Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 4/17/2015

  

Dear Friends,

It was another busy week in Washington. I became an original co-sponsor of the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, calling for the withdrawal of the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, much-needed legislation that was quickly approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Agriculture Committee was also busy with a full Committee hearing on nutrition programs and Subcommittee hearings on the 4-H program and CFTC reauthorization. Finally, after announcing a rural community development grant for the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation, I had the opportunity to join a rural development forum to discuss the importance of economic and leadership resources, as well as philanthropic services.

Sincerely,
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Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics

On Tuesday, I joined Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and former Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., at a Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE) forum to discuss rural development issues. Our comments followed a panel presentation, “Strategies for Investing in Rural America,” on which West Central Initiative (WCI) economic development planner Greg Wagner took part. Greg and his colleagues work to enable Minnesota’s entrepreneurs to have access to the resources that they need to succeed. The public-private partnerships that they stimulate in West Central Minnesota will have a long-term return on investment for these Minnesota communities.

Minnesota Pork Producers

This week I met with members of the Minnesota Pork Producers. We discussed a number of issues from the proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, to price reporting requirements, to what might happen next on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule. The pork industry is an important part of Minnesota’s agriculture economy and a great market for crop farmers throughout the state.   

Growth Energy

Representatives from Growth Energy visited my office this week to discuss ethanol issues. Growth Energy represents producers and supporters of ethanol, which is an important industry to the 7th District of Minnesota. I will continue to support the production and use of alternative fuels like ethanol to meet an increased demand for energy with an all-the-above energy strategy.

Ox in the Afternoon

On Tuesday, I visited with Dan “Ox” Ochsner, host of KNSI’s “Ox in the Afternoon.” Ox was broadcasting from the office of Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer in Washington, D.C. Ox and I discussed a wide range of issues which you can listen to online.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar

On Tuesday I met with Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative CEO Kelvin Thompsen, Vice President Todd Geselius. We discussed the agriculture economy in Minnesota and a few issues that are impacting sugar producers. One issue that comes up every time I meet with sugar producers is the need to keep the sugar program in the farm bill strong. I will continue to fight to make sure that this critical safety net is protected from those that like to see this program dismantled.

Saint Cloud Chamber of Commerce


John Arvig, Dolora Musech, Teresa Bohnen, Kris Nelson, Mayor of St. Cloud Dave Kleis, Ryan Daniel, Jane DeAustin, David Borgert

Meeting with local Chambers of Commerce is one of the best ways to hear what is really happening in our local communities. They are the place where the rubber meets the road when it comes to job growth and local economic activity. That is why it is no surprise that when I met with the group, we talked about the importance of a long-term transportation reauthorization bill, support for the local airport, and other critical infrastructure needs like broadband. With so much going on from, tax policy to efforts to reduce regulatory burdens, I will continue to work with local Chambers on common sense ideas that will strengthen our economy.

Pheasants Forever

I have heard from a number of farmers in Minnesota who are looking at the CRP program as a tool to increase wildlife habitat and improve water quality. On Tuesday I met with Dave Nomsen with Pheasants Forever about this issue. We talked about how we would like to see the Department of Agriculture take a balanced approach to the administration of the Conservation Reserve Program, and hold a general sign-up for CRP. I believe that we need to give all producers a chance to enroll in the program – not just those already in the program. The CRP program, like all USDA conservation programs, has been successful because it works with producers on a voluntary basis, which reduces the cost of protecting our soil and water resources. Working with producers is the best way to get more conservation on the ground.

Hormel


Joe Swedberg, Lori Marco, Jeff Grev

Representatives from Hormel visited my office this week to discuss issues several issues, including the impact of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza and the loss of several million turkeys in Minnesota. They discussed the great coordination between USDA, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and turkey growers that will hopefully help address and control the spread of this disease. This also marked Joe Swedberg’s last official visit to Washington working with Hormel. He will be retiring after 34 years with the company. I have enjoyed working with Joe and wish him best in his retirement.

UofM Extension


Kent Olson (St. Paul), Judith Conway (FARMINGTON), Hannah Hasbargen (WHEATON), Heather Weller (NEW YORK MILLS), Carolyn Dingfelder (Winona), Nathan Winter (LITCHFIELD)

I met with a delegation of educators and 4-H youth from the University of Minnesota Extension who were in town for the 4-H National Leadership Conference. 4-Hers Hannah Hasbargen (Wheaton) and Heather Weller (New York Mills) talked about their participation at the National 4-H Conference, during which Hannah testified before a House Agriculture subcommittee and Heather presented at the Department of Education. The Extension folks spoke about their involvement with the farm bill education meetings that were held around the state, noting that almost 13,000 people attended these free education seminars. I appreciate the good work that these Extension educators do, and I once again commend the Minnesota 4-Hers for representing our state well with a strong display of leadership and communication skills. 

Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership

This week, my staff aide Richard Lee met with Rick Goodeman, the CEO of the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership. It is our goal to strive to create affordable and accessible housing throughout greater Minnesota. We must work together to tackle the issue of workforce housing so communities striving to grow in western Minnesota may continue to do so.  

Minnesota Biofuels Association

My staff aide Zach Martin met with Timothy Rudnicki, Executive Director of the Minnesota Biofuels Association, to talk about the positive impact the biofuels industry has on Minnesota. Minnesota is the fourth largest producer of ethanol in the nation, boosting the state’s rural economy while simultaneously reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Minnesota Beverage Association

My staff aide Rebekah Solem met with a group of Minnesotans from the Minnesota Beverage Association, which includes bottlers and distributors of non-alcoholic beverages.  They discussed current issues of importance to the industry, such as Dietary Guidelines, GMO labeling, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).  They also talked about the importance of water stewardship.  The Minnesota Beverage Association has advocated for the industry since 1899.

Women’s Mining Coalition

Teresa Conner and Jennifer Wick from the Women’s Mining Coalition stopped by my office to meet with staff aide Zach Martin on Tuesday. The Coalition has been active in grassroots organizing since 1993, and members make an annual trip to Washington, D.C. to discuss issues facing the mining industry.

Riverland Association Conference


Dave Bergman (Travel and Tourism Representative, Explore Minnesota Tourism)

Toni Merdan, my Sr. Economic Development Officer, attended the Riverland Association's "Pathways to Successful Tourism Development" conference at the University of Minnesota Crookston on Monday. The Riverland Association consists of local individuals, volunteering to make a difference in the world of tourism in six northwest Minnesota communities - Crookston, East Grand Forks, Fertile, Red Lake Falls, St. Hilaire and Thief River Falls. Those in attendance learned more about promoting their business, attractions and communities. The event was also cosponsored by the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.

Detroit Lakes Time Capsule

On Wednesday, Detroit Lakes-area residents and Civil War re-enactors attended a ceremony at the Grand Army of the Republic Park rededication ceremony celebrating the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and to remember President Lincoln. The group also honored the 353 Becker County residents who fought to end slavery and save the Union during the war. I was proud to include a letter for a time capsule they buried that will be opened in 2065.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection

According to USDA’s census of agriculture, the Seventh District is the nation’s top producer of turkeys. The recent occurrence of the H5N2 strain of Avian Influenza presents a very serious economic threat to farmers, farm employees, turkey processors, and businesses that depend on local trade. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in coordination with the State of Minnesota’s Board of Animal Health and Department of Agriculture, has personnel in the state to monitor the outbreak, identify infected flocks, and implement measures to contain its spread. Dr. John Clifford, APHIS Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services, was in Willmar, Litchfield, and Grove City this week to monitor efforts and to meet with turkey producers and industry officials. Dr. Clifford pledged APHIS’ full effort to control this deadly virus and to assist flock recovery.

Emergency Recovery and Mitigation

My office helped arrange a meeting between local officials and representatives from Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management to discuss and clarify changes in disaster recovery and mitigation procedures. The meeting, held in Glencoe, was attended by officials from Sibley, Meeker and McLeod Counties. John Moore and Julie Anderson from Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management reviewed procedures and answered questions. Though we have had no flooding issues thus far this spring, some issues still linger from 2014. 

Middle Snake Tamarack Watershed


James Bergman (spokesman, BTAG), Danny Omdahl and Gregg Thielman (BTAG)

The Middle Snake Tamarac Rivers Watershed District (MSTRWD) has accepted the task of helping to control and alleviate flood damage in the Red River Basin. My staff aid JoAnn Zutz attended a meeting in Oslo where details of efforts to improve stream channels for drainage were presented. The Border Township Associative Group (BTAG) also participated in the event with suggested transportation infrastructure adjustments designed to keep roads and bridges safe and operational during floods.

Legacy Amendment and Funding Workshops


David Zentner (Legacy Funds Advocate) and Nate Dorr (Grants Program Officer, Northwest Minnesota Foundation)

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation, the Northwest Regional Development Commission, and the Headwaters Regional Development Commission combined forces to host two Legacy Amendment and funds training workshops in Bemidji and Thief River Falls this week.  Breakout sessions focused on each Legacy Amendment including the Arts and Cultural Heritage fund, the Clean Water Fund, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Outdoor Heritage Fund and Park and Trails Fund.

Legislative Update

Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015

On Tuesday, I became an original co-sponsor of the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1732). The legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule and develop a new rule based on input from stakeholders. Having input from all stakeholders and taking a careful look at the costs and benefits of a proposed rule is necessary to understanding the impact regulations will have on all involved and also help reduce some of the confusion surrounding the issue. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the legislation on Wednesday and I hope the House will quickly consider the bill.

Agriculture Committee Update

This week the House Agriculture Committee held a full Committee hearing to look at nutrition and the role of the charitable sector, and two Subcommittee hearings where we heard testimony from national 4-H conference participants and CFTC Commissioners.

On Tuesday morning, the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit heard from Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioners in advance of legislation to reauthorize the CFTC. The hearing was an opportunity to get an update on current issues of concern in the swaps markets, the Commission’s progress on the implementation of Dodd Frank, and for the Commissioners to provide insight into how we can improve the bill we put together in the last Congress.


Hannah Hasbargen (WHEATON)

On Tuesday afternoon, the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research met to hear presentations by national 4-H conference participants concerning the future of agriculture in the United States. Hannah Hasbargen, from Wheaton, was one of the panel’s presenters. I had the opportunity to meet with Hannah prior to the hearing and think it’s fair to say she’s a tremendous representative of 4-H. Like many Minnesotans, I was active in 4-H and am a proud supporter of the work they do across the country.

On Wednesday morning the Committee continued our review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at a hearing titled, “The Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.” One issue I raised was making more produce available at food banks. In Minnesota, food banks have been able to stock their shelves with food from a variety of state-based manufacturers, like Cargill and General Mills, along with some grocery chains but that isn’t happening everywhere. Farmers often have a disincentive to donate due to high packing and transportation costs and, if they do have them, agencies have a tough time getting perishable products out before they go bad. Growing the partnership between food banks and farmers could help this, which is one of the reasons I voted in support of the “America Gives More Act” earlier this year which provided a tax deduction for farmers who donate food to food banks.

Newsstand

Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Through grants, loans, leadership development, and philanthropic services, the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation supports regional and local leaders in completing community development projects across fourteen counties in Central Minnesota. This week, the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program awarded the foundation $250,000, helping to broaden its assistance to the region’s low-income rural communities.

Congressional Art Competition

One week remains before the deadline to submit artwork into the Congressional Art Competition. The winning piece, selected in early May, will help decorate the Cannon Tunnel between the House Office Buildings and the U.S. Capitol for one year. Application, eligibility, and artwork specifications are available online. The deadline for all submissions is Friday, April 24, 2015.

Discovering the 7th

The Kensington Runestone, a 200-pound slab of greywacke inscribed with a purported record of 14th Century Scandinavian explorers, was discovered by Olof Ohman, a Swedish immigrant living in the rural township of Solem. Named after Kensington, the nearest settlement to the location of discovery, the Kensington Runestone Park and Museum displays the runestone and a memorial dedicated to the contributors to the park. A full translation is available to visitors, and both Norwegian and Swedish flags are flown daily.

This Week in American History

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated 150 years ago this week, on April 15, 1865. Only five days after the conclusion of the Civil War, President Lincoln attended Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, where he was mortally wounded by Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Credited with preserving the Union and helping to abolish slavery in the United States, President Lincoln is often remembered as one of the nation’s greatest leaders. The Ford’s Theater National Historic Site in Washington displays the theater as it was 150 years ago, as well as the Petersen House where the 56-year-old president was carried and later died. 

Visitors from the District


Jacob, Pat, and Whitney Shea (St. Cloud), Alex Brech (CURRIE) and Randy Brech (CO)


Lincoln High School
Close-Up Foundation