Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Agriculture Committee
Farm Bill Accountability:  The Importance of Measuring Performance,
While Eliminating Duplication and Waste
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Madam Chairwoman, the focus of today's hearing is timely as we consider what policies to set in the next farm bill.  We have to make sure farm bill programs are being implemented the way we intended. 

And if they are not being properly administered, then we need to fix the problems.  I want to thank the undersecretaries and assistant secretary for coming today.  I am eager to hear their testimony on a variety of issues.

I know many farmers are probably eager to hear the department's comments regarding crop insurance.  Most farmers tell me crop insurance is crucial to their operations. 

But as we know, the crop insurance program has had a reduction in funds.  So it's more important than ever that we hear what the department is doing to minimize waste, fraud, and abuse in the crop insurance program.  We have to make sure those dollars go to those who really need it.

I am also eager to hear from the department about what they are doing to ensure individuals applying for farm program payments are truly actively engaged in farming.

I am also particularly pleased Assistant Secretary Leonard is here today.  Thank you Madam Chairwoman for requesting his presence on today's panel.  As you know Madam Chairwoman, I made a request back in March for a full committee hearing on the activities of the Department of Agriculture's Office of Civil Rights. 

I will note I also made the same request to the past two chairs of the Agriculture Committee as well. 

While I'm glad Mr. Leonard is here today, I still believe the civil rights and discrimination issues facing the department are a big enough concern that this committee needs to take up the issue in a separate hearing. 

I do hope you will consider conducting a separate hearing on civil rights and discrimination issues at the Department of Agriculture in the near future.

As for today's hearing Mr. Leonard, I hope you will shed some light on how the department is handling some of the problems that have plagued it over the years.

Specifically, I would like you to speak on what the department is doing to address complaints made by employees.   I continue to hear from Agriculture Department employees that they have to wait a long time to have their complaints heard and processed. 

I have also received reports about retaliatory behavior by managers after complaints are made.  What is being done to address these concerns? 

I am not passing judgment on the validity of any employee's particular claim.  My concern is that their claims be considered in a timely and appropriate manner, because that is what they deserve.

I hope the department will provide us with some idea of how it is making sure that happens.

Thank you Madam Chairwoman.

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FORT KNOX, KY. (06/23/2011)(readMedia)-- June 14, Spc. Scott Vanduker of Marion and Staff Sgt. Jimmy Ressel of Urbana were preparing for another day of training at Fort Knox, Ky. Instead, the Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers came across a privately owned vehicle overturned on the side of the road. The troops noticed there was a passenger in the vehicle and jumped into action. Both Soldiers were at Fort Knox for their annual two-week training, but this was real life.

"The biggest thing was all the Soldiers that were involved did the right thing," said Ressel, a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion,130th Infantry Regiment in Marion. "Other Soldiers in the area got out of their vehicles and made sure the vehicle wasn't going to tip over the rest of the way. People helping people, doing the right thing."

The overturned SUV had been westbound, while Ressel and Vanduker were heading the opposite direction. The victim overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, causing the crash.

"We just ran up to the vehicle, opened the door and another Soldier cut his seatbelt and hoisted him out," said Vanduker, also of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion,130th Infantry Regiment in Marion. "The victim did not appear to be injured, just a bit dazed."

An Army medic also assisted at the scene before Fort Knox fire and rescue arrived.

"The thing I'd like people to take from this story is that we do more than just shoot and blow stuff up," Ressel said. "We're community minded and we did what needed to be done."

Photo: Photo by Spc. Jeffrey Granda, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. Jimmy Ressel of Urbana (left) and Spc. Scott Vanduker (right), both with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion,130th Infantry Regiment in Marion recently pulled a crash victim from an overturned car June 14 during annual training at Fort Knox, Ky.

For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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www.facebook.com/illinoisnationalguard

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Annual Local Capital Investment Will Repair Infrastructure, Create Jobs

CHICAGO - June 23, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $100 million capital investment to address local transportation needs and put people to work throughout Illinois. The $100 million in Illinois Jobs Now! funding will be distributed to local officials to repair municipal, township and county infrastructure, and  improve public safety.

"The important capital investment will help communities throughout our state to address their infrastructure needs directly and create jobs at the same time," said Governor Quinn. "Our local communities are the backbone of Illinois and need to stay strong and keep our economic recovery going."

Today's announcement is through the six-year, $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program and represents the second of five $100 million annual investments to fund municipal, township and county projects statewide. Projects will be selected and managed locally, with the Illinois Department of Transportation providing oversight. The types of projects that will be performed include street and bridge maintenance, upgraded traffic signals, new storm sewers and bike baths, sidewalk replacement and pothole repairs. A complete list is available at www.dot.il.gov/blr/mftbooklet.pdf.

"We are extremely proud to work with our communities so they can fix their roads and bridges and address other needed projects," Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said. "This local component of the Governor's capital program will not only stimulate the economy and create jobs, but improve the quality of life of residents for years to come."

The local component of Illinois Jobs Now! is distributed to local governments based on the same formula as the state motor fuel tax. The funding announced today will boost the annual distribution of the motor fuel tax by 17 percent. A breakdown of the distribution of the $100 million by county, road district and municipality is available through an interactive map at www.dot.il.gov/FY2011/map.aspx.

Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest construction program in state history. Under the direction of Governor Quinn, the Illinois Department of Transportation from 2009 through the end of 2010 invested approximately $7 billion to repair or rebuilt 4,800 miles of roads and more than 500 bridges, creating an estimated 135,000 jobs. This momentum is continuing with more than $2.5 billion in road construction projects scheduled for in 2011.

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WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has introduced legislation to extend a program he established to help children who are in foster care or at risk of such placement because of a parent or caretaker's abuse of methamphetamine or another substance.  The program encourages innovative regional partnerships to prevent and minimize the children's time in foster care and helps parents get needed treatment so families can be reunited whenever possible.

"Many of the children in foster care are there because of substance abuse at home," Grassley said.  "The regional partnerships are meant to keep the children safe and ideally get the parents back in a position to care for their children as soon as possible." 

Grassley's bill, the Partners for Stable Families and Foster Youth Affected by Methamphetamine or Other Substance Abuse Act, would reauthorize a grants program that he drafted and saw through to enactment in 2006.  The grants support regional partnerships for services including family-based, comprehensive, long-term substance abuse treatment services; early intervention and preventive services; child and family counseling; mental health services; parenting skills training; and replication of successful models for providing family-based, comprehensive long-term substance abuse treatment services. 

"This program is meant to prevent the substance abuse and dissolution of families that have a very great cost to society and state and federal treasuries over time," 
Grassley said.  "Children who come from families with substance abuse are in danger of repeating the behavior, so breaking the cycle is important.  Through partnerships, we can reduce the time children spend in foster care and ensure that parents are provided the treatment needed to keep the family together."

Nationally, nearly 900,000 children were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect and more than 300,000 children entered the foster-care system due to methamphetamine use in 2005, according to a report by the RAND Corporation. Additionally, the cost associated with this number of children in foster care exceeded $900 million.

Grassley is founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth and co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

The text of his statement on the bill's introduction is available here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) tonight issued the following statement after President Obama's primetime address on his proposal to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.  

"The men and women serving in our armed forces have more than succeeded in accomplishing the mission we asked them to do. They have served honorably and heroically and they should be commended. But, we must remember that we were in Afghanistan to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, to take down the main base of al Qaeda and to remove the Taliban from power.  Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda's true base of power is now decentralized and in areas like Yemen, Somalia and North Africa; and the Taliban is no longer in charge of Afghanistan.   

"We cannot justify the continued loss of life when we have already lost thousands of men and women in our military, including 71 Iowans since 9/11; we also can't sustain the nearly $10 billion we are spending each month in Afghanistan this year.

"The President is taking the right action in redeploying troops from Afghanistan, but as I and several other senators urged him earlier this month, there should be more troops coming home sooner."

Last week, Harkin joined a bipartisan group of 27 senators in sending a letter to President Obama calling for a shift in strategy in Afghanistan, urging the President to use next month's deadline as an opportunity to begin a "sizable and sustained" drawdown of troops that puts the U.S. on a path toward removing all regular combat troops from the country.

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The Clubhouse Indoor Golf & Lounge (The Clubhouse) celebrates its grand opening on Friday, June 24. Patrons who have never played an aboutGolf PGA TOUR Simulator can enjoy a free 30-minute simulator session through June 26.

Founders Chris Larson and AJ Paul played in a winter golf league at a friend's home using an aboutGolf Simulator. It was there that the idea for The Clubhouse was born.

"We wanted to offer the same type of entertainment and golf destination we had to the entire community," says Larson, Ownership Partner of The Clubhouse and World Top 100 Clubfitter since 2008.

The Clubhouse features four widescreen PGA TOUR Simulators by aboutGolf, as well as a full bar, comfortable lounge and pro shop. Patrons can participate in nightly and weekly closest-to-the-pin contests to win prizes such as a custom fit KZG wedge.

The 7,700-square-foot facility provides an opportunity for game improvement with its PGA TOUR Simulators, aG Balance weight transfer analysis system, clinics and lessons, club repair shop and custom fittings.

Simulator leagues and tournaments, private meetings and parties, a pool table, ping pong and darts offer something for everyone - all ages, all skill levels and golfers and non-golfers alike.

"Our mission is to use our technology to promote golf participation in all regions and enable substantive learning for golfers," says Chuck Faust, President and COO of aboutGolf. "As such we are pleased to be part of increasing the accessibility of golf to residents in the Quad Cities with the opening of The Clubhouse.

"The Clubhouse is located in the Crow Ridge Plaza at 2501 53rd Ave, Bettendorf, Iowa 52722. The grand opening activities include a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 pm on Friday, June 24, followed by an open house with complimentary food and drinks and activities including closest to the pin and long drive contests from 10 am to 2 am on Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26.

About The Clubhouse Indoor Golf & Lounge
The Clubhouse is the first and only indoor country club in the Quad Cities. It is an upscale indoor golf facility with a luxurious country club atmosphere, featuring state of the art PGA Tour golf simulators by aboutGolf, a full bar and lounge for both golfers and non-golfers, a proshop with custom fit golf clubs, club repair, apparel and more, and a private board room for corporate events and private parties. The Clubhouse will host regular leagues, and tournaments and contests with amazing prizes, as well as golf fitness clinics, and private golf lessons for all ages and experience levels

2501 53rd Ave,
Bettendorf, Iowa 52722
Phone (563) 332-1561
email qcclubhouse@gmail.com
http://www.QCClubhouse.com
http://facebook.com/QCClubhouse

About aboutGolf
aboutGolf is a world leader in golf simulator and golf performance technology. The more than 20-year-old, Ohio-based company is committed to developing and applying innovative, state-of-the-art technology to enhance and improve the game for golfers at every level. Its products, including PGA TOUR Simulators, aG Studio and Henry-Griffitts Custom Fit Golf Clubs, enable substantive learning and improvement in the game of golf. Learn more at www.aboutgolf.com.

For more information and product images contact:
Mary Beth Lacy at: 760-346-6942, email: mb@mblacy.com

aboutGolf Ltd.
352 Tomahawk Drive
Maumee, OH 43537
Phone: 419-482-9095
www.aboutgolf.com

The farmer-leaders of the United Soybean Board (USB) will set the course for the soybean industry for the next five years when they gather in Milwaukee for their annual summer meeting. There, the farmer-leaders are scheduled to evaluate, review and vote on a proposed long-range strategic plan that will define their top objectives as they work to expand the profit potential of U.S. soybean farmers.

The board will also reach decisions on the direction of the 2012 fiscal year, with specific program areas evaluating recommendations on 2012 action plans for each program area, including Communications, Domestic Marketing, International Marketing, Production Research and New Uses Development.
USB is made up of 69 U.S. soybean farmers who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers.

Dates: June 29- July1st
Location: Hyatt Regency Milwaukee 333 West Kilbourn Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53203
If you would like to preschedule an interview or cannot attend and would like to schedule a phone interview, please call Erin Hamm at 888-235-4332 or e-mail your request to hamme@osborn-barr.com.
Interview Opportunities: Marc Curtis, USB Chairman and soybean farmer from Leland, Miss.
On-Site Contact: Erin Hamm with USB Communications, 314-412-6982.

SPRINGFIELD - June 22, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today released a statement regarding the passage of the Illinois Jobs Now!  capital program re-authorization.

"The General Assembly took action today to keep the state's biggest economic recovery program going, ensuring that thousands of workers stay on the job. Today's session was about jobs and capital, and I thank the legislative leaders and members of the General Assembly for passing a 12-month capital appropriations bill as I had asked of them.

"A capital construction program was one of the first priorities of my administration, and it is a key component of my plan to bring jobs and economic recovery to Illinois. The plan is Illinois' first capital program in more than a decade and it is expected to create more than 439,000 jobs over six years."

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Amana - It' s back for those who missed it in 2009 and for those who just want to see it again. Sisters Sis and Babe might not agree on much, but they both know there' s nothing quite like the thrill of being able to yell BINGO! Join them and share the excitement of a good round or two during The Old Creamery Theatre' s production of The Queen of Bingo.

Written by Jeanne Michels and Phyllis Murphy, the show opens Thursday, July 7at 3 p.m. on The Old Creamery' s Studio Stage in Middle Amana. The cast consists of Marquetta Senters of South Amana, Ian Zahren, also of South Amana and Krista Neumann of Iowa City. Directed by Nicholas Hodge, the play runs through July 24. Tickets are $27 for adults and $17.50 for students. Show times are Thursdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Although walk-ins are always welcome if seats are still available, reservations are highly recommended.

The Old Creamery Theatre Company is a not-for-profit professional theatre founded in 1971 in Garrison, Iowa. The company is celebrating 40 years of bringing live, professional theatre to the people of Iowa and the Midwest. We thank KGAN and Fox 28, our 2011 season media sponsor.

Finance Leaders Begin Investigation Into Medtronic Infuse Trials 

Washington, DC - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and senior Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked medical device manufacturer Medtronic on Tuesday to produce documents related to its controversial bone growth product Infuse.  In a letter sent to Medtronic, the Committee raised concerns over recent media reports that indicate medical researchers in charge of Infuse clinical trials may have been aware of and failed to report evidence that the product may cause sterility in men and potentially-harmful bone growth.  The letter also notes many of these investigators had substantial financial ties to the device manufacturer.

"These reports that doctors conducting medical trials while on Medtronic's payroll may have hidden serious side effects for patients are deeply troubling," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus.  "Information is one of the most important tools patients and doctors have when making medical decisions.  Patients have a right to know the risks associated with their treatments, and medical device companies have a duty to disclose this information.  We need to do everything we can to ensure companies aren't concealing serious medical complications from patients just to increase profits."

"A patient having surgery has to rely on his doctor's knowing the risks and benefits of a medical device.  The doctor in turn has to rely on the medical literature.  If the medical literature has been written by those with financial ties to the device maker, the doctor and his patient should know that.  A lack of transparency leaves doctors and patients in the dark on something any of us would want to know before surgery.  It's alarming to learn after the fact that articles draw conflicting conclusions about a device's safety and complications.  The lack of disclosure of payments raises questions about the integrity of the conclusions reached, whether integrity was compromised or not," said senior committee member Grassley.

The full text of Baucus's and Grassley's letter to Medtronic appears below:

June 21, 2011

Via Electronic Transmission

Omar Ishrak, Ph.D.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Medtronic, Inc.

710 Medtronic Parkway

Minneapolis, MN 55432

Dear Dr. Ishrak:

The United States Senate Committee on Finance (Committee) has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  As Chairman and a senior member of the Committee, we have a special responsibility to the more than 100 million Americans who receive health care under those programs to ensure that beneficiaries receive treatments that are safe and effective.

We are extremely troubled by press reports suggesting that doctors conducting clinical trials examining the safety and effectiveness of Infuse on behalf of Medtronic were aware that Infuse, a treatment commonly used in spinal surgery, may cause medical complications, but failed to report this in the medical literature.  This issue is compounded by the fact that some clinical investigators have substantial financial ties to Medtronic. 

  • Last year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a Medtronic-funded study published in 2004 found that 75% of bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2) patients experienced ectopic bone growth, where potentially harmful bone growth occurs outside of the fusion area.  The authors, who had financial ties to Medtronic, "concluded that 'although not desirable,'" the ectopic bone growth "did not appear to have an ill effect on the patients." However, in a separate 2008 study conducted by physicians without financial ties to Medtronic, "neurological impairment occurred" in five patients who had the same ectopic bone formation.[1]
  • According to the New York Times, a recent study "found that men treated with Infuse developed a condition that causes temporary or permanent sterility at a far higher rate than men who received a bone graft."  This link to sterility was not reported in the original Medtronic-funded study.[2] In addition, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports that one author of the original study, Thomas A. Zdeblick, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, received "more than $23 million in various royalty payments from Medtronic since 2002."  In addition, "Zdeblick also is the editor of the journal where two of the Infuse papers that failed to mention the link [to sterility] were published."[3

We are also concerned that other severe side-effects of Infuse and similar bone-growth products developed by Medtronic may have been unreported or under-reported in clinical literature.  Reports have linked Infuse to potentially fatal swelling in the neck and throat, and radiating leg pain.  Concerns have also been expressed about a potential link to cancer.[4

Given these concerns, please provide the Committee with the following documents:

1.       All documents and communications pertaining to adverse postoperative events and/or medical complications relating to the use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) treatments, including but not limited to:

a.       All communications with and regarding medical journals or their representatives pertaining to adverse postoperative events and/or medical complications relating to the use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) treatments.

b.      All communications with and regarding clinical investigators who participated in Medtronic sponsored clinical trials pertaining to adverse postoperative events and/or medical complications relating to the use of rhBMP-2 treatments.

c.       All communications with and regarding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pertaining to adverse postoperative events and/or medical complications relating to the use of rhBMP-2 treatments. 

d.      All communications and records between and among Medtronic and members of FDA Advisory Boards pertaining to adverse postoperative events and/or medical complications relating to the use of rhBMP-2 treatments. 

e.      All communications and records between and among Medtronic and physician consultants pertaining to adverse postoperative events and/or medical complications relating to the use of rhBMP-2 treatments. 

2.      A detailed account of payments that Medtronic made to all Infuse clinical investigators.  Please include payments to corporate entities in which Medtronic-sponsored Infuse clinical investigators are principals. 

3.       For each individual and organization identified in question number 2 above, please provide the following information for each payment in table format:  

a. Date of payment

b. Payment description (CME, royalty, honorarium, research support, etc.)

c. Amount of payment

d. Year end or year-to-date payment total

In cooperating with the Committee's review, no documents, records, data, or other information related to these matters, either directly or indirectly, shall be destroyed, modified, removed, or otherwise made inaccessible to the Committee.

We look forward to hearing from you by no later than July 11, 2011. All documents responsive to this request should be sent electronically, on a disc, in searchable PDF format to [staff] and [staff].

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact [staff] with Senator Baucus at (202) 224-4515 or [staff] with Senator Grassley at (202) 224-6522.

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Grassley                       Max Baucus

Senator                                                Chairman


1 "Complications rise along with off-label use of BMP-2," Journal Sentinel, August 28, 2010.

2 "New Study Links Spine Product From Medtronic to Risk of Sterility in Men," New York Times, May 25, 2011. 

3 "Researchers get royalties, papers omit sterility link," Journal Sentinel, May 25, 2011.

4 "Complications rise along with off-label use of BMP-2," supra note 1.

   

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