Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 3/6/2015

Lake Lida

Dear Friends,

Before beginning the district work period, Congress considered several pieces of important legislation including funding for the Department of Homeland Security and the Keystone XL Pipeline. As a strong advocate for farmer and rancher representation within the EPA, I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Ron Carlten, the agency’s new agricultural advisor. I also met with representatives from the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System and Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the progress of projects that will help the 7th increase access to clean water and prepare for future flooding events. Also included in this newsletter is information regarding targeted conservation funds to help improve soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat in the Red River Basin.  


Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Military Matters

Veterans of Foreign Wars

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with our VFW Minnesota representatives. Members of the VFW had a number of military- and veteran-related issues to discuss, but its top mission is to rid Washington of the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that are scheduled to go into effect on October 1 if Congress fails to pass a budget. The group's priority list also seeks improved interoperability between VA and Defense Department records, continued safeguarding of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and support for employment programs. The group's priorities also extend to defense and homeland security spending.

Minnesota Postal Workers Union

I met with Michael P. Kaehler (St. Cloud) and Richard Haefner (Mankato) to discuss issues pertaining to the United States Postal Service. Ranging from post office and processing center closures, to decreases in mail volume, Congress must act to enable the USPS to generate revenue and maintain a profitable business model. I will continue to fight for postal operations, and ensure the maintenance of standards for rural communities.

Metropolitan Airports Commission

Patti Gartland (Commissioner, St. Cloud Economic Development Administration), Mitch Killian

The Metropolitan Airports Commission joined me to go over their priorities for FAA Reauthorization this spring. As Congress considers this multi-year legislation, I will work to make sure smaller airports in rural areas continue to receive the support they need to keep businesses and communities connected to the greater transportation network.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Leslie Goldblatt (Minnetonka), Richard Kelber (St. Louis Park), Charlie Nauen and PJ Pofahl (St. Paul)

On Tuesday, I met with members of AIPAC to discuss the issues that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined in his address to Congress this week. A major topic of concern is preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon, and we discussed the importance of Congressional oversight on any U.S.-Iran negotiations on this topic.

School Nutrition Association

Steve Atchison (Jennie-O, FERGUS FALLS), Jane Bender (Minnetonka Public Schools), Mary Begalle (Schwan’s, Bloomington), Rynetta Renford (Columbia Heights Public Schools)

On Tuesday, I met with a group of Minnesotans who were on Capitol Hill with the School Nutrition Association to discuss school nutrition issues. We all want healthy meals for kids, and I continue to work to ensure that our school nutrition professionals have the support they need to provide the best possible meals for our students.  

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

I met with European Parliament Member Paolo De Castro on Wednesday. Mr. De Castro is a member of the Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and served as Italian Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from 1998-2000. Our meeting focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated by the United States and European Union Known as T-TIP, the Partnership could be the world's largest Free Trade Agreement measured by economic size. In the T-TIP negotiations, the U.S. and E.U. are discussing ways to make regulations less burdensome. For many years, U.S. farmers have faced barriers in European markets that prohibit sales of most biotech crops. The U.S. food industry must also comply with European rules limiting the use of the terms such as "Parmesan", which are commonly used on U.S. food labels. Mr. De Castro stressed the importance of building political support for the agreement. I pointed out that resolution of food labeling and biotech regulatory issues would go a long way toward winning an endorsement from U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Army Corps of Engineers

Colonel Daniel C. Koprowski (Commander, St. Paul District Corps), Judy DesHarnais (Deputy, Programs and Project Management)

On Wednesday I met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District Commander Colonel Dan Koprowski and Deputy for Programs and Project Management Judy DesHarnais for an update about Corps projects and studies that are happening in the 7th Congressional District. I was especially pleased to hear that Roseau's flood control project is on track for completion this summer and the community will have strong protection from future flooding events.

Lewis & Clark Regional Water System

Scott Wynja (IA), Red Arndt (Chairman, City of Luvern), Roy Lindsay (Mayor, MADISON), Troy Larson (Executive Director)

This week I met with the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System board of directors. At the meeting, they thanked me for my ongoing support for the project and we talked about the next stage in development for the regional water system. Water is the lifeblood for rural communities, and I will continue to advocate for the rural communities to have access to the water supply they need to grow.

Barnes-Aastad Association

The Barnes-Aastad Association, a non-profit organization of farm managers and agri-businesses supporting the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, visited my office on Wednesday. Sue Dieter, Dan Perkins, and Dean Meichsner updated me about their efforts to maintain federal funding for the Agricultural Research Service work at their lab in Morris.

Grocery Manufacturers Association

Chris Policinski (President and CEO, Land O'Lakes), Billy Cyr (President and CEO, Sunny Delight Beverages), Ken Powell (Chair and CEO, General Mills), Tony Vernon (Senior Advisor, Kraft Foods)

I recently met with members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association about their concerns over mandatory labeling of GMO traits in food products.

American Crystal Sugar

Steve Williams (FISHER), Robert Green (ND)

On Wednesday, Steve Williams, a director of the American Crystal Sugar Company, and Robert Green came by the office. We discussed legislative issues facing sugar beet growers and potential trade concerns.

EPA Agriculture Advisor

When I meet with farmers and ranchers, I often hear their concerns about being regulated out of business by the EPA. That is why I was glad to sit down with Ron Carleton, the new Counselor to the Administrator at the EPA. Ron’s job is to be an advocate for farmers and ranchers within the EPA, and to be a point person for agriculture producers at the EPA. I have been a strong advocate for giving farmers and ranchers a greater voice at the EPA, and I look forward to working with Ron to make sure that the needs of rural communities are understood.

United Farm Credit Services

Greg Jans (FCS Board, GROVE CITY), Marc Knisely (CEO, FCS), Ed Hegland (FCS Board, APPLETON), Brad Sutherland (FCS Board Chairman, MAYNARD)

I met with staff and board members of United Farm Credit Services on Friday in Willmar to hear their views on the area's current farm economy. Prices for many commodities are down in comparison to the past few years. It is very important moving forward that farmers think carefully about the new choices presented by the 2014 Farm Act.

Talking Transportation in Willmar

Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Zelle, Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen

Today I joined Governor Dayton, Transportation Commissioner Zelle, and Kandiyohi County Commissioner Madsen in Willmar to discuss the significance of transportation funds. Willmar is one of many locations across the 7th that would benefit from these funds, from highway expansion to safer rail crossings. I was glad that I could join the Governor at this event, and I will continue to support and advocate for long-term transportation funding.

Computing Research Association

My Agriculture Committee staff met with Dr. Shashi Shekhar with the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Shekhar was presenting on behalf of the Computing Research Association at an event on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Congressional Soils Caucus. Dr. Shekhar walked through the importance of basic research and its role in the development of GIS, GPS and remote sensing technologies.

ONE Campaign

Benjamin Davis (SARTELL), Rachel Munson (BEMIDJI)

On Monday, my staff aide Natalie Winters met with the ONE Campaign to address their priorities for the 114th Congress. While ONE is known for working to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa, the organization also works to increase access to basic services like electricity on the continent. I voted for the Electrify Africa Act in the last Congress because it brings the private and public sectors together to address this important issue, and I look forward to this legislation being reintroduced.

Rice Memorial Hospotal

On Tuesday, Natalie Winters met with Rice Memorial Hospital to discuss issues impacting cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation. The problem they came to address is the need for a technical correction that would increase access to care in areas where certain medical professionals may not otherwise be available. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to address the issue, and I look forward to working with my colleague Rep. Paulsen from Minnesota who is preparing to introduce legislation in the House. Access to care is an important issue facing rural areas like the 7th, and I have always worked to ensure that folks can have quality, affordable health care no matter where they live.

University of Minnesota Extension

Rebekah Solem, Pat Duncanson, Greg Cuomo

My staff aide Rebekah Solem met with Pat Duncanson and Greg Cuomo who were in Washington representing the University of Minnesota at the 2015 Council for Agriculture Research Extension and Teaching (CARET) meetings.  CARET is a grassroots organization that seeks to promote understanding of the land-grant university system’s food and agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs.  Mr. Cuomo is the division head of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota, and Mr. Duncanson, a row crop and livestock farmer, is serving as a delegate from the University of Minnesota to CARET.

Agriculture and Technical Educators

Tim Amlie (Minnetonka/BENSON), Richard Lee, Zach Rada (Ridgewater College, WILLMAR, Sarah Dornink (Executive Director, Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council)

This week staff aide Richard Lee met with Tim Amlie of Minnetonka/Benson, Zach Rada of Ridgewater College in Willmar, and Sarah Dornink, Executive Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC), to discuss Community and Technical Education, Perkins funding, and the state of Minnesota’s Farm Business Management Programs, which have an enormous impact on Minnesota Agriculture. These programs provide valuable educational opportunities in the 7th district and across rural America, and I hope they can continue into the future.

Big Elbow Lake Community Center

LaVon Larson (Manager, Elderly Nutrition Program), Pat Butler (Director, White Earth Health), Steven "Punky" Clark (District I Rep.), Kenneth "Gus" Bevins (District III Rep.), Susan Keezer (Site Manager), Andrew Gag (Area Specialist, USDA Rural Development)

This week staff aide Jodi Dey attended the open house/grand opening of the Big Elbow Lake Community Center 20 miles east of Waubun. The Big Elbow Lake Community Center will host the Elderly Nutrition Program which offers meals Monday through Friday to seniors in the area. Their mission is to promote better health by providing accurate and culturally sensitive nutrition focusing on those with the greatest need. It also gives seniors a place to socialize while sharing a healthy meal. The center offers Diabetic Bingo and delivers hot meals to homebound seniors. The center will also host Elbow Lake Community Council and community events. Funds to assist in the purchase of commercial kitchen equipment were partially secured from USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program. I am proud to support such programs to enhance and assist progressive improvements to our rural communities.

Legislative Update

Keystone XL Update

It was unfortunate to see the Senate fall short in overriding the President’s veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation on Wednesday. I believe the Keystone project would create jobs and reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and I remain hopeful that the State Department will approve the permit needed for construction to begin.

Homeland Security Funding

This week the House concluded a lengthy partisan process to fund the Department of Homeland Security. I feel that a shutdown of this department would have put our national security at stake, and I joined my colleagues in the Minnesota Delegation to support the legislation and keep the agency operating through the end of September.

Fuel Transport Legislation

I introduced legislation in the House this week (H.R. 1267) to make it easier for farmers, custom harvesters and agriculture producers to safely and efficiently transport fuel. During the busiest times of the year, producers have to make multiple trips to the fuel station, taking away from time better spent in the field. This legislation will broaden the fuel allowance and ease some of these impractical regulations. H.R. 1267 will allow farmers to save both time and money during harvest.

Minnesota Gray Wolves

I led a bipartisan coalition of Members and sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging emergency resources be made available for wolf depredation efforts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. A December 2014 U.S. District Court decision reinstated gray wolves under the protections of the Endangered Species Act in these three states. This designation took away the ability for states to manage federally protected gray wolves but did nothing to restore the depredation services needed for individuals to protect their livelihoods. This left farmers and ranchers without a legal avenue to address wolves that are threatening their livestock. This letter requests assistance for producers as we work to return the management of gray wolves to the states.


Environmental Quality Incentives Program

The USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) is accepting applications for targeted conservation funding through the Red River Basin Initiative (RRBI). Eligible producers can receive assistance with installing conservation systems that help minimize flooding, boost soil health, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife in the Red River Basin. The application acceptance deadline for RRBI is April 17, 2015.

Discovering the 7th

The End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum, located in Currie, preserves and displays artifacts and stories of the Southwest Minnesota rail experience. The park began in 1972 as a 4-H Community Pride Project and quickly became an educational attraction under Murray County’s management. Located at the end of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad Line, the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum features the only operable authentic steam engine turntable in the state.  

This Week in American History

Lucky Lady II / Flight Plan / Captain Gallagher

Captain James Gallagher of the U.S. Air Force completed the first nonstop flight around the world on March 2, 1949. A Melrose native, Captain Gallagher commanded a crew of 13 on the Lucky Lady II, a B-50 bomber. The Lucky Lady II took off from Fort Worth, Texas and traveled east across the Atlantic Ocean. Refueling four times along their 23,425 flight, Gallagher and his crew completed their journey in ninety-four hours and one minute. 

Visitors from the District

Luke and Ashley Hanson (Edina), Emily and Mark Wood (LITCHFIELD)