WASHINGTON — With U.S. Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn., chairing the House Agriculture Committee, a bevy of new committee staff members have ties to Minnesota and North Dakota.

As Peterson and U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., are preparing for a bipartisan town hall to discuss agriculture and dairy programs in Melrose, Minn., Thursday, Feb. 21, the chairman has announced eight new staff members.

Five of the eight were either born on Minnesota or North Dakota farms, attended North Dakota State University or previously worked for Minnesota congressmen.

They include:

  • Rebekah Solem will serve as director of scheduling. She grew up on a cattle farm in Thief River Falls, Minn., and holds a degree from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. She is pursuing a master’s degree at George Mason University.
  • Emily German will serve as legislative assistant. She has worked for several past members of the committee, including Congressman Pete Gallego of Texas and most recently as senior legislative assistant for Congressman Rick Nolan, D-Minn. German is from Houston and a graduate of Texas A&M.

  • Alison Titus will serve as legislative assistant. Prior to joining the committee, Titus was a legislative assistant to Congressman Tim Walz, D-Minn., who is now Minnesota's governor. A New Jersey native, she holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.
  • Ross Hettervig will serve as the committee’s digital outreach specialist. Hettervig comes to the committee from the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, where he was digital director. He grew up on a beef cattle operation in the Red River Valley and is a graduate of North Dakota State University.

  • Callie Murphy will serve as the committee’s staff assistant. Murphy grew up on a row-crop farm in Felton in northwest Minnesota and holds a degree in political science from North Dakota State University.

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Peterson, a 22-year veteran who represents a wide swath of western Minnesota from the Canadian border south to almost Iowa, said he's joining with Emmer at the town hall because Melrose is in Stearns County, where Peterson represents the western half of the county and Emmer the eastern half.

Peterson also announced that the full ag committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on "The State of the Rural Economy" at the U.S. Capitol.

The meeting will be streamed live via the committee's YouTube channel.