This was the second of two consecutive in-district work weeks, and one of the stops for the MO4U team was Pulaski County. A highlight of this visit was a tour of the Life Care Center of Waynesville. This state-of-the-art facility provides rehabilitation and long-term care services that include individualized therapy to enable patients to reach their full potential for quality living.
I was particularly impressed with the Center's Alzheimer's unit. The Alzheimer's unit provides residents with nurses and therapists specially trained in caring for Alzheimer's residents. And, since Alzheimer's disease affects more than just patients, the Center hosts support meetings for families and friends of loved ones who are afflicted.
According to a study published in the April, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine, Alzheimer's is now the costliest disease in America, outpacing cancer and heart disease. With America's aging population, the number of senior citizens in this country who are affected by this expensive and debilitating disease, estimated at five million, will continue to grow. It is projected that the costs of Alzheimer's could exceed $1.2 trillion a year by 2050 unless a breakthrough is found. Given these skyrocketing costs, I sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, urging them to increase funding for Alzheimer's research. We must find a cure for this disease and find it soon. Until that happens, facilities like the Life Care Center of Waynesville are a blessing providing valuable services to both residents and their families.
Later, I spoke to the Pulaski County Rotary Club, updating luncheon attendees on the ongoing events in Washington and on how I am working to promote issues of importance to our district.
I then had the privilege of hosting a business roundtable with business, civic, and community leaders from the Waynesville and St. Robert areas.
Many important issues were raised during the meeting. First and foremost, community leaders taking part in the meeting stressed the importance of Fort Leonard Wood to the economic well-being of both communities. It is vital that we keep it strong and look for opportunities to expand the missions of the installation. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee I will continue to fight for Fort Leonard Wood to remain vital and to expand its duties and responsibility.
Other issues of importance to Pulaski County citizens are similar to those I hear from the good people in other parts of Missouri's Fourth Congressional District: Concern with government overregulation, the Obama Administration's war on coal in a state that is highly dependent on coal for its energy needs, and worries that the President's health care law is having unintended consequences. Those consequences include school districts and other employers cutting hours of employees, including bus drivers, to avoid the expense of having to comply with the law's definition of "full time" workers. Once again, hardworking Missouri citizens are offering common sense ideas that should be considered by Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.
Not far from Pulaski County, I joined my Missouri Congressional colleagues Jason Smith and Blaine Luetkemeyer for a tour of parts of Mark Twain National Forest, which encompasses 1.5 million acres across 29 southern and central Missouri counties.
The tour was a follow-up to concerns raised by local groups over prescribed burning on National Forest land. This tour provided an opportunity for me to work with fellow legislators in the state to raise the profile of land use issues and to encourage the forest rangers to work closely with the Missouri forest products industry to properly balance our precious natural resources. I remain committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure these federal properties are managed properly to improve the economic and environmental resources in the state of Missouri.
A visit with the Centralia Kiwanis Club rounded out a busy week on the road. It was good to discuss with community business leaders some of the concerns I am addressing in Washington, including overregulation. Several attendees shook their heads at the examples I offered of government impediments standing in the way of job creators hoping to hire new workers. While we have had some success pushing back egregious rules and regulations (such as the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulation of farm dust, its requirement that dairy farmers build concrete containment barriers around their milk tanks, and the Department of Labor's proposals last year that would have prevented young people from working on farms) the job of eliminating waste and nuisance regulations is far from over. I will continue to fight unnecessary regulations hurting people and hindering jobs.
On another matter, President Obama met Japanese Prime Minister Abe this week to talk trade, and I was honored to lead dozens of my House colleagues in urging the Obama Administration to push Japan to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for U.S. agricultural products as part of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks.
A letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expresses concern with Japan's demand for special treatment for its agricultural sector. The fact is that Japan has not made a comprehensive offer on market access for agricultural goods and we are encouraging the Administration to continue the efforts that have already been attempted, pointing out that giving in to Japan's demands would be inconsistent with U.S. requests in previous trade deals.
"We commend previous efforts to expand market access with Japan, including completion of a revised export for certain agricultural products last year," states the letter. "We now seek assurances from you that the U.S. will not close TPP negotiations with Japan's participation unless Japan has agreed to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to agriculture."
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am committed to continuing to work toward improved access to foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.
Have a great week.