by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

It was seven score and 10 years ago.  On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his now legendary Gettysburg Address.  Four months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the President returned to the site to remember the 51,000 Americans who lost their lives in the three-day battle, turning Pennsylvania farm fields into a battleground's graveyard.

Arriving by train from Washington, D.C., President Lincoln delivered his historic speech at the dedication of the "Soldiers' National Cemetery" where more than 3,500 Union soldiers were laid to rest.

In just 272 words, the President memorialized the enduring legacy of the most sacred principles of our republic.  In 10 sentences, the 16th president immortalized the unique vision of the Founders, a nation "conceived in liberty" and paid tribute to those who gave their lives on the battlefield so "that the nation might live."

This Veterans Day - Monday, November 11th - let's remember the "unfinished work" described by President Lincoln and so "nobly advanced" 150 years ago by the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and by all of those who have fulfilled a patriotic duty to serve our country in times of peace and war.

President Lincoln did not realize the power of his eulogy.  Reportedly he reflected immediately afterwards:  "That speech won't scour.  It is a flat failure."  In those days, scour was a farming reference that described a plow's blade moving through the soil.  A 19th century American inventor engineered a prairie sensation that scoured the rich Midwestern topsoil like a knife, falling smoothly from the polished steel plow. Like the "singing plow" invented by blacksmith John Deere, Lincoln's words sing true to the soul of America 150 years later.

President Lincoln's humility grossly underestimated the enduring power of his message that underscored our individual rights as Americans. His closing words remind us about the rights and responsibilities we bear as citizens of this great nation:  that "government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth."

The Gettysburg Address holds relevance today on its sesquicentennial anniversary.  The United States was 87 years old when President Lincoln asked if any nation conceived in liberty "can long endure."  This summer, America celebrated 237 years of independence.

Our republic endures because its foundation is strong.  The deeply held views of the electorate today focus largely on the size and scope of government.  The ideological divide among voters can be seen in the politics and policies that shape American society.  The no. 1 issue on the minds of the electorate arguably is getting the economy back on the right track.  It's not a coincidence that a flourishing economy and a bounty of good-paying jobs will help solve many of the challenges facing society and families working hard to make ends meet.

For generations, Americans have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors who blazed a trail of self-reliance to raise standards of living, to pursue achievement that knows no boundaries and to pledge allegiance to the rights and responsibilities of self-government.  America has outlasted regional, cultural, political, religious, racial and social differences because we are united by the timeless principles on which our nation was founded and which are embodied by the Constitution.  Ours is the first constitution based on the principle that we the people are sovereign with unalienable rights endowed by our Creator, delegating to our government only such power as necessary to secure these rights.  Such a founding is exceptional in human history.  We are a nation built to last on the enduring principles the Founders "brought forth on this continent" that have served America for more than two centuries.

President Lincoln needed only two minutes in his Gettysburg Address to remind Americans about our shared destiny.  He called upon his fellow citizens to "take increased devotion to that cause for which (soldiers) gave the last full measure of devotion."

From this Veterans Day to the next 11th of November - including each day in between and beyond - let's carry on that exceptional legacy of the American spirit.  Just as President Lincoln paid tribute to the idea of America's exceptionalism, let us honor our men and women in uniform who have answered the call to serve and defend America's freedom and individual liberty, especially those who have lost life and limb in the fullest measure of devotion to our country.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yesterday marked the first meeting of the Budget Conference Committee.  This bicameral, bipartisan panel is tasked with reaching an agreement between the House and Senate that tackles our nation's fiscal challenges.  Deliberation, debate and negotiation is how the legislative process is meant to work.

The fiscal problems facing the country are great.  The problem is not that we tax too little; it's that we spend too much.  Deficits are continuing to grow and the resulting debt will grow faster than GDP.  The Congressional Budget Office says this path is ultimately unsustainable.

I disagree with those who believe raising taxes is the solution to reducing deficits and paying down America's debt.  I don't believe we need to grow government in order to create jobs, to grow the economy or increase the prosperity of Americans.  A more prosperous America does not result from an ever larger, more intrusive government.  Spending less and taxing less will do more good for the economy.

Transparency, accountability, and fiscal integrity should be our key goals as negotiations begin.  On the budget conference committee, I intend to drive a hard bargain on behalf of the taxpaying public.  My message is simple and straightforward:  Washington cannot tax, spend and borrow its way to prosperity.

Click here to see video

Q:        What are the next steps to resolve the budget impasse in Washington?

A:        The 16-day partial government shutdown ended with a deal to appoint a budget conference that includes 29 lawmakers from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  The bicameral, bipartisan panel is tasked with reaching an agreement on government funding levels.  I was named to serve on the budget conference, which is operating under a December 13 deadline to issue its final recommendations to Congress.  The vote to reopen the government did not lock in policy changes to address the $17 trillion national debt.  Now the budget conference is working to create a blueprint for future revenue and spending levels.  The last budget conference took place more than four years ago in April 2009.

 

Q:        What priorities will you promote as a member of the budget conference?

A:        First, to restore credibility and fiscal integrity to one of Congress' primary constitutional responsibilities:  the power of the purse.  The United States is not only facing a debt crisis.  We are also facing a crisis in confidence by the American people in our institutions of government.  Lawmakers need to come together to put the federal budget and budgeting process back on track.  For too long, Washington has been riding the gravy train, refusing to turn the corner on deficit spending or put the brakes on the national debt.  The federal budget has been driven off the rails by overpromises and overspending.  A driving force behind the reckless fiscal path includes unsustainable entitlement spending that's creating long-term generational inequity. Consider the largest federal pension and health care entitlements, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that serve older Americans. As the historic demographic shift continues over the next two decades, reforms are needed not just for spending discipline but to save the programs themselves, programs that have become part of the social fabric of America.  Other federal entitlements, such as food stamps, unemployment benefits and disability payments, have seen dramatic growth as eligibility was expanded during the Obama administration.  Adding even more burden to the taxpaying public, new federal subsidies paid out under the Affordable Care Act also will add to the wealth redistribution formula that is reshaping the size, scope and influence of the government into the U.S. economy and its reach into the lives of Americans.  On the budget conference committee, I intend to drive a hard bargain on behalf of the taxpaying public with a simple, straightforward message:  Washington cannot tax, spend and borrow its way to prosperity.  To that end, I'll work to restore principles of good governance during the negotiations, including transparency, accountability and fiscal integrity.

 

Q:        What needs to happen to reach a budget agreement?

A:        A concurrent budget resolution requires majority approval by the conferees to advance for a final up-or-down vote by Congress.  The budget resolution does not require the President's signature.  Instead, it has the authority to set the spending and taxing levels by which lawmakers on the respective committees will allocate tax dollars that operate services and functions of the government.  It boils down to lawmakers reaching an agreement on taxes and spending.  I disagree with those who believe raising taxes is the solution to reducing deficits and paying down America's $17 trillion debt.  Remember, less is more.  Spending less and taxing less will do more good for the economy.  The key to America's prosperity is rooted in the genesis of our republic.  We are a nation of self-starters who believe in personal responsibility, wealth creation and upward mobility.  Generations of Americans have worked hard to lay claim to their piece of the American Dream.  A tax-hungry, spendthrift Uncle Sam puts that dream at risk.  Restoring long-term prosperity will require a bipartisan consensus for permanent solutions to strengthen public entitlement systems and enact job-creating reforms of the federal tax code.  So, in addition to laying the groundwork for spending reductions that shrink the deficit, the budget conference should take the high road and identify long-lasting solutions that steer us away from fiscal cliffs.  Restoring fiscal integrity is the best way to avoid defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States.

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

For generations, Iowans have answered the call to feed the world.  That noble vocation continues today as farmers across the state haul in the fall harvest.  Their labor will help curb the pangs of hunger and malnutrition in poverty-stricken communities around the world.

Today's 21st century stewards of the soil - from resource-rich Iowa to resource-poor India - sow the seeds of global food security thanks in part to revolutionary advances in biotechnology pioneered by Iowan's own Dr Norman Borlaug.  The late Dr. Borlaug spent a lifetime toiling in the fields of Mexico and India to unlock high-yield crop varieties by researching plant genetics.  Known as the Father of the Green Revolution, Dr. Borlaug is credited with saving a billion people from starvation.  Blending his Midwestern work ethic with an unyielding humanitarian mission to feed the hungry, Dr. Borlaug spread food security to some of the most impoverished places on Earth by advancing agricultural innovation from field to fork.  His legacy is carried on today through the World Food Prize.

Established in 1986, the World Food Prize is a prestigious international award that recognizes outstanding, measurable achievement by individuals who have improved the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.

Thanks to the visionary leadership of Dr. Borlaug and philanthropic commitment by the John Ruan family, the World Food Prize since 1990 has been headquartered in Des Moines.  Located in the heart of America's breadbasket, Iowa serves as a global agricultural anchor all along the food chain.  The World Food Prize puts Iowa on the map as a global leader to promote scientific innovation and its application to agriculture.  This annual award helps create awareness, understanding, and appreciation for the safety and sustainability of biotechnology.  It inspires policy leaders and the next generation to join the crusade:  nourish the hungry, replace food scarcity with food security and empower resource-poor farmers with high-yield seeds.  With an eye on wiping famine off the face of the Earth, the World Food Prize serves as a catalyst to promote dialogue and acceptance for sustainable stewardship of biotechnology and natural resources.  From food and agriculture science and technology, to manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences, the World Food Prize focuses all eyes on feeding the hungry.

All eyes will be on Iowa this month during a three-day symposium that coincides with the centennial observance of Dr. Borlaug's birth in 1913.  From Oct. 13-16, more than 1,000 scientists, policy experts, political leaders, humanitarians and business leaders from more than 65 countries will gather in Des Moines to discuss:  The Next Borlaug Century:  Biotechnology, Sustainability and Climate Volatility.

Speakers include Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Ãƒâ€œlafur Ragnar Grímsson, current President of Iceland; and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at the Holy See in the Vatican.

The 2013 World Food Prize Laureate Awards will honor three pioneers of agricultural biotechnology whose research conducted two continents apart has helped advance world food security, especially to those in developing countries.  Their discoveries have enabled farmers to feed more people by growing more crops with improved yields that use less water and bear resistance to disease, insects, heat and drought.

Their work should inspire policy makers in Washington to keep the pressure on the U.S. Trade Representative to give agriculture a proper seat at the negotiating table for world trade agreements, derail non-tariff trade barriers with the World Trade Organization, and expand market access for American farm exports, including GMO grain.  Biotechnology offers hope to farmers who are trying to feed their families and make a living off the land in some of the most impoverished areas on the world.

As Iowa's harvest gets underway, let's all keep our eye on the prize. Reaping the benefits of human nature's capacity to innovate and create can solve the volatile swings of Mother Nature and feed a swelling global population expected to reach 9 billion in 2050.  Let's ask ourselves, if we have solutions to nurture natural resources while harvesting more from the land to feed the hungry and raise standards of living around the world, wouldn't it be morally wrong to turn our backs on science, sustainability and food security?

Iowa will celebrate Dr. Norman E Borlaug World Food Prize Day on Oct. 16.  Next spring, a statue of Dr. Borlaug will join the National Statuary Collection in the U.S. Capitol.

Q&A on Breast Cancer with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q:        Why is October proclaimed National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

A:        Consider this annual campaign as a catalyst that can help save lives.  Let's put it this way: Breast cancer has the potential to affect every American across the United States.  By calling attention to this insidious disease, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps to educate the public about symptoms, risk factors, screenings and prevention.  It also serves as a reminder to diagnosed patients, survivors and victims' loved ones that America stands strong in the march to find a cure.  By year's end, breast cancer will turn the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans upside down.  The National Cancer Institute projects 232,340 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.  And 39,620 families will lose their grandmother, mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, niece or granddaughter to this disease before the New Year. The State Health Registry of Iowa estimates 2,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013; 410 Iowa women will lose their life to the disease.  Designating the month of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps mobilize communities across the country to show solidarity.

Q:        How do you observe this campaign?

A:       For starters, I give thanks and praise that I'm able to wish my wife Barbara another happy, cancer-free birthday.  Barbara is a 26-year breast cancer survivor whose birthday coincides with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Like many survivors, Barbara attributes early detection and treatment with her recovery and survival.  Barbara also uses her birthday as a personal reminder to schedule her annual mammography screening.  We are grateful to participate in community awareness events, such as Race for the Cure, to stand together with families who have confronted this disease and the risk of losing everything from it.  Barbara and I want to show support for Iowa families struggling with a diagnosis, enduring treatment, considering preventive medical choices stemming from inherited genetic mutations to reduce risk of the disease, or mourning the loss of a loved one.  Since Barbara's diagnosis in 1987, America has made promising medical advances in the effort to diagnose, treat, prevent and find a cure to this second-leading cancer killer of women.

Q:        How can Iowans get involved to make a difference?

A: First, I would kindly challenge Iowans to hold their loved ones accountable.  Ask them if they conduct monthly self-exams.  Check whether they are up-to-date on an annual clinical breast exam from a medical provider.  Make sure they have had their mammography screening, which is considered the gold standard for early detection.  If not, don't drop the issue until one is scheduled.  The five-year survival rate if diagnosed and treated before the cancer spreads beyond the breast approaches 99 percent. Look for events, races and fund-raisers in local communities and neighborhoods.  Patronize local businesses that donate proceeds to breast cancer prevention and research.  National Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps keep America a step ahead of this pervasive disease by firing up the public's attention, fueling fund-raising and focusing on the life-saving screenings, treatments and research that save lives.  When it comes to public health and wellness, complacency could be considered public enemy no. 1.  Men and women need to know the warning signs to fight this disease.  The population considered at higher risk for breast cancer includes older women, those who have a family history of the disease, and obesity, particularly post-menopausal. It is said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Choosing healthy lifestyles and following early, consistent screening recommendations will increase the odds Iowans will celebrate the gift of life with loved ones for many years to come.

For more information, visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website at http://www.nbcam.org.  This year-round online resource offers a virtual repository of information to learn more about breast cancer, breast health, the latest developments in research, awareness events and patient resources.

Friday, October 4, 2013

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Monday, September 23, 2013

Q:           Why is the federal government expected to reach the debt ceiling yet again?

A:            The simple answer:  Washington spends too much.  Think of it this way.  How long could your household operate by spending more money each day every day that outstrips your earnings, savings and investments?  That's basically what Uncle Sam does 365 days a year.  Month after month, year after year, Washington spends beyond its means.  American households must make tough choices to cover shortfalls in their budgets.  That includes:  stop spending money you don't have, earn more take-home pay or take on debt.  Borrowing money to bridge the gap also means paying more at the end of the day to cover the interest on the loan.  That's exactly the hole into which Washington has dug itself.  The U.S. government pays $600 million a day to service its debt.  Under current law, the Treasury Department may not exceed its current $16.7 trillion borrowing authority without approval from Congress. Washington reached the debt limit in May and will exhaust all options for avoid hitting the debt ceiling by mid-October.  At that time, the Treasury Department may not spend more money than it collects.  Now that sounds like music to the ears for those of us who work so hard to rein in runaway federal spending.  But it's a little more complicated than that as Washington needs to maintain its creditworthiness to uphold the "full faith and credit" of the United States.

Q:           Can Washington pay its bills if the debt ceiling isn't raised?

A: Big spenders like to rinse-and-repeat the idea that the sky is falling when it comes time to get serious about cutting spending.  Take the sequestration that kicked in March 1.  Despite doomsday predictions, the sun continued to rise in the east and set in the west.  It turns out belt-tightening in the Beltway didn't cause the world to end as we know it.  And yet, Washington must still face the consequences of spending beyond its means.  If an agreement to lift the debt ceiling fails to reach a consensus, it's reasonable to have a back-up plan to ensure Washington doesn't default on the national debt.  That's why I'm co-sponsoring the "Full Faith and Credit Act."  This would serve as a temporary tool to allow the federal government to borrow money - if incoming revenue falls short - to cover Social Security payments, active-duty military pay and interest payments on the national debt.  Prioritizing these essential financial obligations is a responsible way to pay the bills and blunt the efforts of those who choose to govern by scare tactics instead of solving the nation's spending problems.

Q:           Why is there a debt ceiling?

A:            By setting a debt ceiling, Congress exercises its Constitutional power of the purse strings to, in effect, trigger a debate on taxes and spending.  Thank goodness for that.  Riding the borrow-and-spend gravy train, Washington is careening towards an unprecedented $17 trillion national debt.  The U.S. Treasury is expected to collect $2.8 trillion in tax revenue for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.  And federal spending is expected to exceed $3.4 trillion in those 12 months.  You don't need to be a math genius to understand this doesn't add up.  This imbalance creates the federal deficit.  Uncle Sam fills the spending gap by taking on debt and paying interest on the Treasury bonds and notes.  America can't afford to let interest payments swallow up a growing percentage of the federal budget and Gross Domestic Product.  A bigger risk lies ahead when interest rates start to climb.

Q:           Why is the debate framed as a "budget showdown?"

A:            Washington is operating under a divided government.  The electorate voted to split the majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that lawmakers are working hard to represent the views of the people who sent them to Washington.  Those inside the Beltway like to talk in terms of budget brinksmanship and fiscal cliffhangers, but failing to chart a path of fiscal discipline pretty much secures a legacy of burdensome taxes and debt for our children and grandchildren.  Congress and the President need to come to a meeting of the minds for the greater good of the country.  It will require presidential leadership to build consensus among Congress and the American public to secure entitlement reform.  If Washington doesn't come together sooner rather than later to curb spending, tame the debt and reform public entitlements, $600 million swallowed up per day on interest payments will seem like a bargain.

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

 

Unemployment, at 7.3 percent, is still much too high and a pressing problem for our country.  Even worse, unemployment of young people under age 25, is at 15.6 percent.  This is a very large number of young Americans.  Many of these young people have invested in a college education and are still unable to find jobs.  Participation in the labor market is at an all-time low of 63.2 percent.  This is the lowest rate in 35 years.  Last month, 312,000 people stopped looking for work.

We need to increase production.  To do that we need two things: capital and labor.  Capital comes first.  We need capital to create jobs and lower unemployment.  One of the best ways to do that is to unleash investment.  Better policies in Washington can allow this to happen.  We need to reduce marginal tax rates, allow for the production of domestic energy, reform the tort system, and reform the corporate tax code.  We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, which makes us uncompetitive in the global economy.

It's time to implement policies that will make us more competitive and, in turn, increase productivity and strengthen our economy.

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q:        Why should people pay attention to National Farm Safety and Health Week?

A:        One of the busiest seasons of the year is fast approaching in Iowa.  Heads of household can breathe a sigh of relief.  It's not yet tax season.  Over the course of the next couple of months, tens of thousands of Iowa farmers, hired hands and grain haulers will harvest more than 22 million acres of crops.  Our state's economy and heritage is heavily anchored in agriculture.  When the fall harvest hits, it's good for Iowans to have a bit more patience behind the wheel when sharing the road with farm traffic.  It's the perfect time to emphasize to new drivers that the fluorescent orange emblem on the rear of a vehicle means to slow down.  And, it never hurts to make a mental note to appreciate the grain making its way to market is not only a farm family's livelihood.  It's helping to fuel, clothe and feed America, all the while invigorating the local economy.  For generations, farm families have understood the risk that comes with earning a living from the land, tending livestock and fixing what's broken, from fences to heavy machinery.  On a daily basis, farm safety is key to survival and livelihood.  Farm families, especially those with young children, understand that safety is a high priority all 365 days of the year.  National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 15-21, helps to draw attention to environmental safety, workplace precautions and emergency response practices that farming communities can put in place to keep families and their neighbors safe and sound.  Whether we live on the farm or in a town or city, it's a good reminder to take farm safety seriously.

Q:        What precautions are recommended?

A: As a farmer, I appreciate the job pressures that are handed down from one generation to the next.  During harvest season, farmers put in even longer hours and must deal with seemingly endless equipment breakdowns and uncooperative weather.  Just consider the drought has spread across nearly 42 percent of the state, impacting crop yields and adding more stress to a farmer's worries.  Injuries and illnesses also add to the uncertainty.  According to Farm Safety For Just Kids, a national farm safety organization based in Iowa, farmers are advised to secure the slow moving vehicle emblem on their farm equipment.  Be sure it's clean and visible.  Be mindful of flowing grain suffocation hazards while unloading in bins and wagons.  Take advantage of rollover protection, especially for older tractors.  Staying alert and getting enough sleep is perhaps the cheapest advice, but also the hardest to follow during the harvest season.  It's tempting to take short cuts or avoid a safety precaution when time seems more important.  Remember a golden rule of farming:  It's better to be safe than sorry.  Taking common sense precautions will help yield a safe, bountiful harvest.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Q:        How have patents and innovation improved our lives?

A:        Throughout the ages, people have used their brains and brawn to make life easier for themselves and society.  Each successive generation has marched down the path of progress to achieve higher standards of living and greater prosperity.  Inventors turn an idea into a product that addresses a need or solves a problem.  Consider how modernized farming practices displaced societies of hunters and gatherers.  Iowa's own Norman Borlaug is credited with saving mass starvation of a billion people through his work in high-yield, disease-resistant plant genetics.  Perhaps the most sweeping social transformation occurred during the Industrial Revolution when advances in manufacturing and mechanization helped lift a rising tide of economic growth and productivity for people around the world.  In 1903, the Wright Brothers triggered a transportation revolution that profoundly impacted global commerce and world travel.  A decade into the 21st century, the world is witnessing a new explosion of economic growth made possible by technological advances in life sciences, communications, clean energy and medicine.  Today's technologies nearly seem like the products of science fiction or yesteryear's futuristic gadgets that most people didn't expect to exist in their lifetimes.  However, thanks to the ingenuity, imagination and creativity of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, inventors and entrepreneurs, America's high tech pioneers continue to raise the bar of expectations and drive the U.S. economy forward.  Inventions can make life safer, healthier, more convenient, more fulfilling and more productive.  Just think how the washing machine "saves" time in a busy household.  America's founders recognized the value of encouraging inventors to think outside the box.  Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to develop a legal framework to promote scientific innovation and the arts.  The nation's patent laws help to spur U.S. competitiveness, innovation and job creation.

 

Q:        Why is it beneficial for an inventor to seek a patent?

A:        Since 1836, more than 60,000 Iowans have secured patents to protect the property rights of their inventions.  From the first-ever patented carousel to farm implements and medical imaging systems, Iowans from all 99 counties have navigated the patent system to protect their hard work, investment and earning potential.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues patents for qualifying inventions that are considered original, useful and "non-obvious" to the marketplace.  A patent grants for a limited time legal rights to a patent holder, to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing the invention in the United States.  In exchange for these rights, the patent holder publicly discloses the invention.  The patent system offers a mutual benefit to the inventor and society, as others may study the published patent to discover new scientific advances.  Last year, the federal patent office issued about 270,000 patents with 1.5 million patent applications pending.  The average wait time for patent approval is 24.6 months.  If you have an original idea that you believe could someday fly off the store shelf, filing a patent application may be a smart business decision.  First, inventors need to do some homework.  Do some research to see if your idea already has been granted a patent.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website has a searchable tool at http://www.uspto.gov.  If your invention appears patent-free, it would be wise to file a one-year provisional patent application to protect your claim and continue market research.  Filing a patent and conducting the necessary research can seem like a bewildering, costly, time-consuming undertaking.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recommends hiring a professional, such as a patent attorney or patent agent to prepare and prosecute your application.  As with nearly any situation, watch out for scam artists who over-promise and over-charge for their services.  Use good judgment and seek referrals to reputable patent professionals.  For more than 200 years, the patent system has worked to advance our system of free enterprise by giving risk-takers the legal and monetary incentive to build, create and invent.  Like representative government, it's a two-way street.  It strengthens job creation in America and rewards inventors who bring the next big thing to the marketplace.  Just as encouraging the next generation to get involved early in our participatory democracy strengthens our system of self-government, encouraging youth to unleash their creativity at home, Science Olympiads and science camps will help the next generation build a better, stronger America tomorrow.

 

Monday, September 9, 2013

by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley

As the heat index rises along the Potomac, it's easy to understand why ice cream was a favored treat at Mount Vernon, the home of America's first president. In addition to his presidency and military service, the life and legacy of George Washington is rooted in farming. An innovative steward of the land, Washington understood the importance of agriculture to America's prosperity.

The founding father of our country invented a 16-sided treading barn and tested crop rotation, fertilizers and livestock breeding to improve productivity.

American agriculture has changed dramatically since the late 18th century, from modern conservation practices to 21st century tools, technologies and techniques.

As one of two farmer-lawmakers in the U.S. Senate I work to make sure the voice of America's food producers are heard at the policymaking tables in Washington, D.C. It's more important than ever as fewer lawmakers in Congress represent a declining number of farmers and ranchers who grow the food to feed an increasing world population.

Consider a recent example of government cluelessness by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It disclosed personal information earlier this year of more than 80,0000 livestock and poultry producers to environmental activist groups, including information regarding an Iowan who owned just one pig and another who owned 12 horses. Washington needs to put away the sledgehammer when a hammer and nail would suffice. By introducing legislation to rein in the EPA from trampling on farmers' privacy rights, I'm giving regulators a piece of my mind to bring greater peace of mind to family farmers. Let's not forget the fruits of a farmer's labor takes away the pangs of hunger for people in our hometown and global communities. Once again, it's necessary to inject a dose of common sense to treat Washington nonsense.

Speaking of Washington nonsense, action on the $950 billion farm bill has stalled yet again despite a 12-month extension that Congress gave itself last year. Congress typically renews the farm bill every five or so years.

Over the years, the farm and food bill has snowballed in size and scope and today subsidizes farmers earning more than $1 million a year, including loopholes that allow off-site, non-farmers to qualify for farm payments. Taxpayers also now spend $80 billion annually on food assistance for nearly 1 in 7 Americans.  An all-time high 47 million people are receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as eligibility requirements have expanded. Many Americans likely don't realize 80 percent of the money authorized under the umbrella of the farm bill pays for nutrition programs like food stamps, not farm programs.

Considering the massive national debt, it's time to give "business-as-usual" a good scrubbing. Cracking down on abuses and wasteful spending within the food stamp program will protect nutrition assistance for those who struggle to put food on the table. Enacting responsible payment limits and enforceable payment caps on the farm commodity program will strengthen the credibility of the farm safety net.

During debate this summer on the Senate farm bill, I secured reforms that will limit payments to mega-sized operations and focus our limited resources on small- and medium-sized farmers. Specifically, my provisions would establish a cap of $50,000 on commodity program benefits and a $75,000 cap on marketing loan programs, including loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains.  In a major win for reformers, nearly identical provisions were also included in the House bill.

Now the Senate farm bill must be reconciled with the House version before a final bill is sent to the President's desk. A number of key differences must be ironed out before we cross that finish line. The current farm bill expires at the end of September.

Faced with mounting debt and partisanship, President Washington reacted to criticism, saying, "I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world."  Farmers today who carve their livelihood from the land can appreciate President Washington's endorsement of this noble vocation.

Writing in a letter dated April 1788, "...our welfare and prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage."

American agriculture in the 21st century needs farm policy that brings stability, accountability and certainty to farmers, consumers and the taxpaying public.  Blessed with the most abundant, affordable and safest food system in the world, federal policymakers should pass the new farm bill that will strengthen America's agrarian heritage and save money for taxpayers.

September 5, 2013

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