Kansas Common Sense
May 28 2019
An Update on Kansas Flooding and Disaster Relief Efforts
Recently, much of Kansas has been devastated by flooding and severe weather, with more rain expected in the coming days. I don't remember a time where flooding has been worse, or more widespread. Starting with tours of farm ground in Northeast Kansas in March, I've been visiting locations across our state that have been impacted by this never-ending amount of water and have seen firsthand the devastation. As the situation has become more acute, on Saturday I joined Kansas Adjutant and Director of Emergency Management Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli and Deputy Director of Emergency Management Angee Morgan for a full briefing on flooding and severe weather that has impacted so much of the state. Since I last toured flood damage, rain and severe weather has been persistent – impacting farmers, ranchers and communities. Thanks to Maj. Gen Tafanelli and Deputy Director Morgan for Saturday’s briefing.
On Friday, Congress passed a disaster relief package that will provide needed resources for producers and communities that have been affected by flooding and other natural disasters. We have witnessed devastating flooding in Kansas over the past few months that has destroyed farmland, prevented farmers from planting and ruined grain in storage. As widespread heavy rainfall continues, many parts of the state are bracing for more floods.
The disaster bill includes several provisions that will help producers recovering from these floods. It authorizes USDA to help cover the stored grain that has been destroyed by floods, aiding farmers who had grain in storage because of low commodity prices and market uncertainty. For farmers who are unable to plant fields this year, this bill provides assistance that is in addition to prevented planting crop insurance coverage. I was also able to secure funding for the Emergency Conservation Program, which helps farmers and ranchers repair damaged farmland and remove debris from their fields.
On Monday, following Governor Laura Kelly's request to President Trump for federal disaster aid for Kansas, I urged President Trump to take swift action on this measure and to expeditiously provide the aid that so many Kansans need. With state and local resources strained, additional federal assistance is needed to aid in recovery and help prevent further damage caused by the flooding. Click here to see more.
Honoring Our Fallen Servicemembers on Memorial Day
On Monday, the nation observed Memorial Day – a tradition over 150 years old to honor and remember those who have died in service to our nation. On Memorial Day, we pause to express our gratitude, and to remind our children and grandchildren that because of the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, we have the opportunity to live in the strongest, freest and greatest nation in the world.
To the families and friends of the fallen, and to all veterans today, let me share with you a nation’s gratitude. We are privileged to live in a country where men and women – from every state – volunteer to defend their fellow citizens by joining the armed forces.
I was honored to deliver remarks at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery at Fort Dodge in Dodge City. During my remarks, I reflected on things we can all learn from our veterans and members of our military who continually answer a call to serve the greater good of our nation. Thank you to Lori Snyder for organizing Monday’s important recognition and ceremony, and to cemetery superintendent Heidi Goff for her work at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery to make the event possible.
Farmers and Ranchers Need Access to More Markets
Last week, I urged United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to, first and foremost, resolve the ongoing trade dispute with China, and to invest in international food aid programs when considering additional trade assistance.
The tariffs our country levied against China, and China’s retaliatory tariffs targeted at our farmers and ranchers, threaten to cause long term damage to U.S. agriculture. Kansas farmers and ranchers understand the need to hold China accountable for bad behavior on trade. Yet, net farm income has fallen by 50 percent since 2013 and the trade war has pushed commodity prices down even further. Many farmers and ranchers are on the verge of collapse. Another round of payments to producers and commodity purchases by USDA may provide short term relief for farmers, but will not make up for lost export markets and long term implications of the trade disputes. To read this letter, click here.
Welcoming Kansas Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday morning, I had the opportunity to spend time with veterans on a Kansas Honor Flight in Washington, D.C. Welcoming these veterans – some of them visiting the memorials built in their honor for the first time – is always a special occasion that never fails to inspire me.
During these conversations, I always make certain to express our nation’s gratitude to these men and women and offer my office’s assistance if they are having any issues receiving the benefits and healthcare they have earned. Thank you to Vern Swanson for arranging this visit and to the student companions from Parsons High School for supporting these veterans on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Robocalls = Annoying and Dangerous
On Wednesday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the TRACED Act, legislation that will provide regulators more time to find scammers, increase penalties for those caught and bring relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally break laws.
Included in the TRACED Act is my FCC Reporting Modernization Act, which will help identify the patterns scammers employ to guide efforts so we can stay ahead of this problem as these criminals continue attempting to deceive consumers. Not only are robocalls annoying and disruptive, but they can be dangerous – far too often coercing unsuspecting Americans to provide sensitive personal and financial information with highly-sophisticated deceit tactics. To read more on this legislation, click here.
Leading Kansas and Missouri Colleagues in Urging USDA to Relocate Research Agencies to Kansas City
This week, I urged the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to the Kansas City.
With a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of colleagues from Kansas and Missouri, we outlined for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue the mnay reasons that make Kansas City the most qualified and excellent location for these facilities:
- Kansas City boasts an excellent quality life;
- The region is home to a highly-skilled and educated workforce, including nearly 5,000 current USDA employees and contractors;
- Kansas City is close to ag stakeholders, farmers, ranchers and rural communities who depend on the important work of these agencies;
- The animal health corridor, stretching from Manhattan, KS to Columbia, MO is anchored in Kansas City;
- The 12+ land grant and research institutions, concentration of animal health companies and NBAF would support further partnerships with these agencies.
I’ll continue advocating to USDA and Secretary Perdue for these agencies to call Kansas City home. For more information on this effort, click here.
Meeting with Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. to Discuss Kansas Wheat Exports
On Wednesday, I met with the Brazilian Ambassador to the United States to discuss trade between our two countries. Specifically, we discussed the implementation of the agreement made earlier this year between President Trump and President Bolsonaro of Brazil that would open a duty-free tariff rate quota, or TRQ, for wheat. This would allow 750,000 metric tons of wheat to be imported into Brazil without being tariffed. The majority of this wheat will likely come from the United States, including a portion from Kansas. Brazil initially agreed to this TRQ in 1996, but has not followed through on permanently opening the TRQ.
Earlier this year, I encouraged President Trump to raise this issue with President Bolsonaro during his visit to the United States, and I will continue to advocate for the implementation of the TRQ as soon as possible.
Visiting with the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians
On Tuesday, I met with the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians in my Washington, D.C. office to discuss the value of primary care and how we can work to improve access to care for Kansans. With the prospect of a severe national physician shortage on the horizon, we discussed the importance of improving Graduate Medical Education to increase our overall physician workforce, and to bring physicians to rural communities, as many of these communities across our state continue to face challenges in accessing quality healthcare.
Family physicians are vital to rural healthcare, and I appreciate the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians for sharing their insight with me on these issues.
Discussing the Southwest Chief with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson
On Wednesday, I met with Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson to discuss the Southwest Chief. During our meeting, I reiterated that I fully expect Amtrak to comply with the intent of Congress, maintain rail-service on the Southwest Chief route and utilize the funds Congress appropriated for the future of the line, and Mr. Anderson assured me of his commitment to the Southwest Chief.
The Kansas communities that depend on Amtrak should be provided the stability of rail service that the Southwest Chief has delivered to them for decades, and I will continue working with my colleagues to make certain Amtrak’s commitment is met well into the future.
Supporting Legislation to Expand Ag Exports to Cuba
On Tuesday, I cosponsored legislation to expand American agricultural exports to Cuba. The bipartisan bill would support jobs in Kansas and across the country by lifting restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. The biggest barrier for producers as they seek access to Cuba is the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act (TSRA) prohibition on providing private credit for those exports. This forces Cubans to pay with cash up front for American-grown food. As a result, American farm goods have become less competitive, and Cuba has turned to other countries who are able to directly extend credit to Cuban buyers for transactions.
This legislation, which would allow for the private financing of ag exports to Cuba, represents an important step forward in our work to fully open Cuban markets for Kansas farmers and ranchers. I will continue to work to help expand access to foreign markets for our Kansas producers. Click here to read more on this measure.
Speaking to the AIA Board of Governors
This week, I spoke to the Aerospace Industries Association’s (AIA) Board of Governors and senior leaders from AIA member companies. As co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, it was great to address the pivotal players of the aerospace industry, and speak on the strengths Kansas brings to the table. Wichita is the only place in the world where can you find a cluster of aviation industry and educational institutions working together to develop the talent pipeline that will sustain aerospace for generations to come. As chairman of Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee with funding jurisdiction over NASA, and a seat on both the Commerce Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I have the unique opportunity to advocate for Kansas industry through a distinct and multifaceted lens. It was great to see all of the companies with Kansas ties, and I look forward to continuing to advocate on their behalf.
Hosting Kansas Listening Tour Stops
On Friday, I joined folks from across Pawnee County for a Kansas Listening Tour stop in Larned. During this meeting, we discussed issues related to local veterans and my work through the VA MISSION Act to make certain they can access care close to home, including through their local physician. We also discussed the ongoing trade war with China and our work to support farmers and ranchers, work to secure our southern border and reform immigration policies, and the Senate's ongoing efforts to lower prescription drug prices for Americans. Thank you to those who came to share their thoughts and ideas with me and to The University of Kansas Health System Pawnee Valley Campus Administrator Kendra Barker for hosting me.
Following my stop in Pawnee County, I was in Great Bend for a Barton County stop on my Kansas Listening Tour, where we talked about a number of issues before the Senate including trade and its vital importance to our ag economy and rural Kansas, the need for Congress to pass USMCA, recent storms and the widespread flooding across Kansas, as well as efforts to increase veterans' access to healthcare and mental wellness resources. Thank you to The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus Administrator Jesse Mauck for hosting my visit to Great Bend.
Prior to speaking at the Dodge City Memorial Day Ceremony at the Kansas Veterans' Cemetery, I hosted a Ford County stop on my Kansas Listening Tour. During the meeting, I placed a special focus on Memorial Day, my gratitude for those who have served and discussed my efforts to improve healthcare outcomes for our nation's former servicemembers. During this meeting, we also discussed the importance of trade agreements and the need for increased access to foreign markets for farmers and ranchers, infrastructure and the need to modernize this vital aspect of our economy, as well as the Southwest Chief and our efforts to make certain Amtrak maintains rail service across Kansas and rural America. Thank you to many folks across Ford County for sharing their thoughts and ideas with me and to State Representative Bradley Ralph and State Senator Bud Estes for attending. Thank you also to Dodge City Assistant City Manager Ernestor De La Rosa for hosting my visit.
Now Accepting Fall 2019 Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.
Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for the fall 2019 session are due June 14. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information and to apply.
Kansans in the Office
Lori Davis of Wichita
American Association of Diabetes Educators
Ann Davin of Lawrence
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Chandra Case of Topeka
Jamie Harrington of Augusta
Kyanna Kuntz of Fort Riley
Cyrstal Murphy of Overland Park
Tarena Sisk of Winfield
American College of Radiology
John Lohnes of Wichita
Bruch Breckenridge of Leawood
Tina Breckenridge of Leawood
Naomi Fishback of Palmer
Martha Hornbostel of Palmer
Gavin Jackman of Girard
Jennifer Jackman of Elsmore
Michael Jackman of Elsmore
Joyce Kalivoda of Olathe
Scott Kalivoda of Olathe
Cooper Scharff of Girard
Emmie Stallman of Hutchinson
Shandi Stallman of Hutchinson
Citizens for Space Exploration
James Berck of Manhattan
Emergency Nurses Association
Erica Forbes of Manhattan
Family Research Council
Pastor Keith Peters of Cheney
Kansas Society of CPA’s
Amber Goering of Shawnee
Jay Langley of Salina
Joe Ronnebaum of Leawood
Kansas Academy of Physicians
Daniel Dickerson of Eudora
Doug Gradenbacher of Quinter
Clif Knight of Olathe
National Utility Contractors Association
Tony Privitera of Kansas City
Mallory Gibson of Pittsburg
Religious Action Center
SueAnn Strom of Prairie Village
Terri Foudray of Overland Park
Tom Gentile of Wichita
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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