brought up CRP signup issues and urged Secretary Vilsack to make funds available for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s depredation program so farmers and ranchers can have a legal way to be protected from wolves that are targeting livestock.

Committee Reviews 2015 CFTC Agenda

The Agriculture Committee heard from CFTC Chairman Massad for the first time on Thursday. I have been impressed by the Chairman’s commitment to implementing the new financial regulations called for under Dodd-Frank and being inclusive of all points of view throughout the process. Last Congress, the House passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the CFTC that would protect farmers and ranchers who use the futures market to hedge against risk. I hope that we can build on that legislation and get something signed into law this year.

Committee Approves Budget Views & Estimates

The Agriculture Committee also sent its Budget Views and Estimates letter for FY16 to the House Budget Committee on Thursday. In the letter, the Committee urged that Budget Committee members take into account the action already taken by the Agriculture Committee to reduce the budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the 2014 Farm Bill would save $16 billion over 10 years, $23 billion when you count sequestration. We are the only Committee that has actually stepped up to the plate and, frankly, I would argue that we have done our part when it comes to deficit reduction.

Minnesota Canola Council

Jay Bjerke (Northstar Agri-Industries, HALLOCK), Rob Rynning (Producer, KENNEDY), Beth Nelson (President, MN Canola Council, St. Paul)

I sat down with leaders of the Minnesota Canola Council on Tuesday to discuss the new Farm Bill safety net programs, biodiesel, and other issues of importance to the canola industry. The Minnesota Canola Council members thanked me for my work on the farm bill, which included an authorization for canola research funding. Canola is a popular cooking oil known for its heart-healthy makeup, and it can also be used as a renewable fuel. The Minnesota Canola Council is committed to helping canola producers continue to produce this versatile oil by providing education and research tools.

American Indian Higher Education Consortium

This week I met with members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) to discuss the status of Tribal Colleges in Minnesota. These institutions provide a nurturing environment for students to work towards their higher education goals. Two tribal colleges, White Earth Tribal and Community College and Red Lake Nation College, are both in the 7th district. I look forward to working to ensure these institutions have the means to continue to provide the services and education to our American Indian communities.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Phil Krinkie, Maleah Otterson, Dawn Erlandson (MNSCU)

This week I met with members of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) board to discuss higher education in Minnesota. We discussed the need, especially in western Minnesota, for schools to work hand in hand with local businesses to target education towards the needs of employers. In doing so, we will be able to fill jobs in growing sectors of the economy that are currently underrepresented in graduating classes. I hope to be of assistance in helping develop partnerships between educational institutions and employers so we may continue to address the growing needs of our economy.  

Minnesota Deer Hunters Association

Craig Engwall (Executive Director, MN Deer Hunters Association)

On Thursday I welcomed the new Executive Director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Craig Engwall, to my office. We agreed that Minnesota should have jurisdiction to administer a state-run gray wolf population management program which has worked well for our state in the past.

Minnesota Rural Water Association

Tom Dowdle (MRWA Board Member), Dominic Jones (Manager, Red Rock Rural Water), Les Anderson (Vice Chairman, MRWA/National Director, Red Rock Rural Water), Ruth Hubbard (Executive Director, MRWA), Jay Mickelson (Red Rock Rural Water Board Member), Tracy Bergh (MRWA Board Member / North Kittson Rural Water), Allan Rutter (MRWA Board Member)

Water is the lifeblood of our economy. This is why the work of the Minnesota Rural Water Association is so important for the 7th District. This week leaders from the Minnesota Rural Water Association met with my office and talked about their work to maintain and expand rural water systems and protect drinking water supplies. I have been a strong advocate for rural water systems, and will continue to work with my friends at the Minnesota Rural Water Association to support their important work.

University of Minnesota Dairy Growth Summit

Gene Hugoson (External & Constituent Relations Liaison, University of Minnesota), John Linc Stine (Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency), Charlie Poster (Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture), Harlan Madsen (Kandiyohi County Commissioner) / Eric Kaler (President, University of Minnesota)

Dairy farmers, business leaders, bankers, educators, and elected officials gathered at the University of Minnesota for the Dairy Growth Summit on Monday. The purpose of the summit was to hear updates on the condition of Minnesota’s dairy industry and to brainstorm ideas to help it grow and prosper. The 2014 Farm Bill created the Dairy Margin Protection Program, a new, voluntary dairy safety net program that replaces outdated federal dairy programs and 73% of Minnesota dairy producers have indicated that they will participate in the new program. Dairy has long been a major part of Minnesota’s economy, and I am pleased that the industry is working cooperatively to ensure a bright future.

Fosston Farm Forum

I attended a farm forum in Fosston last weekend, where I raised my concerns with the President’s budget proposal to reduce overall crop insurance premium subsidies. I am confident that this measure and others like it will not gather support, as crop insurance is a vital economic protection tool for producers.

Legislative Update

Western Great Lakes Gray Wolves

On Wednesday I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce legislation that would return management of the Western Great Lakes Gray Wolf population back to the states. Since the gray wolves were delisted in 2011, the number of wolves in Minnesota remained well-above established recovery goals. The recent U.S. District Court decision to return gray wolves under federal management was misguided, and this legislation will allow Minnesota to provide a legal avenue to balance safety, economic, and gray wolf population management issues.

Fuel Transport Bill

This week I again co-sponsored H.R. 1026 which would make it easier for farmers, custom harvesters, and agriculture producers to transport fuel safely and efficiently. Current government regulations prevent agricultural employees from transporting more than 118 gallons a time, which can burden producers during the busiest times of year as multiple trips to the fuel station tie up time and money that would be better spent in the field. This bipartisan legislation broadens the fuel allowance and lifts an excessive regulation from the agriculture industry.

Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act

On Wednesday I voted in favor of the Keystone Pipeline Approval Act. The House took up the Keystone bill after the Senate made a few changes with six amendments. I was pleased to see that one of those amendments promotes energy efficiency in grid-enabled water heaters, an important issue for members of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association who I met with last week. I urge the President to sign this common sense piece of legislation into law.

Tax Bills advance in House

The House passed the two tax reform bills this week to make certain tax extenders permanent. I supported both of these bills. One of the measures would increase and make permanent an expensing limit of $500,000 under Section 179 of the tax code for certain qualifying property placed in service during the tax year, with the phase-out beginning when investments exceed $2 million. The expensing limitation and the phase-out would be indexed to inflation beginning in years after 2015. The other tax measure would expand and make permanent the tax treatment of contributions of food inventory by all businesses, and would increase the limit on deductible contributions to 15 percent of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income, or 15 percent of taxable income in the case of a C corporation. Contributions in excess of those limits could be carried forward for the next five years. The Senate would probably not take up the these two tax extenders individually as long it feels there is opportunity for overall tax reform.

Congressional Art Competition

In order to highlight the artistic talent in western Minnesota, I encourage Seventh District high school students to participate in this year’s Congressional Art Competition. The nationwide competition, which began in 1982 as an opportunity for Members of Congress to recognize and celebrate the creativity of their young constituents, has featured the work of more than 650,000 high school students. The winning piece, selected in early May, will be displayed for one year in the Cannon Tunnel connecting the House Office Buildings to the U.S. Capitol. Application, eligibility, and artwork specifications and requirements are available online. The deadline for all submissions is Friday, April 24, 2015.

County Courthouse Tour

Murray County Courthouse 1902 / Present

Murray County’s first courthouse, located in Currie, served citizens for seven years until an 1887 election moved the county seat to Slayton. The Minnesota Supreme Court disallowed the contested election in 1887, but reversed its decision only two years later. County records were quickly moved to Slayton, and the construction of a new courthouse began. The Romanesque revival courthouse was completed in 1892, and featured a yellow brick exterior with limestone trimmings and a segmented dome. Prior to adding the structure to the National Register of Historic Places, Murray County built a new, one-story courthouse just south of the original. The courtroom from the old building’s second floor was dismantled and reconstructed in the new building.

This Week in American History

Northern Pacific Railroad (1900)

Ground was broken for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Carlton (then known as the Northern Pacific Junction) on February 15, 1870. This transcontinental railroad, which operated across the northern tier of the western United States, connected Minnesota to the Pacific Coast. With more than 6,800 miles of track and three stations in western Minnesota, the Northern Pacific Railroad allowed for the first travel and agricultural transport from the 7th district to West Coast markets. In 1970, 100 years after the ceremonial groundbreaking, the railroad merged with other lines to form the Burlington Northern Railroad.

Visitors from the 7th


Eric, Cody, Elise, and Shana Klindt (CAMPBELL)

Cannon Tunnel
Congressional Art Competition