Kansas Common Sense
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Victory: Farmers and Ranchers Voices Heard
American farmers and ranchers received welcome news on Thursday night: the Department of Labor finally listened to them and withdrew its proposed youth farm labor rule, which would have fundamentally altered the future of agriculture in our country. If the Department would have moved forward with regulating the relationship between parents and children on their own farm, a dangerous precedent would have been set; virtually nothing would be off limits when it comes to government intrusion into our lives.
Out of respect for the rural way of life, the Administration has agreed to not pursue this regulation further. Instead it will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, FFA, and 4-H – to promote safety among youth workers in agriculture. This is exactly what we have been asking for all along – those who know agriculture best should have been consulted from the start. On Friday after the announcement I appeared on Fox News to discuss the news. Click here to watch.
I also appeared on Fox News Channel on Thursday prior to the proposed rule being withdrawn to discuss the fact that the proposal was ill conceived, did not conduct enough outreach, and is so broadly written that it lacked common sense. Click here to watch Thursday’s clip.
To celebrate the announcement, I held a press conference at the statehouse in Topeka on Friday along with Steve Baccus, President of Kansas Farm Bureau, Matt Teagarden, Director of Industry Relations for Kansas Livestock Association, and family ranchers Barb Downey and Randall Debler. Click here to see photos from the event.
For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal had gone into effect, not only would the shrinking rural workforce have been further reduced, and our nation’s youth deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life would have begun to disappear. This is a tremendous victory for farmers and ranchers across the country. Click here to learn more about my fight against this rule and the great news we received this week.
Senate Passes Postal Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate passed the 21st Century Postal Service Act, legislation to help preserve the soundness of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The postal reform bill will provide USPS with flexibility to restructure and save billions of dollars – while preventing taxpayer dollars from being used for a bailout.
Additionally, the bill includes language that expands upon an amendment that I proposed to make certain rural communities are not forgotten as the Postal Service restructures. Action is now required by the U.S. House of Representatives before the bill can be signed by the President and the provisions take effect.
The language, which is based upon an amendment I successfully had adopted in committee, will provide an answer to the question so many Kansans have been asking: “what do we have to do to save our post office?” Once passed by the House and signed into law the language will help protect rural post offices by defining a structure for what the Postal Service must consider as it conducts the individual post office feasibility studies – and stops the closure of any post offices until that happens.
The Postal Service has been suffering billion dollar deficits over the past 5 years, due in part to a sluggish economy and the increase use of email. USPS announced its plans to close or consolidate nearly rural 3,600 post offices, including more than 130 in Kansas. But in 2010, the Postal Regulatory Commission found that only 0.7 percent of the USPS operating budget goes to maintaining the 10,000 smallest post offices in the country. Therefore, reducing service to rural communities will have little benefit to the USPS’ bottom line while bringing much hardship to rural communities. The 21st Century Postal Service Act will require USPS to set minimum standards of service and alternatives to closure that must be considered prior to closing any post office. Click here to learn more.
USDA Announcement on BSE Case
This week’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that a dairy cow in California was identified with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) reaffirms the fact that our food safety system works. The USDA has very strict guidelines in place to protect our food supply and the system performed exactly how it was designed to perform. The animal was never presented for slaughter and at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.
This detection in no way affects the United States’ BSE status as determined by the World Organization for Animal Health, and this detection should not affect U.S. trade. The United States is the world leader in food safety. American beef and dairy are safe and will remain safe. Click here to get more information. Click here to listen to my interview on AgriTalk this week on this topic.
Plan to Lower High Gas Prices
This week I spoke to my colleagues on the U.S. Senate floor today about my concerns regarding rising oil and gas prices and the negative impact on consumers. Kansas has the third highest number of highway miles of any state in the country, so higher fuel prices are particularly difficult for Kansans who drive long distances each day for work and school. As oil and gas prices once again rise and the U.S. economy continues to struggle, I believe one of the most important things Congress can do is facilitate the production of affordable energy.
For the United States to remain competitive in the global market, Congress must develop a comprehensive national energy policy. No single form of energy can provide the answer. High fuel prices and an uncertain energy supply will continue until we take serious steps toward increasing the development of our natural resources. Not only would the development of our nation’s resources reduce our dependence on foreign energy, it would also provide our economy with a reliable, affordable fuel supply. If future generations of Americans are to experience the quality of life we enjoy today, the time to address our energy needs is now. Click here to watch my comments on the Senate floor.
Speaking about New Businesses and Startup Act
I spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Tuesday about the Startup Act, legislation I authored with Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) to jump-start the economy through the creation of new businesses. The Wilson Center is “a living memorial” to President Wilson that seeks to build a bridge between academia and public policy. Senator Warner and I highlighted the job-creating provisions of the Startup and spoke about the global battler for talent the United States must win if we are to remain the best place in the world to do business. New businesses create an average of 3 million jobs each year. By creating a circumstance in which many will succeed, jobs will be created and our economy will be stronger. Click here to learn more about the Startup Act.
Disaster Assistance Available for Kansans Affected by Severe Weather
Low-interest federal disaster loans are now available to residents and business owners affected by the 90+ tornadoes, hail and severe weather that hit Kansas the evening of April 14 and early morning hours of April 15, 2012. In response to a request from Governor Sam Brownback and my letter to Administrator Mills supporting his request, the U.S. Small Business administration (SBA) has made assistance available to residents in Sedgwick, Butler, Cowley, Harvey, Kingman, Reno and Sumner counties.
Disaster loan information and application forms are available from the SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting SBA’s Web site at http://www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. In addition, SBA representatives are personally on hand at the following Disaster Loan Outreach Center to answer questions and provide help each individual complete their application:
4900 South Clifton
Wichita, KS 62716
Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6 pm
And more than two weeks after the tornado, Kansans continue to reach out to their friends and neighbors in need. One organization that continues to make a difference is the United Way of the Plains, which signed up more than 1,750 volunteers to clear debris following the tornado that ripped through southeast Wichita and the Oaklawn neighborhood. Click here to learn more about how the United Way is helping the cleanup and recovery effort.
Speaking at the Independent Community Bankers Association Annual Convention
On Thursday, I spoke with community bankers gathered for the Independent Community Bankers Association Annual Convention. Community bankers play a big role in the way of life we enjoy in Kansas. But regulations and red tape aimed at preventing the bad players on Wall Street from irresponsible behavior have begun to affect the smaller banks in Kansas communities that had nothing to do with the financial collapse we have experienced. I introduced S. 1600, the Communities First Act, to begin implementing some commonsense reforms into the way small banks are regulated. If we are to continue to enjoy our Kansas way of life, we must have a strong community banking industry. My thanks to David Lynch of ICBA and the many Kansas bankers that made my visit possible.
Seeking Answers in the Collapse of MF Global
This week, I participated in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the collapse of MF Global. Hundreds of millions of dollars are missing from MF Global customer accounts. Rather than protecting these accounts which, by law, are off limits for use outside of their intended purpose, government regulators allowed these segregated funds to disappear. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has oversight over financial transactions involving commodities markets. In the days leading up to the bankruptcy filing by MF Global, the CFTC failed to protect customer accounts from this illicit raiding. As the situation continues to develop, I will remain engaged to ensure that farmers and ranchers who use similar financial services as a means to protect themselves against losses will not be further victimized. Click here to see a video clip from the hearing.
Visiting Arvest Bank
Before catching a flight to Washington Monday morning, I had the opportunity to stop by and visit with the leadership of Arvest Bank in Mission. Arvest President Mark Larrabee, along with the rest of his team were gracious hosts. I serve on the Senate Banking Committee and want to learn more about what banks like Arvest are doing to promote economic growth. I enjoyed our conversation and appreciated their description of Arvest as a regional bank that feels like a community bank. It’s great to have Arvest in Kansas and I look forward to their continued presence in our state.
KU Barnstorming Tour
On Saturday, I attended the annual KU Barnstorming Tour stop in Hays. The KU squad, comprised of hometown favorited Jordan Juenemann and Conner Teahan, were joined by three former Fort Hays State University players to take on area high school senior all-stars in an exhibition game at Hays High School. Hays has hosted the tour stop since 1993, and proceeds from the game go to the Kansas Barnstormers, Hays High Booster Club and Hays High Basketball. The game was full of fun, laughter and lots of cheers from the audience. It was great to see the community and athletes enjoying the night together. Click here to see a photo.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Kansas Physical Therapy Association
Carolyn Bloom of Topeka
Dave Sanderson of Salina
Kansas State University
Nate Spriggs of Manhattan
University of Kansas
Kathryn Hoven of Lawrence
Doctors for America
Katherine Prather of Kansas City
Kansas Independent Pharmacy Services Corporation
Sam Boyajian of Gardner
Jeff Sigler of Lawrence
Pete Stearn of Topeka
Kansas Bioscience Organization
Gregory Kopf of Kansas City
Angela Kreps of Lenexa
Kevin Sweeney of Kansas City
Susan Cooley of Lenexa
John Cooley of Lenexa
American College of Radiology
John Lohnes of Wichita
Rob Gibbs of Parsons
Former Congressman Dennis Moore of Lenexa
Stephen Moore of Lenexa
Doug Stark of Wichita
American Chemical Society
Peter Dorhout of Manhattan
Kansas Orthopaedic Society
Peter Hodges of Manhattan
Nicholas Hodges of Manhattan
Charles Craig of Newton
Brad Daily of Salina
Gary Caruthers of Topeka
Naomi Shields of Wichita
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Melissa Cable of Kansas City
John Sutphin of Kansas City
William Clifford of Garden City
Foundation for Rural Education and Development
Nathan Brungardt of Great Bend
Bret Gum of Johnson
MIT Student Science Policy Initiative
Samuel Brinton of Manhattan
Kansas Farm Bureau Board Members
Marieta Houser of Ulysses
Helen Norris of Wellington
Collins Bus Corporation
John Doswell of South Hutchinson
Kent Tyler of South Hutchinson
Edward Jones Grassroots Task Force
Jeff Seibel of Hays
Steve Hessman of Dodge CityBecky Hessman of Dodge City
State of Kansas Librarians
Juanita Jameson of Garden City
Robert Banks of Topeka
David Beck of Topeka
Jean Bryant of Cimarron
Chris Osborn of Olathe
Angela Dailey of Topeka
Darrell Bryant of Cimarron
Rachel Monger of Topeka
Willie Novotny of Manhattan
Rick Kennedy of Overland Park
Janet Kennedy of Overland Park
Kansas Chamber of Leadership
Dave Murfin of Wichita
Ivan Crossland of Columbus
Jay Allbaugh of Wichita
Mike Morgan of Wichita
Bill Pickert of Wichita
Kent Beisner of Topeka
Jeff Glendening of Topeka
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
Ed Hammond of Hays
John Clapsaddle of Gypsum
Chris Clapsaddle of Gypsum
Robert Westmoreland of Overland Park
Jan Westmoreland of Overland Park
William Angell of Leawood
Eva Mae Angell of Leawood
Rhonda Befort of Shawnee Mission
Avery Rowcroft of Shawnee Mission
Andrew Yach of LaCygne
Alex Kohlenberg of Louisburg
Ghelsea Fleming of Louisburg
Ganner Myers of Louisburg
Matthew Parodi of Louisburg
Mark Staab of Louisburg
Christine Staab of Louisburg
Joshua Staab of Louisburg
Jackson Staab of Louisburg
Emma Staab of Louisburg
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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