Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 5/23/2014

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Flanders Field American Cemetery in Belgium
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row”

Dear Friends,

This week I paid tribute to the men and women who wear and have worn the United States military uniform. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs to make improvements so our veterans receive adequate care here at home, so I am joining Congressman Walz and other Members to call on the VA for a national review of all VA medical facilities. I sat down with professionals from many different industries including dentistry, air traffic controllers, foresters, renewable fuel experts, and golf course builders. The House took up several key measures this week, such as approving the Congressional Gold Medal for Civil Air Patrol during WWII and National Defense Authorization.

Sincerely,

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Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Memorial Day Tribute
A grateful nation remembers those who gave all

June 6, 2014, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the first day of the invasion at Normandy. Our country will long remember those Americans who bravely gave or risked their lives for a worthy cause. I would like to recognize the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II and the millions more who supported them at home.

Throughout my congressional career, I have made it a priority to ensure that our men and women in uniform, those who wore the uniform, and their families have a voice in Washington DC. It has been a privilege and an honor to spend time with veterans and their loved ones when I travel around the district.

Across the country, more than 20 percent of the 22 million veterans living in our country today reside in rural areas. In the 38 counties that make up Minnesota's Seventh District, we have more than 27,000 veterans under the age of 65, and around 24,000 veterans over the age of 65.

Not surprisingly, a disproportionate share of men and women who serve in the military today grew up in rural areas and return home to rural areas.

Because so many of our veterans have returned home from service with serious health problems, I'm proud to have worked toward the improvement of access to care through community based outpatient clinics. I'm also proud to say that educational opportunities in our rural communities are strong as a result of the Post 9-11 GI Bill Congress passed to help veterans afford college.

I also want to recognize the military family organizations and veterans service organizations that do so much to support and serve our country. These patriots who continue to serve long after their orders have expired are the living embodiment--and the conscience--of the American spirit. Their service extends beyond the military.

Organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and others are important assets in our communities. Across Minnesota's Seventh District, and across the country, these groups provide leadership and guidance, they are a role model for our children, and they are a constant reminder of the call to and value of public service

This Memorial Day, during parades, ceremonies, and prayer services across the country, Americans will come together to remember those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of our country in the name of freedom and democracy.  The debt owed to them is immeasurable.

Nationwide VA Medical Facilities Review

The recent news about allegations of a secret wait list for veterans at the Phoenix, Arizona VA hospital is very concerning.  I've contacted local officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for more information, and I've had conversations with Congressman Tim Walz, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that is looking into these allegations. I have also spoken with Congressman Jeff Miller who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

This week I signed on to a letter asking for the VA to immediately begin a nationwide access review and a national face-to-face audit at all VA medical facilities.

Veterans who return home from serving our country should not have to wait in line to receive medical care. The VA system is backlogged, and the problem needs to be addressed. One of our top priorities as a nation should be to care for soldiers when they’re home, especially when they suffer from physical and mental injuries. This administration needs to do a better job to make sure our veterans are properly cared for, and I will be following this issue very closely as the nationwide review develops.

Legislative Updates
National Defense Authorization for 2015

This week I voted for final passage for the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Authorization Act. It provides a 1.8% pay raise for our men and women in uniform, funds training and resources for our soldiers, and strengthens our commitment to our international partners.

Civil Air Patrol


On Monday the House approved the Congressional Gold Medal for Civil Air Patrol during WWII. The legislation is heading to the President's desk for his signature. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) began as a part of the federal Office of Civil Defense one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor with civilian pilots volunteering to fly along the East coast to monitor the coastal waters. With bases located in Delaware, Florida and New Jersey, CAP aircrews soon began to spot enemy submarines, as well as lifeboats and wreckage, as German U-boats attempted to disrupt U.S. shipping after war was declared. In their first 18 months of operation, the Civil Air Patrol flew more than 24 million miles, reported 173 submarines and found 325 survivors of attacks.

More than 200,000 civilians were CAP members who flew a total of about 750,000 hours during the war, most of which were in their personal aircraft and often at real risk to their lives. Although CAP operations were characterized by an emphasis on safety, discipline and organization, by the end of the war 64 members of the CAP had died performing their service.

MN Dental Ass’n


Carmelo Cinqueonce (Minneapolis), Dr. Jim Zenk (LONG PRAIRIE), Dr. Daniel Rose (Motley)

On Tuesday I met with the Minnesota Dental Association to discuss the state of dental health in the 7th District. One of their main concerns is making sure that the 7th continues to be an attractive place for young dentists to come and join a practice or start one of their own. We discussed the importance of reaching out to young folks in our communities so they understand how important dental health services are, especially in rural areas when some folks have to travel far to visit the nearest provider. We also addressed how regulatory mechanisms at the federal level could be improved so they become more efficient and fair.

National Air Traffic Controllers Ass’n


Justin Husom (Prior Lake) and Chuck Wolff (Burnsville)

Two Minnesota air traffic controllers came to visit with me about aviation and how their industry was impacted by sequestration. We have to get the federal budget under control and on a sustainable path, but we need to make sure these cuts are made in a responsible way. We need to find ways to rein in our nation's spending problem, but we need to make sure we aren't sacrificing safety in the meantime. That's why I cosponsored H.R. 816, Sequestration Flexibility Act which would allow agencies the flexibility to manage their budget and make the proper cuts.

SunOpta


Peter Golbitz and Mark Rokala

I met with SunOpta’s director of international business development, Peter Golbitz, and their Washington representative, Mark Rokala, to hear about issues of importance to their business.  SunOpta is a global company dealing in the sourcing, processing, and packaging of natural, organic, and specialty foods. SunOpta has a significant presence in Minnesota with its U.S. headquarters in Edina and other facilities in Moorhead, Breckenridge, Crookston, Alexandria, and Fosston.

National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO)


CEO of Potlatch Mike Covey, Director of Govt Affairs Ruth Cook, and VP of Public Affairs Mark Benson  

I met with NAFO members to talk about tax issues and relevant farm bill provisions. NAFO represents a wide range of forest owners, from family businesses to publicly traded companies to state associations. 

Concordia Visit


Concordia students with Professor Albert Kagan

On Wednesday I spoke with students from Concordia College’s Offutt School of Business on the balcony of the Agriculture Committee. Professor Albert Kagan’s class ended the year by taking a two week trip to DC to tour over 25 federal agencies including the White House, U.S. Treasury Department, and Capitol Hill. The goal was to show how the U.S. government operates and to expose students to possible internship opportunities.

AARP


State President Jim Scheibel and AARP State Director Will Philips

On Wednesday I met with representatives from Minnesota AARP. We discussed the reauthorization of the Older American Act, age discrimination, and Medicare reimbursement rates. We also discussed how seniors are vulnerable to fraud and scams. AARP has a website called Fraud Watch Network. It is a good source of information on how to protect your identity.

For more information on the Fraud Watch Network click here.

Growth Energy


James Miller, Rob Herbon, Steve McNinch, Ali Ness, and Steve Rust

I sat down with members of Growth Energy to talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard and other issues important to the ethanol industry.  Formed in 2008, Growth Energy represents ethanol producers and supporters across America.  Growth Energy’s membership is comprised of 79 plants and 66 affiliated companies located in 22 states, including Minnesota.

Golf Course Builders Ass’n


Judd Duininck (PRINSBURG), Rick Lohman, Bill Brown, and Scott Hines

I sat down with the Golf Course Builders Association of America on Wednesday. We discussed what the EPA regulations on water will do to their industry. The golf industry employs 2 million people and contributes nearly $70 billion dollars in the U.S. economy. Golf in Minnesota contributes nearly $2.4 billion in economic activity.

National Biodiesel Board


VP for Federal Affairs Anne Steckel and CEO Joe Jobe

On Thursday I met with representatives of the NBB to discuss issues of concern to biodiesel, which is an important industry in Minnesota. NBB is the national trade association that represents the biodiesel industry in the United States. 

National EMS Week

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“EMS: Dedicated. For Life.”

During this week, thank an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professional. They are dedicated to rushing to any scene and performing life-saving procedures at sudden notice. These professionals work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to make sure 911 calls are responded to each and every time. EMS professionals often team up with volunteer First Responders, police officers, fire departments, and 911 operators to keeping communities safe and cared for in even the most difficult situations. EMS Week has been observed annually for forty years since it was first declared by President Ford in 1974.

7th District Congressional Art Competition
Winner is from Blomkest


Kourtney Hammerschmidt, a sophomore at MACCRAY High School, won this year’s 7th District Congressional Art Competition for her painting titled “Lake Superior Lighthouse.” There were dozens of entries from High School students all over the 7th, and I was really impressed by the high-quality pieces of art from each student.

Thank you to all the parents and teachers who encouraged students to submit their artwork this year. My weekly Newsletter will showcase a different submission from this year’s competition so that each artist’s work can be recognized. Congratulations to Kourtney, and I look forward to meeting her and her family when they come out to Washington, D.C. to see “Lake Superior Lighthouse” displayed in a busy U.S. Capitol tunnel.

This Week in American History


Three counties highlighted

On May 23rd, 1857, twelve Minnesota counties are created, three of which are part of today’s 7th Congressional District: Murray, Pipestone, and Cottonwood Counties. Murray County commemorates St. Paul attorney and politician William P. Murray. Pipestone refers to the unique quarry within its boundaries. Finally, Cottonwood County was named for the river and trees that are scattered throughout the county. On Friday these counties will turn 157 years old.


“Sunset”
Alex Tipka (LITCHFIELD)
2014 Congressional Art Competition