Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 2/6/2015

Marshall, MN

Dear Friends,

It has been one year since the 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law to protect farmers and ranchers from volatile market conditions. I met with the Farm Service Agency Administrator, Minnesota Barley Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and Rural Community Insurance Services to discuss how best to use these programs to ensure the success of our producers and strength of our rural economies. I also visited with the Minnesota Rural Electric Association to hear what they are doing to provide efficient and affordable electricity to Western Minnesota. Finally, leadership from the Minnesota National Guard outlined their legislative priorities in the new Congress and ways the Minnesota Congressional Delegation can most effectively support the Guard. Also included in this newsletter is information detailing legislation that will help prevent excessive regulations from burdening our producers and small businesses.  



Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Farm Service Agency

On Thursday I met with Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini and Deputy Administrator Mike Schmidt regarding the future of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP program has played a significant role in improving water quality and providing habitat for wildlife and I would like to see more producers have a chance to participate in this landmark program. The 2014 Farm Bill made important changes to CRP that will allow farmers to responsibly graze and hay on CRP acres more readily as part of the management requirements for the land. This change will help increase feed availability for livestock producers – especially during times of disaster, while giving farmers a way to create wildlife habitat on sensitive land that isn’t ideal for farming.

Minnesota Barley Growers Association

Front Row: Marv Zutz (MN Barley), Peter Friederichs (MN Barley) Back Row: Doyle Lentz (ND Barley),  Al Slater (Busch Agriculture), Greg Kessel (ND Barley), Mike Stevens (Cargill Malt)

I enjoyed sitting down with representatives of the Minnesota Barley Growers Association to talk about new farm bill programs. The barley producers discussed farmer participation in the these programs and the deadline for land owners to update their yield history and reallocate base acres, which is coming up on February 27. Producers must also decide on either the ARC or PLC program by March 31, so there is a lot of chatter going on as folks decide what makes the most sense for their operations. We also discussed research initiatives, budget issues and the upcoming appropriations process, along with rail and transportation concerns.

Rural Community Insurance Services

Mike Day (fourth from left)

On Tuesday, I met with Mike Day, head of Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) which is based in Anoka, Minn. RCIS is the nation’s largest crop and hail insurer and is the only company that provides risk management tools to farmers in all 50 states. Several representatives from reinsurance companies took part in the meeting. We discussed the challenges facing the crop insurance industry, particularly as the 2014 Farm Bill placed greater emphasis on risk management tools to help farmers weather tough times. As a public-private partnership, federal crop insurance is able to deliver effective service through private companies, and it is important to keep the program strong.

National Sorghum Producers

Leadership of the National Sorghum Producers were in Washington for meetings to discuss farm bill implementation and other issues of importance to the sorghum industry.  I met with their group as well as several members of their Young Leaders Program and heard their view of the farm economy on the southern Plains and issues they had encountered signing up for the new commodity programs.

Farmer Mac

Governor Chet Culver

I met with the former Iowa Governor Chet Culver, who is on the board of Farmer Mac. We discussed Farmer Mac’s role in helping private banks and Farm Credit System institutions manage their risks and be able to continue to meet the credit needs of agriculture and rural America.

Minnesota Rural Electric Association

On Wednesday I sat down with members of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) and discussed ways we could continue to work together to make electricity affordable and reliable for folks living in rural areas. This included making sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency treats disaster assistance applications fairly, keeping Environmental Protection Agency regulations in check, and addressing rail congestion.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

I met with representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) on Wednesday who were reaching out to Lutheran Members of Congress to introduce themselves and share their priorities for the year. Ms. Minette and Rev. Martin, along with other ELCA policy directors, advocate for policies that serve the interests of more than 700,000 Lutheran members in the state of Minnesota.

National Treasury Employees Union

Timothy Falk (St. Paul), Cecil “Butch” Fossell (KENNEDY), Duane Pulford (St. Paul), Alan Gregerson (St. Paul)

This week my staff aide Adam Durand met with members of the National Treasury Employees Union. They talked about the importance of Customs and Boarder Protection personnel who help businesses get their products to market, and other ideas about how to improve customer service for Americans during tax season. As a reminder, during tax filing season scammers may try to impersonate IRS officials. More information, including a suspicious behavior referral, is available online or at 1-800-366-4484.

Renville Alliance for the Prevention of Alcohol & Drugs

This week, my staff aides Natalie Winters and Richard Lee met with Paula Sturm and Annie Tepfer of the Renville Alliance for the Prevention of Alcohol & Drugs to discuss programs to prevent underage drinking and tobacco use. Paula and Annie, in a collaborative effort with stakeholders across the county, have partnered to educate youths and businesses alike to tackle this problem. Their hard work has certainly paid off, Renville County has seen consistently dropping underage drinking statistics. I commend them on their hard work.

Minnesota Snowmobiling

This week, staff aide Richard Lee met with Ed Klim, President of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, and Chrinstine Jourdaine, of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, Inc. to discuss the state of snowmobiling in Minnesota and recently proposed trail regulations with the Department of Forestry. From outdoor recreation to tourism, snowmobiling is a multi-billion dollar industry, generating more than $26 billion annually and creating more than 100,000 jobs. Minnesota is lucky to be the home to two large manufactures, Arctic Cat and Polaris, and has more registered snowmobiles than any other state (as of the 2013-2014 season, more than 250,000). I look forward to working to continually showcase the industry and the outdoor opportunities it offers across Minnesota.

Agriculture and Energy Center for Excellence

Ann Tempte (President, Northland Community and Technical College), Ken Olander (Director, AgCentric / faculty member, Central Lakes College), Douglas Allen (President, Ridgewater College)

A ceremony announcing the creation of the Center of Excellence in Agriculture, known as AgCentric, was held at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Tuesday. Central Lakes College in Brainard, Northland Community & Technical College in East Grand Forks, and Ridgewater College in Willmar are joining forces to develop the best possible agriculture education to meet the workforce demands of the 7th District’s top industry. Many ag-based businesses are unable to find workers with the skills to help their companies grow. Working with these industry partners to develop and identify needs and curriculum, these three colleges are using their resources collectively and cooperatively to give our rural economy the trained workers it needs to grow. I am excited about the potential that AgCentric can provide.

HSEM Transitional Briefing

Members of my staff attended briefings this week from the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) department regarding the severe weather the 7th District experienced from June 11 through July 11, 2014. FEMA has finished its share of the recovery program, and will be closing its field offices as HSEM concludes the effort.

Kandiyohi County Corn and Soybean Growers Association

Chad Willis (Kandiyohi County Corn and Soybean Growers Assn.), Butch Haug (Haug Implement Co.), Tom Meium

The Kandiyohi County Corn and Soybean Growers Association met last Saturday for a legislative update on the farm bill and other current topics. Tom Meium of my staff discussed farm bill implementation, trade potential with Cuba, resistance to EPA overreach on water issues, and rail transportation.

Military Matters

Minnesota National Guard

Major General Richard Nash, Colonial Sandy Best, Colonial Kevin Olson

On Wednesday, I had a pleasure to meet with Minnesota Adjutant General Major General Richard Nash. He briefed me on the Guard legislative priorities for the year which include growing and maintaining the Guard force structure, a state-wide plan to upgrade armories, and increase cyber security force in the National Guard. The National Guard’s unique role serving Governors and the President, combined with its ability to attract and retain individuals who have full-time employment in information technology and related fields make it an ideal solution to help address the shortage of highly skilled personnel necessary to protect critical networks and systems.

United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota

The United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota held a meeting this week to provide an overview of state and federal issues impacting veterans in Minnesota. The Council also updated attendees on the St. Cloud VA Hospital and Fort Snelling Cemetery, and answered questions pertaining to the budget and Veterans Choice program.

Army Reserve Ambassador’s Luncheon

Brigadier General Andrew Bassford

My staff aid Meg Louwagie attended a luncheon held by the Minnesota Army Reserve Ambassador’s at the Ft. Snelling Officer’s Club. Brigadier General Andrew Bassford gave a brief overview of the differences between Active Duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve members. The Minnesota Army Reserve has nearly 3,700 members serving in units located throughout the state.

Legislative Update

Waters of the U.S. Proposed Rule

Last week the EPA formally rescinded its Interpretive Rule for agriculture that was a part of the proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule. In December I fought to include a provision in the omnibus funding bill that required EPA to pull back the Interpretive Rule. Although the Interpretive Rule was supposed to make the implementation of the Clean Water Act clearer, it has unfortunately had the opposite effect, creating a significant amount of confusion for farmers and ranchers.

Bills on the Floor

This week the House voted on two measures to help cut red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy for small businesses: H.R. 50 – the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015 and H.R. 527 – Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015. I supported both bills, and continue to hear from small businesses in the district about the cost of excessive regulations and the negative impact they have on workers and businesses. The House also voted for the 56th time to make changes to the Affordable Care Act. I am disappointed that the House continues to waste time on such overly partisan bills that will never be signed into law, and think that it should focus on bipartisan measures that would improve health care or tackle other important challenges like providing long-term funding for transportation projects.

FEMA Region V

On Monday, I joined Sens. Klobuchar and Franken, and Rep. Walz in sending a letter to FEMA expressing my concerns regarding discrepancies in the distribution of disaster assistance to rural electric cooperatives. Harsh ice storms in the winter of 2013 caused thousands of homes in southwestern Minnesota to lose power for days. Minnesota electric cooperatives that needed to rebuild their systems after the devastation did not receive financial assistance from FEMA, despite electric cooperatives in South Dakota and Iowa receiving FEMA assistance caused by similar storms around the same time. These electric cooperatives provide affordable electricity to rural communities, and discrepancies in the allocation of disaster assistance needs to be addressed.

Lewis & Clark Regional Water System

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that the Lewis and Clark Project will receive an additional $6.5 million dollars for the project in fiscal year 2015 funding. The announcement for additional funding follows a letter urging the Department to fulfill its promise to support this water project. I will continue to work with the tri-state delegation to support funding for this project which is needed to provide water for communities in the 7th District.


SBA Crisis Communication

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is hosting a free disaster recovery and business continuity webinar on Tuesday, February 10 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The webinar will provide crisis communication strategies and emphasize social media as a security tool. Registration information is available online.

Finish Line Scholarship Program

The first participants in the Finish Line Program, a scholarship supported by a $200,000 grant from the Otto Bremmer Foundation, were selected from Ridgewater College’s Willmar campus. Forty-two students were chosen to receive the scholarship, which is designed to encourage student retention and completion by combatting the rising costs of education. Finish Line also offers free loans on textbooks, graphing calculators, laptops, and other educational resources to students in the MnSCU college system.

County Courthouse Tour

McLeod County Courthouse 1885 / Present

Following organization in 1856, McLeod County’s first court session was held in a log schoolhouse. The village of Glencoe eventually contributed $2,000 to the county for the construction of a formal courthouse in 1876, which would later form the core of the present structure. Numerous expansions and remodeling efforts in the 1870’s and 1880’s saw the addition of a recessed glass façade and marble interior.

This Week in American History

1887 Winter Carnival Ice Palace / 2015 Winter Carnival

Minnesota’s first Winter Carnival opened on February 1, 1886 in response to a New York reporter who described the state as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in winter.” Festivities including ice skating, bobsledding, snow sculpting, dogsled races, an extensive medallion hunt, and a torchlighting parade quickly cemented the Carnival as one of Minnesota’s favorite seasonal traditions. The Winter Carnival also features an ice palace, made entirely out of Minnesota lake water, to honor the “Royal Family” and their court. For the thousands of Minnesotans who participate in the annual “Coolest celebration on Earth” in St. Paul, Minnesota is not only habitable, but vibrant during the winter.   

Charles Lindbergh (Little Falls), 1927
Born February 4, 1902