Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 5/11
This week we celebrate the continued operation of our rural post offices thanks to a recent ruling by the Postmaster General. I would also like to acknowledge the Senior Corps for the work they do as volunteers and leaders in their communities. This is a busy time in Congress, and I'll take a moment to update you on action in the House of Representatives this week. Finally, I hope you enjoy seeing pictures of me and my congressional band, the Second Amendments, performing at the kick-off event for the Congressional Rock and Roll Caucus.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Rural Post Offices Saved from Immediate Closures
When plans to close rural post offices were first announced, I heard from a number of concerned constituents in the Seventh District. In response to mounting pressure, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue recently announced that the USPS will scrap plans regarding the closure of rural post offices. Over the next two years, communities will have the option to convert to a “village post office” which would be operated by a private company. Another option for communities is to scale back hours of operation. This is a victory for the rural communities of the Seventh District which rely on the Postal Service, but we still have much work ahead of us to create a sustainable and thriving business model for the USPS.
As a volunteer, you can become a positive influence in the lives of individuals while also strengthening our local communities. This week, as part of Older Americans Month, we celebrate national service members age 55 and older with Senior Corps Week. These community partners deserve our recognition and gratitude for their work as Foster Grandparents, members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and Senior Companions volunteers. Senior Corps members use their unique life experiences when working with individuals and communities. To learn more about Senior Corps Week events or to simply get more involved, visit www.seniorcorps.gov or contact the Corporation for National and Community Service at 202-606-3234.
House Passes Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act
More balanced approach still needed
This week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012. The bill cuts $35.8 billion from nutrition programs under Agriculture Committee jurisdiction. I voted against this legislation because if we are serious about getting our budget under control, everything must be on the table. Refusing to consider large budget items like defense and choosing instead to slash nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families is not the way to balance our budget. Since we know this budget won't move forward in the Senate, the only thing that will likely come out of this vote is an even more divided Congress.
Support for Rural Pharmacies
I recently made a statement on the House floor expressing my support of H.R. 1971, the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act. This legislation will help level the playing field between neighborhood pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) ensuring rural communities will continue to have access to see the providers of their choosing. These PBMs tend to encourage patients to use their own mail-order-only operations in order to receive discounted co pays on prescription drugs. Many constituents have expressed how they want to save money but also would like to talk to the pharmacists about their drug regimens and possible drug interactions. They do not like the idea of dealing with faceless employees of a managing company and talking with someone new each time they call. Patients should not have to choose between best price and best care. This legislation will help ensure that rural patients will continue to have access to local pharmacies.
Update from the Agriculture Committee
Two House Agriculture Committee Subcommittees held hearings this week to review specialty crops, nutrition and credit programs in advance of a new farm bill.
Specialty Crops and Nutrition
Nutrition programs are the largest area of farm bill spending and have already been singled out by the Republican majority as an area to cut in the next farm bill. I am hopeful however that we can get past the recent partisanship and have a serious conversation about getting our budget under control while also maintaining a strong safety net for producers and consumers alike.
The 2008 Farm Bill was the first to include a title for fruit and vegetable production. I’m proud of the increased attention the Committee has paid to specialty crops, organic agriculture and local and regional food networks. It would be a disservice to this growing market if we do not continue these programs in the next farm bill.
Farmers across the country, regardless of their size, rely on credit to finance their operations. Access to credit at reasonable rates, along with a federal safety net provided by our Title I and disaster programs and crop insurance, are some of the most important tools that we can provide our farmers and ranchers. We need to make sure these credit programs are working for everyone. Further, we also need to make sure that we are adequately prepared for any potential stress to the system and if any changes need to be considered.
As you may already know, I have organized and played in bipartisan congressional rock bands, including The Amendments and the Second Amendments. My colleagues and I have performed at charity events in Washington DC. The group occasionally performs at events in the Midwest such as WE Fest in Minnesota and Farm Aid in Illinois. The Second Amendments also performed abroad for U.S. troops in Germany, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Recently I joined Reps. Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI-11), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), and Patrick J. Tiberi (OH-12) to create the bipartisan Congressional Rock and Roll Caucus (Rock Caucus). More than sixty years ago, a convergence of distinct forms of music, such as gospel, blues, country, and jazz came together to create what we now know as Rock and Roll. Today not only is Rock and Roll one of the most significant art forms ever created in America, but it also has the power to bring generations, nationalities and people from all corners of the world together.
5/9: I always enjoy meeting with students, and this opportunity was no exception. Pictured here are students and teachers from Parkers Prairie with the Close Up Foundation.
5/8: I met with members of the Minnesota Hospital Association
5/10: I met with Employee Stock Ownership Plan companies including SJE-Rhombus (Detroit Lakes), Oxygen Service Company (Sauk Rapids) and Douglas Machine Inc (Alexandria) and HLB Tautges Redpath, Ltd. (White Bear Lake)
5/8: I spoke with the Minnesota Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
5/8: In between votes, we kicked off the Rock and Roll Caucus with a performance by my congressional band, the 2nd Amendments.
5/9: I talked with Jeff Ohman, Gary Thaden, Bob Gorg, Duane Hendricks, and Ed Christian of the National Electrical Contractors Association