View From the Capitol - Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's Newsletter for the Week of July 8-12, 2013
This week, the U.S. House approved a Farm Bill that secures a safe, affordable, and plentiful food supply by improving agricultural programs to be cost-effective and market-oriented. The bill is an agriculture production only bill, decoupling the agriculture production portions from the nutritional assistance portion that was in an earlier version of the Farm Bill that failed two weeks ago.
This Farm Bill saves taxpayer dollars by eliminating direct subsidies and payments to those who don't farm. In place of direct payments, farmers will have access to a low-lying safety net that offers assistance only after significant losses are suffered as a result of extreme droughts, floods, or adverse market conditions. This ensures American consumers won’t have to be dependent on foreign countries for our food and that food can remain affordable.
The House Farm Bill eliminates or consolidates over 100 different programs, saving more than $20 billion. It also requires regulatory agencies throughout the government to use scientifically sound information in moving forward with their regulatory initiatives, and it removes burdensome red tape from farmers and other small businesses. The bill also includes the provision I championed to remove a wasteful, duplicative program related to catfish inspection that could cost $170 million over the next 10 years. I look forward to the House and Senate working together to iron out the differences in the two versions of the Farm Bill and passing a final version in the weeks to come.
On another topic, the House Armed Services Committee, on which I serve, joined with the House Veterans Affairs Committee this week in a joint hearing aimed at helping our servicemen and women transition to civilian life. With our military in the process of drawing down, we can expect further demands on our already overburdened veterans benefits system. This hearing looked at ways of speeding up the process and adjudicating claims for benefits. This is a high priority of mine.
The VA has a backlog of more than 500,000 claims for veterans. Each claim represents a story of a sacrifice for this great nation and I find these delays unacceptable. These men and women served their country and have earned the benefits to which they are entitled. When they enlisted they were promised these benefits for themselves and their families. They and their families have had to endure hardships. They should not have to experience additional hardships in obtaining their benefits. We owe them nothing less.
On Wednesday, the House passed the Energy and Water Development Bill, which focuses funding on an all-of-the-above domestic energy approach, promoting job creation, and protecting programs that are critical to our national security.
This bill promotes the use of all our domestic energy sources, including technologies for alternative forms of energy such as nuclear. It provides funding for programs that can help tackle rising gas prices. It also encourages commerce and job creation by providing funding for critical Army Corps of Engineers programs with a focus on money for navigation and flood control activities that will encourage economic growth, public health, and safety. Lastly, we prioritize national security by ensuring that our nation is prepared for current and future nuclear threats as a result of maintaining the safety and readiness of our nuclear stockpile and upholding our current nuclear deterrence posture.
This legislation will help keep America secure while maintaining economy-growing infrastructure. I hope the Senate acts quickly on this bill by passing it and sending it to the President.
Finally, the price of gasoline has come down in recent weeks, but those prices are still too high, and I am concerned they are doing severe damage to non-profits operating in Missouri’s Fourth District and throughout our state. With that in mind, I recently visited the Cass County Senior Citizens Multipurpose Center to meet with seniors and Meals on Wheels volunteers, and to help pack lunches and deliver them to needy citizens.
The harm resulting from high gas prices goes far beyond the aggravation that most of us experience when we fill up our cars and trucks. The Administrator of the Cass County Senior Citizens Center has stated clearly that the non-profit Meals on Wheels program, which provides nutritious food to homebound citizens, is impacted by the high price of gas. Furthermore, the Meals on Wheels Association of America previously conducted a national survey showing its programs, nationwide, have struggled with increases in the price of gas.
We cannot allow our elderly citizens to suffer due to the refusal to take common sense action and open access to more energy in this country to bring down pump prices. The House of Representatives has passed a series of ‘all-of-the-above’ energy solution bills to expand access to America’s energy resources in an effort to increase supply and lower prices. These efforts include approval for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring much-needed oil from Canada to the United States.
It was a pleasure to join Meals on Wheels of Harrisonville to help deliver meals to seniors and to listen to their concerns about rising gas prices and issues in general. It is an honor to represent them, and you, in Congress.
Have a great week.