Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 6/20/2014

Jun 20, 2014
 

Newsletter for Minnesota's 7th district

 

 

Flooding in EDGERTON, courtesy of Ross Brands (City Clerk)

Dear Friends,

Over the past week, heavy rains and severe weather have taken a toll on many communities throughout Minnesota. Homeowners and township, city and county officials have put in long hours as they work to prevent flooding and deal with clean-up. Many thanks to the emergency management responders who are on the ground to help deal with these devastating weather problems. Let's hope for some dry weather in the days ahead. Also included in the newsletter is an important update regarding natural disaster response from the Department of Commerce.

This week I visited with several organizations advocating on behalf of biodiesel and manufacturing industries, and during the MN Transportation Fly-In. I met with the people working hard in private and public sectors to improve transportation in the 7th District. I also met with the Laborers District Council of MN, Hutchinson County Officials, and MnDOT. I spoke with MN Blue Cross Blue Shield about the need for accessibility to healthcare in the 7th, and welcomed visitors to Washington from the FFA and the MN MREA Youth Program.

Sincerely,

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Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Natural Disaster Response Information

The Department of Commerce’s Consumer Response Team (CRT) has provided the informational packet attached at the bottom of thenewsletter in order to best help Minnesotans understand their rights and make informed decisions after a flood, storm, or tornado damages their property. The CRT is available to address questions and concerns at 651.539-1600 or consumer.protection@state.mn.us, and urges consumers to visit their online Disaster Center at https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/disaster-information-center/.

Case New Holland Industrial


Erik Olson (Fargo, ND), Nate Burgers (BENSON, MN), Bret Lieberman (New Holland, PA)

I sat down with CNH Industrial plant managers, including Nate Burgers from Benson, to discuss trade legislation that is pending before Congress.  The Benson plant manufactures crop control application equipment (sprayers, floaters, and applicators) and cotton pickers. In Minnesota, about 30% of CNH Industrial’s production was exported in 2013 so they stressed the importance of Export-Import Bank Reauthorization and trade issues to their company. CNH employs more than 550 people in Minnesota.

Farmers Union Industries LLC


Alyssa Hammerschmidt (Redwood Falls) and Chuck Neece (Redwood Falls)

I met with folks from Farmers Union Industries, LLC, to talk about a variety of issues impacting them, including biodiesel and the Renewable Fuel Standard, Food Safety Modernization Act rules, and the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus.  Farmers Union Industries has products and services for many different applications.  Some of its operations include Central Bi Products, a full service rendering company with complexes in Redwood Falls and Long Prairie; Midwest Grease, which collects and recycles restaurant grease and fat into livestock feed ingredients and biofuels; and Northland Choice, a supplier of chicken and turkey products to the pet food industry.  Farmers Union Industries has 330 employees in Minnesota.

MN Biodiesel Council


Derek Masterson (Minneapolis), Mike Youngerberg (Mankato), Ed Hegland (APPLETON), Chris Hill (Brewster), Ronald Marr (Brewster), Anthony Hulen (Washington, DC)

I met with members of Minnesota Biodiesel Council who were among approximately 100 biodiesel producers, feedstock suppliers, and other supporters advocating on behalf of the biodiesel industry in Washington this week.  The biodiesel industry is concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for biodiesel.  I am currently collecting signatures for a letter to the President I’m leading expressing the concerns of the industry and the potential negatives impacts if the EPA does not raise biodiesel’s volume above 1.28 billion gallons. 

Transportation Alliance


Dave Overbo (CLAY County Engineer), Dave Smiglewski (Mayor of GRANITE FALLS), Margaret Donahoe (Executive Director of Minnesota Transportation Alliance), Randy Maluchnik (Carver County Commissioner), Brian Shorten (SRF Consulting Group), Darrell Sudheimer (Waconia), Dean Meyer (UFC Farm Supply)

This week was the Minnesota Transportation Fly-In, an opportunity for community members in Minnesota to travel to DC and meet with their Members of Congress to discuss transportation issues and projects of importance in their communities.

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Speaking at the Transportation Alliance Breakfast

On Wednesday morning I attended a breakfast hosted by the Minnesota Transportation Alliance. We discussed upcoming transportation issues in Congress, including surface transportation reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund. We need to make sure there are long-term solutions for both these issues, rather than lurching from crisis to crisis. The Highway Trust Fund needs a reliable revenue source, rather than these short-term patches from the General Fund. As we consider surface transportation reauthorization, we need to keep in mind that multi-year bills are much more effective as businesses and local communities plan these projects and prepare their implementation, which can take many months and sometimes years.

MnDOT

Charles Zelle (Commissioner)

Throughout the day I had meetings with multiple folks from across the 7th District, including engineers, county commissioners, and mayors, and I shared their concerns with the MnDOT Commissioner when we met that afternoon. Concerns I've been hearing from my constituents range from surface transportation reauthorization to local projects that need our attention like Highway 23, Highway 15, Highway 212, and the Detroit Lakes airport expansion.

McLeod County


Paul Wright (Chair of MCLEOD Commissioners), John Brunkhorst (MCLEOD County Engineer), Dale Grove (Stantec, Sr. Project Manager)

As part of the Minnesota Transportation Fly-In, I also met with folks from the Hutchinson area to discuss projects of importance to their community. We talked about the much needed improvements to Highway 15 that they are hoping to get support for at the state level. We shared mutual concern about the depletion of the Highway Trust Fund, expected to hit zero sometime this summer unless Congress can work together on a solution. The Highway Trust Fund is an important source of federal funding for highways and transit programs.

MN Rural Electric Association Youth Tour


Front Row: Sara Antony (MARSHALL), Nina Grunzke (HUTCHINSON), Vanessa Eisenbraun (BERTHA), Laura Homan (BEARDSLEY), Jennica Hacker (Sleepy Eye) Back Row: Monica Graffunder (Ramsey), Natalie Resch (WINDOM), Aaron Bible (St. Cloud), Caleb Blaisdell (STARBUCK), Ryan Fischer (TYLER)

I welcomed Minnesota high school students who were selected to participate in the annual Rural Electric Youth Tour in our nation’s capital.  Local electric cooperatives around Minnesota sponsored these students, and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) coordinated the events of the trip.  As part of the Youth Tour, these junior and senior high school students toured famous sites in Washington, D.C. and spent a day on Capitol Hill.  Electric cooperatives have sponsored the Youth Tour for more than 40 years, sending approximately 1,500 students from 43 states to Washington each year to develop leadership skills, learn about our nation’s history, and have a lot of fun.  Minnesota sent some top-notch kids this year, and I really enjoyed seeing them out here.

Enterprise MN


Bob Kill (President & CEO)

Bob Kill from Enterprise Minnesota stopped by to discuss and to present me with his organization's 2014 survey The State of Manufacturing. 84% of Minnesota's manufacturers are confident about their company's future but they are still worried about outside factors that would inhibit their growth, for example the burden of taxation and regulation from the state and federal governments. Bob and I also spoke about how businesses are experiencing a skilled labor shortage not only in the district but state-wide.

It's becoming more difficult to find people who have the skills they need, these owners say. Many new manufacturing jobs require high-tech skills. They include positions at factories where computers are used to create products like airplane parts and machinery. And some require several years of training. You cannot take someone off the street to do it anymore. There's a whole level of work that's going to require skills that weren't needed in traditional jobs.

One way we can solve this problem is to create partnerships with community colleges around the state that offer courses that will help train workers to fill these jobs. But training takes time, and the demand for jobs may continue to outstrip the supply of qualified workers.

Southern MN Beet Sugar Cooperative


Chris Long (COTTONWOOD)

I met with Chris Long, who is a board member at SoMN Beet Sugar Coop. and next in line to be Legislative Chair. Chris farms beets, corn, and soybeans near Wood Lake. We talked about commodity prices and agricultural appropriations, among other topics.  The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative was founded in 1975 and has over 500 shareholders. These sugar beet growers produce about three million tons of sugar beets every year.

MN Blue Cross Blue Shield


Michael Guyette (CEO), Scott Keefer (Vice President of Policy and Legislative Affairs)

I met with the CEO of Minnesota Blue Cross Blue Shield, Michael Guyette, on Wednesday. We discussed the state of healthcare in Minnesota and the importance of access to care in rural areas.

MN Laborers/Carpenters Councils

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Russ Hess (Political Coordinator, Laborers District Council of MN & ND) Kyle Makarios, (Director of Government Affairs for the Carpenters)

The Laborers District Council and the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters stopped by Wednesday to discuss transportation & energy policies. We also discussed the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project.

Agriculture Hearing on Clean Water Act


Asking questions during the hearing

The House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry held a hearing Thursday to review the interpretive rule regarding Clean Water Act agricultural exemptions.

USDA, EPA, and the Corps have told us that nothing is going to change and current conservation practices will be exempt, but from what I’ve seen in the district that’s not the case at all. NRCS recognizes more than 100 conservation practices but the interpretive rule only makes 56 exemptions. This would take us backward and would be a bad outcome.

Another concern is the Army Corps’ workload. They’re telling people they can’t get to these issues for 8-12 months. They’re trying to grab more jurisdiction but they can’t even do the work they’ve got now.

During my questioning, I pressed Robert Bonnie, the USDA Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, to provide a guarantee that we wouldn’t go backward from the progress we’ve seen in Minnesota between NRCS and other agencies.

Here you will find links to both the Hearing page: https://agriculture.house.gov/hearing/review-practice, and a video of my questions: https://democrats.agriculture.house.gov/video/06-19-2014%20CEF%20Clean%20Water%20Act.wmv.

Future Farmers of America


FFA members visiting my office in Rayburn

More than 40 FFA members from Minnesota visited my office on Thursday as part of their Washington Leadership Conference.  This annual conference brings together FFA kids from all over the United States to learn skills for developing effective leadership.  In this quest, FFA members learn about their purpose, valuing others, taking action, and serving others.  FFA members tour Washington and make friends from other chapters and states.  FFA is a great organization for kids to learn about true leadership and personal growth, and I’m glad to see so many participants from Minnesota. 

Legislative Update

Department of Defense Appropriations Act

On Friday the House passed the Defense Appropriations bill that provides a 1.8 percent pay increase for our troops and their families. I supported funding for suicide prevention programs for troops as well as sexual assault prevention and response programs. In the bill, I also fought to defeat a backwards amendment that would have prevented our military from using biofuels, even those that are produced by our farmers right here in the United States. The bill invests in the technologies and equipment necessary to keep our country safe today and also meet tomorrow’s security challenges in an ever-changing world.

Military Matters

VA legislation goes to conference to work out the differences between House and Senate version that would allow veterans to seek private care if they have to wait too long for treatment. I support this proposal. However Congress needs to fully fund the VA and I would like to see an increase in the overall VA budget to provide specifically for the expansion of the purchase of private care. If we don't increase the VA budget, needed care will remain delayed and VA facilities will be forced to continue making tradeoffs. Congress must not rely on budget gimmicks to pay for the expansion of private veterans care.

County Courthouse Tour


Red Lake County Courthouse 1920’s, 2010’s, courtesy of MN Historical Society

The Red Lake County Courthouse was designed by Fremont D. Orff after a decades-long debate between Red Lake Falls and Thief River Falls about where to establish county headquarters. The Beaux Arts style building, which now stands in Red Lake Falls, has remained relatively unchanged since its construction, except for the removal of its large central dome and attached jail in the 1940’s. Inside the courthouse in the two-story rotunda is a replica of the statue of liberty that was once housed in the dome. The courthouse was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in May of 1983. 

This Week in American History


Drawing of Old Main Building, University of Minnesota 1879

On June 19th, 1873, the University of Minnesota held its first graduation ceremony. The University’s two graduates, Warren Eustis and Henry Williamson, were honored at the Academy of Music in Minneapolis. Today, the University of Minnesota boasts the sixth largest main campus student body in the United States, with 51,853 students organized into 19 colleges and schools. The University also has 4 sister campuses, including the University of Minnesota, Morris and University of Minnesota, Crookston, bringing a combined total of nearly 4,000 students to the 7th District.

Turkey Lovers’ Month

MN - June is Turkey Lover's Month (2)

The National Turkey Federation designated June as Turkey Lovers’ Month in 1989 to promote consumer use of turkey products. With over 253 million turkeys raised annually in the United States, the turkey industry not only feeds Americans across the nation, but also provides significant economic activity and employment opportunities to rural Minnesotans. This is especially true in the 7th District, which is ranked #1 for Turkey production in the United States.

Visitors from the 7th

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Jessica and Travis DeJong (MOORHEAD), Jacob Chisholm (GARY)


Lauren and Sydney Isaacson, Tanya Gillespie (ELBOW LAKE), Chip and Ryan Wolverton (GAYLORD), Cole Bruhn (GAYLORD)

Kaylee Quittschreiber (Barnesville)
Kaylee Quittschreiber (BARNESVILLE)
2014 Congressional Art Competition

 

 

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