Budget Would Damage Food, Agriculture, and Farm Conservation Initiatives Critical to Iowa

Date:     February 25, 2011

Late last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed budget legislation covering the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and making severe cuts in funding to address a broad range of our nation's critically important priorities and needs in the areas of food, agriculture, and farm conservation.  If enacted, this budgetary onslaught would seriously impair efforts to improve the quality of life in rural communities; to ensure safe food for American consumers; to conserve soil, enhance water quality, restore wildlife habitat; and to spur economic growth and create jobs.  The budget proposal passed by the House is thus especially detrimental to Iowa.

"Without a doubt, the time has come for making and enacting tough budget decisions through a balanced, careful, and thoughtful approach encompassing both spending and revenue levels while not shortchanging the essential needs of Americans or our nation's future," said Harkin.  "But those decisions must not at the expense of Iowa's farmers and rural communities."

Some of the more significant and damaging consequences facing Iowa if the House-passed budget bill were to become law include :

Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Councils:  The House bill would eliminate funding for the RC&D program, which assists rural communities in boosting economic opportunity and creating and retaining jobs while protecting and conserving natural resources and improving the quality of life in rural communities.  Zeroing out $50.3 million in RC&D funding, as the House proposes, would withdraw support for 375 local RC&D councils across the nation.  In Iowa, the 17 RC&D councils spanning the state would lose their entire $1.9 million in federal assistance, as compared to fiscal 2010.  For a map of those locations, please click here.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):  EQIP provides assistance, in the form of cost-share and incentive payments, to help producers of crops, livestock, dairy, and poultry meet their environmental challenges and requirements.  The House bill would reduce fiscal 2011 funding for EQIP by $350 million (22 percent) below the amount dedicated to EQIP in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 farm bill).  Based on Iowa's share of national EQIP funding in fiscal 2010, the cut proposed by the House would deprive Iowa farmers some $7.3 million in EQIP funding that had been committed in the 2008 farm bill.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP):  This voluntary program compensates landowners for protecting, restoring, and enhancing wetlands.  Under the House budget bill, WRP funding would be cut by $119 million in fiscal 2011, a reduction of 22 percent from the funds dedicated to WRP in the 2008 farm bill and otherwise available this year.  According to Iowa's typical share of total WRP funds, the House action would deny $3.1 million to Iowa landowners for wetlands conservation.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP):  The House bill, by reducing CSP funds by some $39 million below the farm bill's level for fiscal 2011, would cut CSP assistance to Iowa farmers by $2.7 million.

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations:  Funding through this program for preventing flooding, conserving soil, and managing natural resources in watersheds would be eliminated in the House budget bill.  In fiscal 2010, Iowa received over $2 million in such watershed and flood prevention funding, but would receive none if the House bill were enacted.

Food and Agriculture Research:  Such research carried out at federal facilities of USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would be cut in the House bill by nearly 10 percent ($114 million) compared to fiscal 2010, thereby reducing by some $5.0 million the amount of ARS funding in Iowa for research covering topics such as crop and animal production, food safety, and natural resources and sustainable agriculture systems.  The legislation would also cut by about 16 percent ($217 million), as compared to fiscal 2010, the funding for grants by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supporting food and agriculture research, education, and extension at land grant institutions, such as Iowa State University, and similar entities.  Iowa would thus receive some $5.3 million less through NIFA this year as compared to fiscal 2010 if the House budget proposal were enacted.

Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Inspection:  Despite repeated incidents showing the need to strengthen federal food safety protections, the House bill would carve some 10 percent off the level of funding Congress adopted for last year and had tentatively approved for fiscal 2011.  Reducing food safety funding would risk the safety of American consumers as well as the ability of Iowa's meat processing plants to operate at full capacity.

Harkin's full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.

With spring just around the corner, it also means that April 15 - Tax Day - will soon be upon us.  Many options are available to file your taxes, but many eligible Iowans may also be able to take advantage of free tax preparation services available through the IRS Free File program.  Since its inception in 2003, IRS Free File has offered low-to-moderate income taxpayers free access to leading commercial tax preparation software.

What are the advantages of the IRS Free File Program?

In addition to the cost savings, the online program walks taxpayers through the filing process to make filing your taxes simple and fast.  According to the Free File Alliance, Free File software not only increases accuracy, but delivers a quick turn-around on tax refunds, getting it to consumers in as little as 10 days.  Free File Alliance member companies have continually worked with the IRS to strengthen IRS Free File and ensure that it remains both accurate and secure.

Who is eligible?

This year, every taxpayer with a 2010 Adjusted Gross Income of $58,000 or less may visit www.IRS.gov/efile to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost.

How do I use the Free File Program?

To begin, you must visit the IRS website, www.IRS.gov, and click on the "Free File" icon.  Users will find a list of free file alliance member companies and may either choose the one that fits their needs or utilize the "help me find a company" tool. After selecting a company, taxpayers will be transferred to the company's website to prepare, complete and electronically file their federal income tax returns.  Three of the 19 participating software companies also offer services in Spanish.

Where can I find more information on the Free File Alliance?

For more information, please visit www.freefilealliance.org or feel free to contact any of my Iowa or Washington, D.C. offices.

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Two Rivers YMCA Offers Wellness Opportunities in Downtown Moline Centre

 

Stop in and check out the facilities on Tuesday, March 1 from 12 Noon until 1pm

at the Sylvan Boathouse, 1701 - 1st Avenue


The Governor of Illinois has proclaimed March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month.  The Kidney Cancer Association has also proclaimed March Awareness Month Internationally.  The Proclamation can be seen on KCA's facebook page at:  http://tinyurl.com/4b7qtup If you would like a copy e-mailed to you I will be happy to do this also.

The National Cancer Institute estimated that in 2010 there were 58,240 new cases and 13,040 deaths from kidney cancer. The nation/world needs to be educated regarding this disease. PLEASE consider writing an article in the month of March listing the symptoms of kidney cancer.

Signs and Symptoms Associated with Kidney Cancer: Blood in urine ("hematuria") Pain in the back just below the ribs A mass that can be felt Unexplained weight loss which can sometimes be rapid Intermittent fevers or night sweats Fatigue and lethargy Fever that is not associated with a cold or the flu Pain in other parts of the body if the cancer has spread

While kidney cancer normally affects men over 60, more young people are being diagnosed.  Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women.

My daughter Lori Shew lost her battle to kidney cancer 1/18/2005.  She would have been 41 on 3/14/2011.  Lori was misdiagnosed at the age of 32, 4 weeks after her 4th child was born.   Her OB/GYN told her for 3 months he "wasn't concerned"  it was just a severe urinary infection. That "urinary infection" turned out to be a watermelon sized tumor that weighed more than 10 pounds.

Doctors need to be further educated regarding kidney cancer!  People need to realize that if a doctor does not take their symptoms seriously, they should find one that WILL listen! This information could save your life or the life of a loved one.

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WASHINGTON - February 24, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the Iowa Community Development LC will receive a $35 million tax credit allocation under the Treasury Department's New Markets Tax Credit Program.

The Iowa Community Development LC will use the 2010 New Markets Tax Credit allocation to offer financing with below-market interest rate and flexible terms to support and incentivize businesses to locate or expand in Iowa.

"This allocation will help encourage investment and spur economic activity in Iowa," Grassley said.

The Treasury Department selects firms to receive an allocation of tax credits through the New Markets Tax Credit Program.  This program permits taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making qualified equity investments in designated community development entities.  Substantially all of the qualified equity investments must be used to provide investments in low-income communities.

 

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DATE:                  February 24, 2011

Last week the U.S House of Representatives approved a budget for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 that would drastically cut funding for programs that help working families, such as child care subsidies for low-income families and a wide range of education programs.  

"Working families in Iowa and around the country are sitting around their kitchen tables and wondering how to balance the struggles of child care and access to a quality education with busy schedules and a tough economy," said Harkin.  "For low-income Iowans, those struggles are multiplied.  There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to invest in the programs that grow our future, while creating and maintaining jobs."

Cuts to specific programs that would affect Iowans include :

Head Start: The House plan would cut over $1 billion from the Head Start program, which provides comprehensive early childhood services?education, nutrition, health, social, and emotional development?to nearly one million low-income children and their families.  This would eliminate those services for about 218,000 children and their families next year (an almost 25 percent reduction), close 16,000 Head Start classrooms, and lay off 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants and related staff. 

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: There are 18 Head Start grantees in Iowa providing early childhood services to over 7,000 low-income children and their families.  The House plan would eliminate those services for about 1,800 children next year, close 100 classrooms, and lay off 400 teachers and related staff. A map of the Iowa Head Start centers can be found here.

Child Care: The House plan would cut $39 million nationally from the Child Care and Development Block Grant, just as child care funding provided in the 2009 Recovery Act is coming to an end.  The grant program provides subsidies to low-income working families to help pay for the cost of child care, as well as funds to improve the quality of care.  The House plan would eliminate subsidies for about 165,000 low-income children, significantly reducing the availability and affordability of quality child care for low-income families.  These are families that are working, or in some cases looking for work, and that depend on those subsidies to do so.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: The House plan would eliminate child care subsidies for over 1,500 low-income Iowa families next year.

Afterschool Programs: The House plan would cut funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program by $100 million, which would eliminate before- and after-school services, summer enrichment programs, and similar services for an estimated 100,000 students across the country.  Such programs provide a safe environment and extended learning opportunities for students, and make it easier for parents to work.  Funding is targeted to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $500,000 in funding, denying more than 500 students an opportunity to benefit from safe and productive learning environments after school and other extended learning opportunities.

Title I Grants: The House plan cuts Title I education funding by nearly $700 million, meaning 2,400 schools serving one million disadvantaged students could lose funding, and approximately 10,000 teachers and aides could lose their jobs.  Title I funding is the foundation of federal support for elementary and secondary education and provides a flexible source of funding that can be used to support extended learning opportunities for students.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $4.5 million in grants to local educational agencies under the House plan.

School Improvement Grants: The House plan cuts school improvement grant funding by nearly $337 million.  These funds are targeted by states to their lowest performing schools.  These funds may be used by schools to provide extended learning time for students.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $1.7 million in grants to local educational agencies under the House plan.

Harkin's full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.

For a compilation of all outreach pieces on this issue, please click here

Discover a unique style of learning!  Rivermont Collegiate will host a No Erasers! First Grade Open House Wednesday, March 2nd at 6:30 p.m. Interested families are invited to a presentation and conversation with First Grade Teacher Kathy Topalian about Rivermont's "No Erasers" approach, where students learn from their errors.  This informal setting is the perfect opportunity to watch your child interact with "Mrs. T" and learn more about the Rivermont philosophy!  Families are also invited to tour the Rivermont campus with Cindy Murray, Director of Admissions, who will be on hand to answer questions about Rivermont's philosophy, values, programs, and facilities.

Rivermont Collegiate provides an academically rigorous yet nurturing environment, where students develop skills and attitudes that provide the foundation for future learning.  Our gifted faculty provides students with the tools to pursue knowledge independently and take intellectual and artistic risks, while small class sizes ensure each child receives direction and feedback.  Come explore our approach!

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate or Tuesday's No Erasers! First Grade Open House, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org.  This event is free and open to the public.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement regarding today's quarterly forecast for U.S. agricultural exports, which are expected to reach a record $135.5 billion in fiscal year 2011:

"Today's quarterly forecast shows that U.S. agriculture continues to be on track for its best export year ever in fiscal year 2011, eclipsing the previous record set in 2008 by more than $20 billion. Compared to fiscal year 2010, export value is expected to grow 25 percent and volume by 10 percent.

"Furthermore, the agricultural trade surplus is expected to reach a record $47.5 billion, far surpassing the previous record of $36 billion set in 2008.

"Agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot in these trying economic times. The first quarter of fiscal year 2011 was the highest-grossing quarter ever for U.S. agricultural exports.

"Our export success is a testament to the productivity of our farmers and ranchers and underscores the quality and value of U.S. farm and food products. Agriculture also continues to play an important role in support of President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

"Today's numbers are more good news not just for farmers and ranchers and the businesses and communities that support them, but for our nation's economy as a whole. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports generates an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity and supports 8,000 jobs."

Losing sleep over selecting a college major?  For many students preparing for college, this is a daunting task.  How can one be sure to make the right decision?  How does a student balance their interests, strengths, and dreams?  What resources are available for guidance?  Rivermont Collegiate invites all Quad City students and their families to attend College Night at Rivermont on Thursday, March 3rd from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Guest speaker Eric Rowell, Director of Career Development at Augustana College, will provide advice to students preparing for college.  Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to get professional recommendations and feedback on selecting a college major and minor, charting your college path, and discovering resources available for guidance.  Bring questions!  This event is free and open to the public.

Rivermont Collegiate is the Quad Cities' only independent, nonsectarian, multicultural college prep school for students in preschool through twelfth grade.  At Rivermont, college counseling begins in the ninth grade and encourages students to explore a variety of college opportunities.  Counseling is custom built to each student and limitless, offering specialized attention throughout the often complicated application process.  100% of Rivermont graduates are accepted to 4 year colleges and universities and over 90% earn renewable college merit scholarships.

This event will be held in the Joseph Bettendorf Mansion on the Rivermont campus, located at 1821 Sunset Drive, directly off 18th Street behind K&K Hardware in Bettendorf.

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate or Thursday's College Night, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org.

Fresh Art. Fresh Soup.

DUBUQUE, IA. - The spring installment of Art Gumbo, a quarterly soup dinner that supports local art projects with community-supported micro-funding, is scheduled for Thursday, March 24, 6-8 p.m. at the Dubuque Museum of Art, 701 S. Locust Street.

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