WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed an agreement that provides a one-year extension of unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans and a two-year extension of tax breaks for the country's wealthiest.

"At a time when our annual deficit is close to $1 trillion - much of it borrowed from China; at a time when the wealthy are already enjoying a huge surge in income, even as middle-class incomes are stagnant; it is simply obscene to give another lavish tax cut to the top two percent.  Let me say what should be painfully obvious about this new bonanza for the rich: they don't need it and we can't afford it.  And it will not help the economy - in fact, in the longer term, it will hurt the economy.

"The fact is that these new tax breaks will make income inequality in the United States even worse.  In recent years, in the grip of the Great Recession, many millions of ordinary working Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, and/or their savings.  But the wealthy have made out very, very well.

"But I also have concerns that the nearly $900 billion in tax cuts in this agreement would crowd out necessary investments in priorities such as education, infrastructure, homeland security, health care and scientific research.  

"We needed to extend unemployment benefits for those that need it the most in this country, but that should have come without tax breaks for the wealthiest."


Without additional funding, rural communities could go without clean water until 2048

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Midwest Congressional delegation called on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this week to provide in Fiscal Year 2012 the highest possible level of funding for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, an under-construction water system that will serve rural communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The budget for the 2011 Fiscal Year (FY10) allotted only $2 million for the project, a level that will not allow it to award new construction contracts and will not cover the cost of inflation.

"If the project were to remain at the enacted FY10 funding level, Lewis & Clark estimates the system would not be completed until 2048. That is simply too long for our citizens to wait for something as simple as clean water," the letter reads. "OMB must lead the way in making sure that this project is a priority, otherwise the investment already made by taxpayers and state and local partners will be in jeopardy."

When completed, the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System will provide treated water to 300,000 people in its member municipalities and rural water systems in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Director Lew:

As you make your final decisions about funding levels in the Administration's FY2012 budget, we write to urge you to provide the highest possible level of funding for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.

We are grateful that your staff took the time to meet with members of the Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota delegations in September.  As we relayed to your staff, this is a critical juncture for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water project.  If the project were to remain at the enacted FY10 funding level, Lewis & Clark estimates the system would not be completed until 2048 (please see enclosed chart). That is simply too long for our citizens to wait for something as simple as clean water.

The federal government's commitment and contributions are vital to its success.  Previous appropriations and the $56.5 million the project received through the 2009 Recovery Act have helped make up two of the four years the project was behind schedule and will ensure completion of the system's water treatment plant.  However, a project of this scope and complexity requires consistent annual appropriations and advance planning.  The project sponsors have assured our offices and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) that they can responsibly obligate significantly more than $35 million in FY2011.  We fully appreciate the balancing of priorities that must be considered while putting together the Administration's budget, and accordingly, ask that you recognize this as a priority and include the highest amount of funding possible for Lewis & Clark in the upcoming FY2012 budget.

We were disappointed that the Administration's budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2011 included only $2 million, a level that will not allow the project to award any new construction contracts and does not even come close to covering the cost of inflation.  It is also frustrating that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recommended such a low amount and continues to use the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as a justification for not funding the project at pre-stimulus levels.  

This project, as required by the authorization, is a cost-share project.  OMB must lead the way in making sure that this project is a priority, otherwise the investment already made by the taxpayers and state and local partners will be in jeopardy.  

In recognition of the significant impact of this project, the local members and the three states involved have pre-paid millions of dollars to make this project a reality.  In fact, the states and 20 local communities and rural water systems - including those in Minnesota and Iowa - have already committed 99.6 percent of their share requirement totaling $109 million. Please note that the people of Iowa and Minnesota have received no water despite having paid in full their shares of $7 million and $5.4 million, respectively.

As well as spurring economic development in the three-state region, the project is critical to ensure residents in the tri-state area have adequate, clean drinking water.  When completed, Lewis & Clark will deliver high-quality and dependable drinking water through its members to more than 300,000 tri-state area residents covering a service area the size of Connecticut.   

In addition to requesting the highest possible level of funding, we ask that you share with us the steps being discussed to ensure the appropriate and responsible prioritization of Bureau of Reclamation projects across the country.  Since construction on the Lewis and Clark project has been underway since 2003, we believe it should remain a top priority and be completed before new Bureau of Reclamation projects are initiated.  It makes sense to complete the project and make sure our investment is well managed.  We also ask that you provide us with a list of new starts projects recommended by OMB and by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for Fiscal Year 2011.  We would like this information no later than January 1, 2011.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.   Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System project.


U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (IA)
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN)
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (IA)
U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (SD)
U.S. Senator John Thune (SD)
U.S. Senator Al Franken (MN)
U.S. Representative Steve King (IA)
U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD)
U.S. Representative Tim Walz (MN)



Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement this evening after the President's press conference on reaching a deal with Senate Republicans on an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

"To say that I am disappointed with the deal the President laid out tonight is an understatement.  Senate Republicans have successfully used the fragile economic security of our middle class and the hardship of millions of jobless Americans as bargaining chips to secure tax breaks for very wealthiest among us.  With record unemployment and millions of Americans falling off the benefit rolls just as we near Christmas, America faces an emergency situation, and under these circumstances the validity of extending unemployment benefits and tax rates for the middle class stands on its own.  The same cannot be said for extending tax breaks for millionaires - they face no immediate hardship, such a move will not spur economic growth, and doing so will only add hundreds of billions to the deficit.  In addition, by extending tax rates for two years but unemployment benefits for only one, we almost ensure that a Republican-led Congress will be able to block a further extension of unemployment benefits if they are needed.

"I've asked this question before, and tonight I ask it again - Have the Republicans lost all sense of fairness? Have they lost all sense of justice? Have they lost all sense of what's right and wrong? They can fight for their tax breaks for the wealthy, fine. But to say that we cannot extend unemployment benefits for people out of work without giving tax breaks to the wealthy - that's a moral outrage."

December 2, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-06) lauded today's passage of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act by the House of Representatives by a vote of 264-157.  In particular, they singled out praise for a provision that would require the Secretary of Agriculture to set nutrition standards for all foods sold on the grounds of schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, consistent with their jointly introduced legislation, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act.   Harkin and Woolsey have introduced this legislation every Congress since 2006.  Harkin has sought similar protections since the mid 1990s.  

"For too long, we have allowed the unchecked sale of junk food in our schools to undermine not just the health of our kids, but also the desires of parents, and our taxpayer investment in school meals," said Harkin.  "House passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act moves us one step closer to requiring common-sense nutrition standards for the foods and beverages sold in schools.  With this provision, the bill will help make the healthy choice, the easy choice.  We also know that it's the choice that parents around the country prefer.  Survey after survey shows that parents support school nutrition standards at school that reinforce the healthy choices that parents try to make for their kids at home."

"It's been 30 years since the regulations limiting junk food sales in schools were updated, despite significant advances in nutrition science and a troubling growth in childhood obesity," said Woolsey.  "Updating the nutrition standards for foods sold in vending machines, a la carte lines, and school snack bars is a common sense way to confront childhood obesity head on."

Under the terms of the provision, section 208, the Secretary of Agriculture is required to propose science-based school nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, snack bars, and school stores, not later than one year after enactment of the bill.  Following a notice and comment period, the standards must go into effect not earlier than one year after the regulations are finalized.  Under the terms of the legislation, the Secretary of Agriculture is also required to review and, if necessary, update the school nutrition standards after the publication of a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This fiscally responsible and bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act reauthorizes the nation's major Federal child nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.  The bill provides $4.5 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years - nearly ten times the amount of money provided for the previous child nutrition reauthorization, and the largest new investment in child nutrition programs since their inception.

The bill is partially paid for by eliminating $2.2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) temporary benefit increase under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. President Obama, however, has committed to work with Congress to replace this offset before these SNAP cuts take place in November 2013.

Historic Overhaul will Help Prevent Food Contamination, Improve Illness Outbreak Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) hailed today's Senate passage of legislation to better protect Americans against contaminated food and food-borne illness.  The measure passed by a vote of 73 to 25.  Harkin, who is Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), is a lead sponsor of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and has worked closely with a bipartisan group of Senators over the past year to establish a broad coalition of support for the bill.

"For too long, we've allowed trips to the grocery store to be a gamble for American families," said Harkin.  "The bipartisan bill passed by the Senate today will give our citizens some long-overdue peace of mind in the supermarket aisles, establishing tough new protections against contaminated food.  By working with our colleagues across the aisle, today we've scored an important victory for the American people.  I hope this will serve as an example of what we can do to improve the lives of citizens across the country by working together."

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will:

  • Improve prevention of food contamination through identification of hazards before food becomes contaminated.
  • Allow the FDA to issue mandatory recalls in the event that businesses do not voluntarily recall harmful foods.
  • Require grocery stores and other food retailers to notify consumers if they have sold food that has been recalled.
  • Improve disease surveillance so outbreaks can be discovered earlier.
  • Allow FDA to respond more quickly when food-borne illness does occur by improving the ability to trace contaminated food back to its source.

A summary of the legislation is below:

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

Recent outbreaks of food-borne illness and nationwide recalls of contaminated food from both domestic and foreign sources highlight the need to modernize and strengthen our nation's food safety system. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a bipartisan plan that provides new food safety tools and updates food safety standards to ensure the safety of our food supply.

Improves Our Capacity to Prevent Food Safety Problems

  • Hazard analysis and preventive controls: Facilities must identify, evaluate, and address hazards and prevent adulteration via a food safety plan. In certain circumstances, gives FDA access to these plans and relevant documentation.
  • Access to facility records: Expands FDA access to a registered facility's records in a food emergency.
  • 3rd party testing: Provides for laboratory accreditation bodies to ensure U.S. food testing labs meet high quality standards and, in certain circumstances, requires food testing performed by these labs to be reported to FDA. Allows FDA to enable qualified 3rd parties to certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards.
  • Imports: Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food. Allows FDA to require certification for high-risk foods, and to deny entry to a food that lacks certification or that is from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors.

Improves Our Capacity to Detect and Respond to Food-borne Illness Outbreaks

  • Inspection -Increases the number of FDA inspections at all food facilities.
  • Surveillance - Enhances food-borne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on food-borne illnesses.
  • Traceability - Enhances tracking and tracing of high-risk foods and directs the Secretary to establish a pilot project to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracking and tracing food in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.
  • Mandatory Recall - Allows FDA to initiate a mandatory recall of a food product when a company fails to voluntarily recall the contaminated product upon FDA's request.
  • Suspension of Registration - Allows FDA to suspend a food facility's registration if there is a reasonable probability that food from the facility will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

Enhances U.S. Food Defense Capabilities - Directs FDA to help food companies protect their products from intentional contamination, and calls for a national strategy to protect our food supply from terrorist threats and rapidly respond to food emergencies.

Increases FDA Resources - Authorizes increased funding for FDA's food safety activities, such as hiring personnel, and includes targeted non-compliance fees for domestic and foreign facilities.

Regulatory Flexibility - Modernizes our food safety system without being burdensome. Provides training for facilities to comply with the new safety requirements and includes special accommodations for small businesses and farms. Exempts small businesses from certain aspects of the produce standards and preventive control requirements.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) led a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include provisions aimed at expanding biofuels markets in energy legislation pending in the Senate.  Additionally, the Senators asked that Leader Reid consider legislation to extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEECT) beyond its current expiration date of December 31, 2010.  In the letter, the Senators point out that these steps are crucial to reducing the nation's dependence of foreign petroleum, creating jobs in the United States and addressing the issue of climate change.  It is estimated that the enactment of these policies will enable as much as a 5-fold increase in biofuels' displacement of oil-based fuel use in transportation within the next two decades.  Joining Harkin in signing the letter were Senators Christopher Bond (R-MO), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  A copy of the letter can be found here.

"One of our most pressing energy issues is our continued dependence on imported petroleum for fueling our transportation systems.  On this issue, we are encouraged by the progress that is being made by vehicle efficiency gains and by the increasing contributions from domestic biofuels.  However, we are also deeply concerned that continued expansion of biofuels is being constrained by marketplace limitations," wrote the Senators.  "We therefore urge you to include biofuels market expansion provisions addressing these barriers in energy legislation considered by the Senate."

As the former Chairman and now senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Harkin has been a long-time leader in promoting the production and use of biofuels as an important part of the nation's energy strategy.  Recent Harkin initiatives and actions aimed at promoting biofuels include : 
  • On August 4, Harkin led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing an amendment to the pending energy bill to expand the U.S. biofuels market by increasing the percentage of vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. that are flex-fuel capable; increasing the number of blender pumps at refueling stations so more consumers can buy fuels with higher percentages of ethanol; and authorizing loan guarantees for renewable fuel pipelines.  More information can be found here.
  • On August 2, Harkin convened a meeting between a bipartisan group of senators and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman to urge prompt approval of E15 ethanol blend for use in all gasoline-fueled vehicles.  At the meeting, Harkin urged for the approval of E-15, as well as E-20, which EPA is also reviewing.  More information can be found here.
  • On June 28, Harkin and six other senators wrote to President Obama urging his Administration to move rapidly to integrate biofuels into the nation's transportation fuel supply.  In the letter, the senators expressed concern that the Department of Energy (DOE) had not yet completed testing of higher blends of ethanol in gasoline, which would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the use of gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol.  More information can be found here.
  • On June 23, Harkin spoke on the Senate floor expressing his disappointment in EPA and DOE's delay in making a decision on E-15 and calling for an end to the delay.  Audio of that can be found here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - November 8, 2010 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that $1,000,000 is coming to Iowa through the through the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI).  The funding, which was provided for in the FY 2010 Budget, will be used to improve the quality and availability of Iowa's workforce data.  Senator Harkin is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations committee, and chairs the Senate panel that funds labor initiatives.

"Part of the reason Iowa fared better than other states during this recession is our commitment to investing in our workforce," said Harkin.  "Today's funding will help us develop the data we need to make good decisions about our workforce programs so that we can minimize the impact of economic bumps down the road."

Today's funding will be used to expand Iowa's longitudinal database of workforce data, which links to education data.  The database will be used to facilitate research projects aimed at pinpointing the effectiveness of workforce programs to better inform workforce system customers.  The project is a sister initiative to the Department of Education's Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems project to build longitudinal education databases.

Over the three year grant period, this funding will help Iowa improve state workforce longitudinal data systems with individual-level information; improve the quality and breadth of workforce data systems; use longitudinal data to provide useful information about program operations; analyze the performance of education and training programs and provide user-friendly information to customers to help them select the training and education programs that best suit their needs.

For more information on Iowa's Workforce Development initiatives, please click here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today commended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its decision to deny a petition calling for a ban on the manufacture, use and processing of lead in fishing gear.  On October 15, Harkin wrote to EPA expressing his concern that such a ban on lead in fishing gear would impose major changes and possibly business failure for fishing gear manufacturers.  He also raised concerns that it would require major changes for recreational sport anglers across the country.  Harkin asked EPA to thoroughly consider whether or not such a ban on the federal level was warranted.  A copy of that letter can be found here.  In 1995, Harkin introduced a bill in the Senate (S.505) to prohibit similar EPA action after EPA issued a proposed rule for a similar ban.

"In Iowa - and across the county - millions of anglers take to rivers, lakes and oceans to enjoy the great outdoors and spend time fishing; and thousands of locally owned small businesses rely on this industry for their livelihood.   I strongly believe that it is important that we do all we can to protect our environment and conserve our natural resources, but at this time there is not enough evidence to show that lead in fishing gear warrants a federal ban that would cause serious problems to the fishing supply industry and disruptions to the sport fishing community," said Harkin.  "I commend EPA on today's decision and especially on their recognition that the sport fishing community is already increasingly using non-lead fishing gear alternatives.  I look forward to continued collaboration with EPA on this, and other issues, that are so important to small businesses and recreationalists."

On August 3, 2010, the American Bird Conservancy and a number of other groups petitioned EPA under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act to "prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of lead for shot, bullets, and fishing sinkers."  On August 27, the EPA denied the portion of the petition relating to ammunition because the agency doesn't have the legal authority to regulate ammunition.  In a letter today to the petitioners, EPA indicated that the petitioners had not demonstrated that the requested rule is necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The letter further indicates that the increasing number of limitations on the use of lead fishing gear on some federal and state lands, as well as various education and outreach activities, call into question whether a national ban on lead in fishing gear would be the least burdensome, adequately protective approach to address the concern, as called for under TSCA.  EPA's letter also notes that the prevalence of non-lead alternatives in the marketplace continues to increase.  A copy of EPA's letter and more information can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/chemtest/pubs/sect21.htm.
Program was created by Harkin in 2002 farm bill, improved in 2008 farm bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today commended Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on his announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin issuing Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) payments this month to thousands of farmers and ranchers in all fifty states to help maintain and improve the natural resources on their land.  In Iowa alone, more than 1,400 producers will receive a total of $17,320,411.  As the then Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Harkin authored CSP in the 2002 farm bill and then improved and strengthened it in the current farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.  Harkin remains a senior member of the Agriculture Committee and continues to work for conservation initiatives.

"As farmers and ranchers respond to the ever-growing demand for food, feed and  fuel from our agricultural lands, CSP will help conserve and protect our natural resources for generations to come," said Harkin.  "I commend Secretary Vilsack and his team for their work to further conservation efforts and implement CSP.  This program is showing to be a success by providing farmers and ranchers with financial incentives that reward good conservation practices and encourage additional strong land stewardship."

CSP is a voluntary program delivered by the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that financially rewards producers who conserve resources in a comprehensive manner by (1) adopting and carrying out new, additional conservation activities; and (2) improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation activities.  The program is designed to recognize and reward producers for adopting and maintaining sound stewardship on their land and to provide financial incentives for increasing conservation efforts.  CSP is offered to support conservation on private and tribal agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land in all 50 states and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands areas.  The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced or geographic location.  For more information, contact your local NRCS service center or visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp/.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - November 4, 2010 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that $1,771,228.41 will be coming to Iowa in tax credits and grants to promote biomedical research.  The funds will help small biotechnology companies to produce new and cost-saving therapies, support good jobs and increase U.S. competitiveness.  The funds are provided under the new therapeutic discovery project program and are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The program was created under The Affordable Care Act, the historic health reform law.  As Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin played a pivotal role in the Senate passage of that law.

"Iowa's biotechnology companies are helping to lead the way in new research that will one day improve and save lives," said Harkin.  "With these funds, we not only support the search for medical cures, which will one day help lower health care costs, we are also keeping Iowa competitive in the global biomedical industry and creating good jobs in our state.  This is truly a double win for Iowa."

According to HHS, the therapeutic discovery project program is targeted to projects that show significant potential to produce new therapies, address unmet medical needs, reduce the long-term growth of health care costs, or advance the goal of curing cancer within the next 30 years.  The allocation of the credit also reflects projects that show the greatest potential to create and sustain high-quality, high-paying jobs in the United States and to advance our competitiveness in the fields of life, biological, and medical sciences.  Today, the biotechnology industry employs 1.3 million workers, and the industry continues to be a key growth engine for our economy.  The credit covers up to 50 percent of the cost of qualifying biomedical research and is only available to firms with fewer than 250 employees.  To provide an immediate boost to U.S. biomedical research and the small businesses that conduct it, the credit is effective for investments made in 2009 and 2010.  Firms could opt to receive a grant instead of a tax credit, so start-ups that are not yet profitable can benefit as well.

Details of the Iowa projects can be found here.