Farm Bill Update
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act(FARRM). I supported this bill, because as someone who grew up milking on a Jackson County dairy farm, I understand food does not come from the grocery store. It comes from hardworking, agriculture producers who need certainty to continue feeding our nation.
In today's polarized government, the opportunity to find common ground is rare. The FARRM bill was one of those rare opportunities, but still too many Democrats and Republicans allowed politics to trump progress, and chose to defeat this bipartisan effort. I am truly disappointed by the vote totals, and that folks chose to accept a badly broken status quo.
The FARRM bill would have been the most significant farm policy reduction in history. Among other things, it would have cut billions in mandatory spending -- the driver of our nation's debt problem, consolidated more than 100 programs, and eliminated direct payments. Unfortunately, without it, we are left with no budget savings, waste, fraud, and abuse in our food stamp program, and poor food security.
Our farmers and ranchers, not only in Kansas but across the nation, need certain and stable agriculture policy from the federal government to do their jobs. The FARRM bill was a step toward fixing a system that is currently inefficient, outdated, and badly in need of reform. It was not perfect, but the FARRM bill was a good starting point, and I am committed to bringing this issue back to the floor. We cannot make progress if we continue to do nothing.
To show my support for agriculture producers this week I posted a photo of my favorite calf from the dairy farm on Facebook.
Fixing the Student Loan Program
Last month, the House successfully passed H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. This act ensures that interest rates on subsidized student loans will not double on July 1, making life harder for many college graduates. The House bill is a long-term, market-based solution that will fix the student loan program and make it easier for students to pay for college.
At this week's House leadership press conference, I urged the Senate and the administration to act quickly to resolve this pressing issue. As the mother of two college-aged students, and the representative of many excellent universities and other higher education institutions, I am well aware of the rising costs associated with seeking a higher education.
Students graduating today take with them an average debt of more than $35,000. That is too high. I am also amazed there are still some 37 million Americans paying off some kind of student debt. When amassed, it is more than a trillion dollars. As the clock ticks down towards July 1, many college students can expect their student loan rates to double unless the Senate and administration join the House in passing a smarter solution that takes Washington politics out of students' wallets.
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National Small Business Week
Did you know small businesses employ nearly half of the private-sector workforce and create 60to 80 percent of new jobs? When I am home in Kansas, I frequently tour small businesses in the Second District and visit with employees to learn more about their work and the challenges they face. I have visited several small businesses in the past few months including: Heatron in Leavenworth, Berry's Arctic Ice in Topeka, ATC Composites in Ottawa, and Neodesha Plastics.
This week is the 50th annual National Small Business Week, and a great time to recognize the role small businesses play in our economy and our communities. This week, the Small Business Committee held aspecial hearing where representatives from small American manufacturing firms told their stories and discussed concerns about economic uncertainty, health care reform, over regulation, and tax complexity.
Kansans in Our Nation's Capital
It was a busy week for Kansans in Washington and I was fortunate enough to get the chance to meet with several of them. I had the opportunity to meet with student groups interested in how the federal government works including a group of Kansas 4-H students (pictured below), youth delegates from the Kansas Electric Cooperative, and Douglas County students, who were in town to learn civic leadership skills during the Citizen Washington Focus program. I appreciate them taking time out of their busy summer to visit our nation's capital and learn about what goes on in Washington.
Lynn Stover and George Wormsley of Cottonwood Industries also stopped by the office. It was great to hear about their Lawrence business, and how they provide support and services to individuals with disabilities. Meeting with Kansans is one of the best parts of my job. Thank you for stopping by this week!