Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/27/2015


Plummer, MN

Dear friends,

During Farm Bill implementation, it is critical to discuss and monitor its programs to ensure that federal food and agricultural legislation is assisting America’s farmers and ranchers as Congress intended. The Agriculture Committee reviewed the SNAP Program for the first time this week, and I also had the opportunity to discuss the Farm Bill as it pertains to the rice, sugar, and potato industries. I was honored to receive an Outstanding Service Award from the Alfalfa and Forage Research Program, and pleased to hear about the agricultural research efforts of a Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership class during its visit to Washington. Also included in this newsletter are details of pieces of legislation that I introduced to ensure balanced and independent scientific consideration in Congress, and to support pilots and aircraft operators.

Sincerely,
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Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Minnesota Farm Bureau

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I visited with a group of Minnesota Farm Bureau leaders in my Washington office on Wednesday. As part of the largest general farm organization in America, the folks from the Minnesota Farm Bureau are knowledgeable and engaged on issues affecting the agriculture industry. We talked about the importance of crop insurance, concerns about EPA’s waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) proposal, and the prospects of a GMO labeling bill. We also discussed the ongoing problems that have resulted from the court decision that returned the management of gray wolves in Minnesota to the federal government.

image004.png@01D052A6.A63E1680Military Matters

Minnesota American Legion

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Dave Heidebrink (MN Veterans Employment Representative, HUTCHINSON), Denise Milton (BAGLEY), Peggy Moon (American Legion Commander), Lori Skallerund (Vice President, National Northwestern Division), Carl Moon (Commander, District 6 / Optometrist, St. Cloud VAMC)

I welcomed Minnesota American Legion members to Washington this week during an American Legion fly-in. We discussed veteran issues ranging from transition assistance to the development and expansion of traumatic disorder and injury treatment. Minnesota’s American Legion chapter is a strong advocate of veteran’s affairs, and I look forward to working with them on behalf of the thousands of veterans in the 7th. 

American Chiropractic Association

This week, my staff aide Natalie Winters met with Dr. Howard Fidler and a number of Minnesota students who are training to become chiropractors. They discussed the importance of access to chiropractic care for our veterans, especially in rural areas. This is an issue I have been concerned about since they first brought it to my attention, and we are working to remove barriers to care so veterans can access these types of services when they return home and our service to them begins.

Almost Lost: A Meditation on War

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Major John Donovan, Master Sergeant Eric Marts

Staff aide Jodi Dey attended Always Lost: A Mediation on War at the HACA Art and Events Gallery in Perham this week. Major John Donovan, from Camp Ripley, was one of two featured speakers and discussed the impact of deployment on military families. Master Sergeant Eric Marts, a veteran blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, shared powerful stories of his tours and injuries in combat, and the strength that he gets from sharing with other veterans who have served.

Fargo V.A. Town Hall Meeting

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Jodi also attended a VA Town Hall in Detroit Lakes hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs Dakotas VA Regional office and the Fargo VA Health Care System. The Fargo VA Regional Office services 15 counties in Minnesota and the entire state of North Dakota bringing in $16 million in compensation to veterans and their families. There were approximately 30 veterans and 10 public attendees at the town hall meeting. Fargo Health Care System Director LaVonne Liversage addressed the attendees and spoke about the new Veterans Choice Card. Many Veterans will now have the option to receive non-VA health care rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility.  The Choice Program has begun to cover non-VA care for eligible Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. Also introduced was a new “standardized form” which will go into effect on March 24, 2015 where all claims, appeals and intent to file a claim in the future can be completed. Veterans can see their county veteran’s service officer at (800) 827-1000 or go online for more information.

Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Class

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I met with the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) Class VII on Tuesday. This class represents the diversity and breadth of Minnesota’s agriculture industry, and it was a pleasure to spend time with this group and to see so many younger faces involved in the program. MARL is operated through the Southwest Minnesota State University Foundation with assistance from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. A board of directors helps to guide the program, which is funded through private donations. This leadership development program for those involved in the agriculture industry and working with rural communities is a two year commitment involving opportunities in Minnesota, Washington D.C., and an international trip. The deadline for applying to be a part of MARL Class VIII is March 14th.

USA Rice Federation

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Top: Farmers’ Rice Cooperative
Bottom: Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway and members of the USA Rice Federation

This week I met with members of the USA Rice Federation and the Farmers’ Rice Cooperative. The USA Rice Federation is a trade association that encompasses most aspects of the rice industry, from farmers and producers, to millers and merchants. While each aspect of the industry has specific needs and goals, the USA Rice Federation brings them all together to implement general policy goals that benefit the industry. Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway joined us for a frank and lively discussion regarding the farm bill’s passage, its implementation, and the Agriculture Committee’s workload for the next few years. The USA Rice Federation also honored me with the Friend of the Rice Industry award.

Potato Growers in Washington

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Chuck Gunnerson (President, Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (ADA), Jennifer Hapka Borowicz (CROOKSTON), Danielle Golden (Grand Forks), Justin Dagen (KARLSTAD)

I had the opportunity to meet with Northern Plains Potato Growers Association and speak at the National Potato Council’s annual Capitol Hill grower’s luncheon. During the meeting and the luncheon, I addressed issues of concern to U.S. potato producers including potato research, truck weight reform, and pollinator health.  

National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance

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Beth Nelson (President, National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance)

I was honored to receive the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance’s Outstanding Service Award for my work to reauthorize language for the Alfalfa and Forage Research Program. Research in this area is important to improve yields, address pests, create new uses for alfalfa and forage in bioenergy, and develop new storage and harvest systems. Beth Nelson, President, presented me with the award at the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance’s board meeting on Tuesday. We also discussed farm bill safety net programs, GMO labeling, the Endangered Species Act, and EPA’s waters of the United States (WOTUS) proposal.

Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers

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Dennis Klosterman (Minn-Dak Farmers’ Cooperative), Dave Schwerin (Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative), Kelly Brantner (Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association)

Growers from the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association came by on Wednesday to talk about the latest developments in the sugar industry and trade concerns. The sugar program continues to work as it should and provides a strong market for growers in the 7th District and around the country. It was good to meet with the three representatives and listen to the stories that they shared.

Minnesota Broadcasters Association

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Ed “Butch” De La Hunt (Owner, KK Radio Network), Shawn Skramstad (President, Red Rock Radio), Greg Borgen (Owner/General Manager, WDGY & WREY), Jim du Bois (President & CEO, MN Broadcasters Association)

On Wednesday, I met with members of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association. We discussed radio royalties, tax reforms that will affect broadcasters, and other issues that concern our local broadcasters.

Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association

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Tim Bell (Principal, Five Hawks Elementary School), Mark French (Principal, Rice Lake Elementary School/ MESPA President-Elect) Paul Anderson, (Principal, Sand Creek Elementary), Joey Page (Principal, Richfield Stem /MESPA President), Jon Millerhagen (Executive Director, MESPA), Patrick Glynn (Principal, Grainwood Elementary School)

This week a member of my staff, Richard Lee, met with the delegation from the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association. They discussed Title 1 Funding portability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, professional development for school administrators, ESEA reauthorization funding, and quality early-childhood education. Their meeting comes as Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Congress is much over due in addressing the ESEA reauthorization, but we need to do so in a manner that properly addresses our schools, districts, and most importantly, students’ needs. Our school leaders and teachers are those who recognize the needs of their students best, and I welcome and appreciate their input and insight.

Todd County Economic Development Authority

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Rick Utech (Executive Director, Todd County Development Corporation), Chad Becker (former Vice-Chair/Board Director), Jim Lunemann (Board Chair, Todd County Development Corporation)

Senior Economic Development Officer Toni Merdan from my staff attended the Todd County Economic Development Authority’s Annual Meeting in Browerville. I was one of the first U.S. Congressmen to add an economic development officer to my staff to ensure that constituents, local units of government and businesses are aware of the many resources and tools available for them to conduct economic and community development activities. Toni spoke to the group about the importance of broadband in rural areas and current legislation and programs at the federal level to address the issue. Former Todd County Development Corporation Vice-Chair and Board Director Chad Becker was also recognized for his many years of service to the organization. 

Minnesota Department of Transportation

On Wednesday, Natalie Winters met with Serge Phillips from MnDOT to discuss transportation issues in Minnesota and how the federal government can better assist our state officials in directing resources toward projects and areas in greatest need of attention. With the reauthorization of the surface transportation legislation coming up this spring, a major issue of concern is passing a long-term bill with a sustainable funding source so we don't have to keep passing these temporary patches and kicking the can down the road on funding our nation's bridges and roads.

National Autism Society

Natalie also met with the Minnesota Chapter of the National Autism Society. This year the national organization reached its 50th year milestone, and the Minnesota Chapter has been in existence for 44 of those years. Roughly 53,000 Minnesotans are estimated to be living with autism today. Many of them are students, and one issue of concern discussed in this meeting was ensuring that we increase awareness of autism for the purpose of diagnosis but also so educators, police officers, and emergency responders can be prepared to engage with autistic individuals in a comprehensive manner.

American Pulse Association

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On Thursday, my staff aides Rebekah Solem and Mike Stranz met with representatives from the American Pulse Association to talk about issues important to pulse crop growers.  Pulse crops include dry beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas, and are popular for being high in protein and fiber while being low in fat and calories.  The group noted that the United Nations has deemed 2016 to be the “International Year of Pulses.” Minnesota is a top producer of dry edible beans.  In fact, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service, Minnesota produces more dark red kidney beans than any other state. 

Modernizing U.S. – Cuba Relations

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Devry Bougher Vorwerk (Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Cargill / Chair, U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba), Jason Adkins (Executive Director, Minnesota Catholic Conference), Dave Frederickson (Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture), Regina McGoff (Executive Director, Center for Global Education – Augsburg College), Senator Klobuchar

Staff aide JoAnn Zutz attend the Summit on Modernizing U.S.-Cuba Relations, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar on Monday at the University of Minnesota in St Paul. Sen. Klobuchar noted that the Summit “highlighted the historic opportunity for our country to turn the page on our Cuba policy.” The panel discussed exploring ways to create new economic opportunities in Minnesota and across the country by engaging with Cuba.

Agriculture Committee Begins SNAP Reviews

The Agriculture Committee on Wednesday held its first hearing to review the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). I’m hopeful this will be an opportunity to get past the rhetoric on both sides of the issue and get a better understanding of the program. SNAP is part of the five-year farm bill and I urged the Committee not to make changes to SNAP because I think it’s a bad idea to open the farm bill. But I did suggest that the Committee look at why the program treats people differently in different parts of the country, something we see along the Minnesota-North Dakota border in the Seventh District, as a possible area to make some future reforms.

image018.jpg@01D052A6.A63E1680Legislative Update

EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act

I joined Science, Space, and Technology Committee Vice-Chairman Frank Lucas in introducing the bipartisan EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act this week. Designed to promote scientific integrity in the EPA’s expert panel, this legislation will ensure that balanced and independent consideration is given to federal regulations. Similar legislation passed the House in the 113th Congress with bipartisan support for its ability to protect American farmers, families and small businesses.

Pilot’s Bill of Rights

As co-chair of the Congressional Pilot Caucus, I introduced the Pilot’s Bill of Rights II this week to support the general aviation industry and protect pilots and aircraft operators. This bipartisan legislation expands and strengthens the current Pilot’s Bill of Rights by providing much-needed medical certification, safety, and humanitarian aid reforms.

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations

Leadership in the House and Senate are currently debating a path forward to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Last year, Congress passed funding bills in all areas except for the Department of Homeland Security. Now the Department’s funding is set to expire at the end of today. I think it is wrong for Congress to engage in this type of brinkmanship, especially when our national security is at stake. I strongly support a long term funding bill that gives the Department and its employees the support they need to help keep us safe.

Keystone XL Pipeline

This week the President vetoed a bill that would have approved the Keystone XL Pipeline. I am disappointed that the President did not sign the bipartisan bill, and I plan to support efforts to override this veto.

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Commodity Classic

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that landowners will now have until March 31st to update the program crop bases and yields on their farms.  Originally landowners needed to complete the paperwork for this today, February 27th.  The March 31st deadline is the same date that producers have to select between the ARC and PLC program options.  Secretary Vilsack was in Phoenix, Arizona to attend Commodity Classic, which is the annual meeting for the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Sorghum Producers.

FFA Week

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FFA chapters across the country celebrated National FFA Week this week. This tradition, beginning in 1947, is an opportunity for FFA members, alumni, and sponsors to advcate for agricultural education. A variety of events take place during FFA Week, including the “Agriculture Olympics,” which allow chapters to better connect with local, state, and national audiences.   

United States Naval Academy Summer Programs

The Office of Admissions at the United States Naval Academy invites high-school students to consider summer academic programs, including the Summer STEM Camp and the United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar. Both programs are designed to expose students to life in the Naval Academy, particularly opportunity to academic, athletic, and professional training. Questions regarding Naval Academy summer programs can be directed to the Office of Admissions via email or by telephone at (410) 293-1858.

County Courthouse Tour

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Pennington County Courthouse 1920 / Present

Shortly before Pennington voters decided to separate from Polk County in 1910, Pennington assumed much of the cost for the construction of the Red Lake Falls County courthouse. As a result, Pennington County could only afford an old, remodeled office building to serve as a courthouse for several years after its inception. An advisory committee was tasked to develop a new courthouse in 1948, sparking years of controversy over the site, style, and payment for the building. Construction bids were eventually awarded to architects from Moorhead in 1954, which led to the completion of the cast-stone and brick courthouse used today in Thief River Falls.

This Week in American History

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Henry Mower Rice / Minnesota Constitutional Convention

Territorial delegate Henry M. Rice succeeded in lobbying Congress to pass an enabling act for the state of Minnesota on February 26, 1857, permitting the voters of Minnesota Territory to approve transition into statehood. The act, among other provisions, defined the state’s boundaries and called for a constitutional convention to draft a constitution for state government. Between July 13 and August 29 of the same year, the Minnesota Constitutional Convention produced a constitution that was ratified by Governor Alexander Ramsey in December.

Visitors from the 7th

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Emily and Willie Swanson (St. Cloud), Jack and Nancy Swanson (ROSEAU)

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157 years of “Gopher State”
Nicknamed February 24, 1858