Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 8/10

Aug 10, 2012 Issues: Veterans


Getting around the 7th District

Dear Friends,

I attended Farmfest this week and had a great time meeting with farmers at this annual event.  Thanks to everyone who came out and made this agricultural show a success!  This week' s newsletter contains some helpful information about polling locations with the Minnesota primary election coming up next Tuesday.  Living overseas can sometimes make it difficult for many U.S. citizens to vote, and this week I'd like to highlight the Federal Voting Assistance Program as an important resource for our soldiers and other U.S. citizens who live abroad.  There are also some festivals happening this weekend in the 7th District that you may want to check out with friends and family.

Sincerely,

Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

I attended Farmfest this past week in MORGAN. Farmfest is one of the largest agricultural events in the world and it brings the best products and services to an audience that is drawn from every Minnesota county and has many visitors from five neighboring states. It was a great opportunity to talk with farmers from around the region. Much of my conversations focused on the need to get a five-year farm bill done this year.

Interview from FOX 9 News in the Twin Cities: https://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/19221871/farmers-fume-over-stalled-aid-bill-in-us-congress


Cutting the ribbon for a new facility at NORTHSTAR Agri Industries in HALLOCK (8/8)

Congratulations to NORTHSTAR Agri Industries in Hallock on the grand opening of their new canola crushing plant!  I attended the ceremonies this week and was impressed by the facilities.  NORTHSTAR will be producing 280 million pounds of food grade canola oil and 195,000 tons of meal per year.  At its present capacity, the plant will purchase over $220 million worth of canola from MN and ND farmers.  With the addition of 50 new full-time permanent jobs, it looks like this plant will be a huge economic engine for northwestern Minnesota!

Military Matters

This August marks the anniversary of the Post-9/11 GI Bill as it enters its fourth year after being implemented August 1, 2009.  Since that time, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided educational benefits to 773,000 Vets and their families.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays tuition and fees on behalf of Vets or their eligible dependents directly to the school in which they are enrolled.  Eligible participants also receive a monthly housing allowance and help pay for books and supplies.  Eligible Servicemembers can transfer their benefits to their spouses and/or children.  For more information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other Veteran education programs, visit https://www.gibill.va.gov.

Upcoming Primary: August 14

FOR MINNESOTA VOTERS WHO NEED TO LOCATE THEIR POLLING LOCATION:

Voters can find their voting location, a map to that location, information about their voting district, and candidates appearing on their ballot simply by entering their address into Polling Place Finder application at www.mnvotes.org.

Voters who will be out of town on August 14 and want to participate in Minnesota’s primary election need to make arrangements for absentee voting. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said a voter who is going to be absent from the precinct, has an illness or disability, is serving elsewhere as an election judge or has a religious excuse can cast an absentee ballot. Voters can do so in person at their county auditor’s office up to 5 p.m. on Aug. 13, or can download an absentee ballot application from www.mnvotes.org.

Resource for U.S. Citizens Abroad:

Federal Voting Assistance Program

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) provides voting assistance to all U.S. citizens living outside the United States including federal employees, military personnel and their families.  They also draft a Voter Assistance Guide every election cycle for all 50 states and territories, which is also available on their website. Every absentee voter MUST fill out a Federal Postcard Application EVERY YEAR they wish to vote absentee and request a ballot.  States are required by law to let citizens participate, but only if they complete the federal postcard application every calendar year they want to vote.   All U.S. citizens can now receive their blank ballots electronically.   It is stressed that anyone who can, should take advantage of the electronic ballot method as it is more reliable than receiving the ballot through the postal system. 

Citizens can also register to vote at the www.fvap.gov location.  Once they have completed the online wizard, it will provide a postage paid ballot.  Time delays overseas can occur so it is important to return their ballots as soon as possible and at least 45 days prior to elections.  This year ballots will be going out on September 21st and voters will have 45 days to get it back.  Overseas voters do have a number of options for returning voting ballots such as: (a) the local mail; (b) U.S. Embassy Pouch by dropping off the ballot at the nearest U.S. Embassy for return to the U.S.; (c) by Fax, Email or Internet if allowed by your state; and (d) Express Courier Services if time is short or local mail service is unreliable. 

 The U.S. Department of State interacts with the majority of citizens voting abroad.  Their website located at https://travel.state.gov/travel/living/overseas_voting/overseas_voting_4754.html is also informational for anyone living outside the United States.  They provide information to citizens around the world and they coordinate all 239 counsels to provide assistance one on one.   They provide a safe secure means to get ballots back to the US through the U.S. Embassies.  In over 60 countries there are toll free numbers for citizens to speak to call center personnel free of charge to guide them through the process.   In over 50 countries there are toll free fax numbers available.

Here's a list of helpful resources for U.S. Citizens voting abroad:

Voting Questions: VotingInfo@State.gov

Emergencies:  1-888-407-4747 (toll free) / 1-202-501-4444 (overseas)

Embassy websites:  https://www.usembassy.gov

General Information:  https://travel.state.gov

Voting Information:  https://travel.state.gov/travel/living/overseas_voting/overseas_voting_4754.html

Federal Voting Assistance Program:
   Questions?  Call:  1-800-438 VOTE (8683)

   Web:  https://www.fvap.gov

    Overseas Military:  https://www.fvap.gov/contact/ivaoffice/index.html

Celebrating the Smithsonian Institution:

New Interactive Online Activities

Today marks the 165th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Funded by British scientist John Smithson and founded by Congress, the Smithsonian is committed to the "increase and diffusion of knowledge." The Smithsonian Institute is actually made up of 19 museums including the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo.  The Smithsonian is the world's largest, free museum and research complex.

If you're planning a trip to Washington DC, my office is happy to assist you!  Visit my website at https://collinpeterson.house.gov/serving-you/tours-and-tickets to learn more about things to do and see while you travel our Nation's capital.  Even if you can't make it to Washington D.C., your family can still enjoy and learn from the Smithsonian's online resources.  Some favorites below are recommended by The Federal Citizen Information Center:

  • Smithsonian Kids offers a safe and fun environment for kids to learn about history, important places, art, science and more. Idea Labs promotes interactive learning such as "Sizing Up the Universe" where kids can compare objects they know such as basketballs to objects in outer space. "Secrets of the Smithsonian" sends your kids on a mission to discover secrets and rumors surrounding the Smithsonian's history. Uncover mysteries like the story of the Hope Diamond, and whether or not it's really cursed.
  • The Smithsonian has more than 137 million artifacts, and their exhibits touch on many different interests. You can view the current exhibits such as the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, learn about past ones like, September 11: Remembrance and Reflection and take virtual tours of some of the most popular ones from the past including Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt.
  • Check out the Smithsonian's mobile site and apps. GoSmithsonian highlights specific exhibits and resources. If you're visiting in person, GoSmithsonian can help plan your itinerary, with museum floor plans and maps of downtown D.C. as well as surrounding hotels and restaurants. Or try the new Leafsnap iPhone app, which helps you identify tree species by taking a picture of a leaf.

Festivals This Weekend

Annual Czech Festival - 8/12


Located in southwestern Minnesota, the town of BECHYN was established by Czech immigrants who made a land claim, built a church, and created a community.  This year marks the 21st Annual Czech Heritage Festival, and the event will kick off at 10:00 a.m. with a Polka Mass followed by a Pork Roast Dinner.  Fun activities include bingo, a large raffle, silent action, farmers market, and kids games.  Admission is free.  To learn more, visit https://www.czechfest.com/

Minnesota Garlic Festival - 8/11


Did you know Minnesota is home to over 100 varieties of the country's garlic?  This Saturday, HUTCHINSON will host the 7th Annual Minnesota Garlic Festival at the McLeod County Fairgrounds.  At the event you can look forward to local foods, celebrity chefs, music, and crafts and games.  Minnesota garlic growers will also have their fresh garlic crop on hand at the festival.  This event supports sustainable farms and rural communities in Minnesota.  Admission is $5 adults, $3 kids under 12, and free to babies.