Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 4/8/2016

Snow in April

Dear Friends,

With approximately 10,000 people retiring every day, we must do everything we can to protect workers’ pensions that they have earned over their careers. Even though we are happy in Minnesota to get high marks from such groups as AARP for being a great place to retire, there is more to do. This week I continued my efforts to serve our retired population by meeting with the Teamsters, AARP, RehabAuthority, and the Alzheimer’s Association.  Additionally, as co-chair of the Working Forests Caucus, I am happy to share important information on the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as other news for grant opportunities for farmers to increase the value of their products. Finally, I was honored to receive the Minnesota Red River Valley Development Association “Builder of the Valley” Award.


Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Builder of the Valley Award

On Saturday, I was honored to receive the Minnesota Red River Valley Development Association “Builder of the Valley” Award. The MRRVDA has been around for more than 100 years as an effort of citizen groups to encourage and develop agriculture in northwest Minnesota. The group has been involved in 4-H activities, FFA judging contests, Valley Farmers and Homemakers recognitions, RRV Emerging Leadership Programs, and Youth Leadership Awards. The organization is supported by county commissioners from 14 counties in the region who make up the MRRVDA governing board. The work done by this organization to support and encourage young people who want to build futures in the region is so important, and I’m grateful for the work they’re doing.


On Monday, I met with a group of Teamsters and other retirees whose pensions are slated to be cut significantly if Treasury approves the proposal by the Trustees of Central States Pension fund. The Trustees of the fund have proposed cutting retirees’ monthly pension checks because the fund is going broke. Many of the cuts would be by half or more, starting in July, and affect many pensioners in their 70s. At the time, I did not vote for the bill, stating then that this legislation, which was stuck in an omnibus appropriations bill last-minute, would make significant cuts to pensions. If this had been a stand-alone bill, it never would have passed, and I don't think Congress should recklessly legislate this way. I fundamentally believe you cannot cut pensions for retirees, and I have sponsored legislation to repeal the benefit suspensions enacted in that bill.

In my district alone, there are more than 2500 Central States pensioners who will be affected by these cuts, resulting in more than $200 million in loss of retirement income. I'm hopeful that we can fix this problem on behalf of those who are being unfairly impacted.


Jane Johnson, Research Scientist at the Soils Lab in Morris, gives an update on the lab's work over the previous year.

On Thursday, Allison Myhre from my office attended the Barnes-Aastad Soil & Water Conservation Research Association Annual Meeting at the North Central Conservation Research Lab in Morris. The Barnes-Aastad group was formed by area farmers and business members in 1959 to raise capital in support of the USDA Soils Lab in their community and to this day continues to work as a grass-roots advisory group for the USDA ARS Soils Lab. Some of the innovative work being done at the lab includes research to advance sustainable and resilient cropping systems in climates with short growing seasons and finding ways to increase carbon storage in crop systems.

Alzheimer’s Association

The Minnesota-North Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association visited my office this week on behalf of the state’s dementia patients, their families, and healthcare providers. Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and need our help. As a co-sponsor of the “HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act,” I will continue to support measures that fund its research and improve care planning.  


Dr. Stephanie Weyrauch (Physical Therapist, RehabAuthority)

Representatives of RehabAuthority in Thief River Falls met with my staff this week to discuss strategies that would help improve rural access to physical therapy services. Physical therapists develop treatments and practices that improve the quality of life for many Minnesotans, and I appreciate the efforts of our community providers in maintaining this high standard of care across the 7th District.


On Tuesday, Marion Jacobson and her son Bruce from Lake Park stopped by my Detroit Lakes District office to drop of petitions signed by local AARP supporters who are expressing support for the Department of Labor's proposed rule that would close loopholes and update the standards for retirement investment under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA.)


USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Help Agricultural Producers Increase the Value of Their Products

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is seeking applications for Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.  Up to $44 million will be made available, with priority given to veterans, members of socially disadvantaged groups, beginning farmers and ranchers, and operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches.  Electronic applications submitted through are due June 24, 2016 while paper applications are due July 1, 2016.  The notice of funding availability, which includes application guidelines, may be found here:

U.S. Green Building Council

There was some exciting news in the U.S. tree farming industry this week. The U.S. Green Building Council announced changes to their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating systems, which allows builders to use wood from Tree Farms certified to the American Tree Farm System as well as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified lands. I have supported efforts for these certification changes because they open the door for some 22 million families and individuals that own and care for more than one-third of America’s forests and supply more than half of the wood to make products here in the U.S. To find out more about this announcement, please click here.

Discovering the 7th

The Casey Holt Junction, an example HO scale layout

The Northern Lights Railroad Museum is housed at a replica train terminal named Casey Holt Junction.  Casey Holt Junction was constructed by volunteers after the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks flood of 1997.  Originally a smaller structure established in the 1980s as a model railroading club, volunteers later expanded the building to include a museum wing, where current exhibits are on display for the public.  The Northern Lights Railroad Museum expanded its mission to preserve and interpret railroad history of the Northern Great Plains.

Today, the building is home to a growing museum collection, an HO scale layout, two N scale layouts, and the Great Northern Railway Gallery Wing that will open later this year. Current exhibit topics include the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen: Grand Forks Wheat Sheaf Lodge, historical railroad communications, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers: East Grand Forks (MN) Division, and A Brief History of Amtrak.

This Week in American History

Minnesota State Flag Original / Current

The Minnesota state flag, designed by Amelia H. Center of Minneapolis, was adopted on April 4, 1893. The flag depicts the state seal ringed by a wreath of white lady slippers and further surrounded by nineteen stars, representing Minnesota as the nineteenth state (after the original thirteen colonies) to be admitted to the Union. The flag was modified in 1957, when the white lady slipper was replaced as the state flower with the pink-and-white lady slipper.

Visitors from the District

Julie Bruggeman (MAHNOMEN) and Ryan Hendrickson (MAHNOMEN)

The Torgusson family

Sunrise in East Grand Forks