This column is by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota's 7th Congressional District.
Last month, Congress doubled down on a bill loaded with more red ink. I voted against the budget bill because it will increase the debt by $1.7 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Together with the tax bill, these two bills added $3.5 billion dollars to our nation’s debt. I used to work with Republicans who were fiscally conservative to force Congress to make tough decisions and live within our means. What happened to my fiscally conservative allies?
People often ask what being a member of Congress is like. While it is frustrating that leaders continue to recklessly spend at the expense of future generations, I’m honored to work on behalf of my constituents on a variety of issues. Here is a peek at one day.
On Thursday morning, July 25, my first appointment was with another member of Congress to discuss the crop insurance industry. Following that meeting, the Agriculture Committee held a briefing on the details of a number of issues including the trade aid and disaster assistance programs. I would have preferred to see aid in the form of higher target prices, but farmers are hurting, and I am supportive of the administration’s effort to help. After the briefing I called the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Lighthizer about the impact the tariffs were having on a major manufacturer in my district. He committed to me that he would provide substantial assistance. This is something I’m sure I’ll be following up on going forward. After the call, I had a few minutes to review some of the bill recommendation, scheduling requests and other updates compiled by my staff.
At this point, I was still on schedule. That didn’t last long as my next meeting was with the Acting Director for the Fish and Wildlife Service. FWS easements have been a huge issue in the district for farmers, county engineers and landowners. This meeting was especially important, so I brought in my staffer who works on these issues in the district so he could directly relay the countless calls and meetings many of my constituents have shared. We covered the outrageous behavior by some FWS officers, and by the end I think we made progress. The Acting-Director committed to visiting the district to meet with farmers to see firsthand what is happening on the ground.
I was only about 15 minutes behind schedule, when it was time to meet with the Congressional Liaison from the White House. I gave them a frank overview of what is going on in the farm economy. I also used the opportunity to again talk about the large manufacturer and the issue they were having with tariffs. I agree that China is a bad actor, but it is important that our manufacturers aren’t at a competitive disadvantage for doing business in the USA. After the meeting with the White House liaison, I met with the National Farmers Union. We talked about the farm economy and different options to support it through these tough times.
Up next was a group from the rural electric association. Jared of Bemidji and Greg from Grand Rapids were in the meeting to talk about a bill important them. I had been briefed on the issue and was able to share some information from the bill’s sponsor about its outlook for passage. The meeting was short as votes were called. About an hour later, I returned to the office to sit down with the University of Crookston Chancellor Mary Holtz-Clause. We talked at length about a number of workforce issues that covered so many of the issues that I hear about from businesses in the district. We also talked about ways in which the University can provide more opportunities for students in areas where young people can get a start in agriculture and make a living.
After the meeting there were more votes, and the welcome news that legislative business was canceled on Friday which means that I can come home to Minnesota that much sooner.