Hamlet Insurance Agency, Inc. of Reynolds, Illinois was recently named to the Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company President's Club for 2010 as a top agency for the company.

Recognized by Grinnell Mutual President and CEO Steve Crawford, Hamlet Insurance Agency ranks among the company's top 50 agencies and 15 farm mutual companies for outstanding production and profitability over a five-year period. President's Club members provide insights on key insurance and business issues to board members and management staff from Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance and Grinnell Select Insurance Companies.

"Our President's Club members provide valuable input as we seek their opinions on many topics, from product development to marketing," said Crawford. "The dynamics of today's insurance market continues to evolve quickly. For that reason, listening to our top agents and mutuals keeps our partnership and our service to the policyholder strong and stable."

The agents and staff at Hamlet Insurance Agency were recently presented with a plaque and letter of recognition from Grinnell Mutual for the agency's notable achievement.

Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, with headquarters in Grinnell, Iowa, has been in business since 1909 and provides reinsurance and property and casualty insurance products for home owners, farm owners and business owners through nearly 1,600 independent agents in 11 Midwestern states. The company is the largest primary reinsurer of farm mutual companies in North America.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over tax policy, made the following comment in response to report from the Treasury Department in support of Build America Bonds.

"The thin 11-page report from President Obama's Treasury Department released on Friday fails to mention that, according to Thomson-Reuters data, California and New York did 16 of the 17 largest Build America Bonds deals.  Taxpayers from the rest of the country are bailing out California and New York under the Build America Bonds program, which offers state aid in the form of fat checks from the Treasury Department just for issuing Build America Bonds.  California and New York get a better deal from the program than states with better credit ratings, because the program simply pays 35 percent of the non-taxpaying entity's interest costs, regardless of how high their interest rate goes.  Of course state and local governments are going to 'save' money under the Build America Bonds program ? they're being sent checks from the American taxpayers that they don't need to pay back.  Also, some analysts are pointing out that municipal debt could be the next debt crisis, so it's fair to ask whether federal policy should encourage increased municipal debt that could contribute to a meltdown.

"This report confirms that large Wall Street investment banks continue to receive higher underwriting fees on Build America Bonds deals than they receive for tax-exempt bond deals.  Also, the report is simply factually incorrect.  It states that a 28 percent subsidy rate for Build America Bonds is revenue-neutral for the federal government.  However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's analysis of President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget stated that a 28 percent subsidy rate for Build America Bonds will cost American taxpayers an additional $8 billion over 10 years.  The large Wall Street investment banks aren't satisfied with a 28 percent subsidy rate and have stated publicly that they want more.  Fortunately for the Wall Street banks, but unfortunately for American taxpayers, the House gave in to the Wall Street banks' demands and recently passed a bill providing for a subsidy rate as high as 33 percent.  Instead of looking out for just California, New York and Wall Street banks, I'm looking out for the American taxpayers who are going to be stuck with the tab."

With the Spring Comes a Breath of Fresh Air for the Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Labor Appropriations Subcommittee, today issued the following statement on the national jobless rate.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers added 162,000 jobs in March. The national jobless rate, however, remains unchanged at 9.7 percent.

"The dark days of winter are behind us and just as a new season is taking shape, so too is our economy showing signs of a new season, with the largest increase in jobs in three years.  Knowing that employers added jobs last month is a breath of fresh air for an economy that has been stagnant for far too long.

"The fact is that the Recovery Act and other efforts are working.  Unfortunately there are still dangers ahead for those still looking for work, so additional efforts to move the country forward are needed. 

"First, Congress must overcome the obstructionism that is holding up an extension of unemployment insurance.  This critical safety net expires Monday and will leave nearly 38,000 Americans and 1,200 Iowans without benefits they need while they look for work.  In addition, we must take immediate action to prevent job losses among our nation's teachers - to protect the quality of education - and we need to pass job creating legislation.  When Congress returns, I intend to move immediately on those efforts."

Finance leaders say findings could help lower barriers to key U.S. exports

Washington, DC - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today requested a study of the market for agricultural products in China, including the effects of tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. agricultural exports.  In their letter to Chairman Shara L. Aranoff of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the Senators asked the ITC to cover a five-year period from 2004-2009 in its report, and to submit the report within eleven months of receipt of their letter.

"China is already the fourth largest market for U.S. agricultural products, but there is room for substantial growth if we can reduce trade barriers to our exports.  The United States is a top exporter of wheat and beef, but we face unjustified restrictions in the Chinese market," said Baucus.  "The report Senator Grassley and I commissioned today will investigate restrictions on these and other agricultural products, so we can begin to remove barriers and send more of our Montana and American-made goods to China and create jobs here at home."

"China has become a major market for American agricultural exports.  But the potential is there for China to become an even bigger market for these products," Grassley said. "We need a better understanding of the tariff and non-tariff barriers that U.S. agricultural producers face in trying to export to China.  The study that Chairman Baucus and I have requested today will help.  Specifically, beef and pork producers in Iowa and across the United States stand to benefit from the elimination of non-tariff trade barriers that have no basis in science.  This investigation will shed more light on those barriers."

The text of the Senators' letter follows below:

April 1, 2010

The Honorable Shara L. Aranoff

Chairman

U.S. International Trade Commission

500 E Street, S.W.

Washington, DC 20436

Dear Chairman Aranoff,

We are writing to request that the U.S. International Trade Commission conduct an investigation under section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1332(g)) regarding competitive factors affecting agricultural trade between China and the United States.

Since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, China's imports of U.S. agricultural products have grown substantially. China is now the fourth largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.  Yet sales are highly concentrated in a few products?soybeans, cotton, poultry, and hides and skins accounted for more than 85 percent of Chinese imports of U.S. agricultural products in 2009.  Chinese imports of several globally competitive U.S. agricultural products, such as certain meat, feedgrains, and processed food, are limited.  With rapidly rising per capita income and resource constraints on domestic production growth, China has the potential to provide greater opportunities for expanding U.S. agricultural exports.

At the same time, several factors threaten the ability of U.S. agricultural exporters to realize these opportunities.  Chinese government policies aimed at boosting domestic production and curbing imports, non-tariff measures, including sanitary/phytosanitary measures and technical trade barriers, and increased competition from third-country suppliers, especially those with which China has negotiated trade agreements, are important factors that could weaken the competitive position of U.S. agricultural products in the Chinese market.

The Commission's report should cover the period 2005-2009, or the period 2005 to the latest year for which data are available.  In addition, to the extent possible, the report should include the following:

* an overview of China's agricultural market, including recent trends in production, consumption, and trade;

*  a description of the competitive factors affecting the agricultural sector in China, in such areas as costs of production, technology, domestic support and government programs related to agricultural markets, foreign direct investment policies, and pricing and marketing regimes;

* an overview of China's participation in global agricultural export markets, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and in those markets with which China has negotiated trade agreements;

* a description of the principal measures affecting China's agricultural imports, including tariffs and non-tariff measures such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade; and

* a quantitative analysis of the economic effects of China's MFN tariffs, preferential tariffs negotiated under China's free trade agreements, and China's non-tariff measures on U.S. agricultural exports to China and on imports from the rest of the world.

The Commission should submit its final report no later than eleven months from the receipt of this request.  As we intend to make the report available to the public, we request that it not contain confidential business information.

Sincerely,

Max Baucus                         Charles E. Grassley

Chairman                       Ranking Member

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    • Thirteen Moline elementary school students have been chosen to receive an award from the Hazel F. Van Arsdale Memorial Scholarship Fund administered through The Moline Foundation.

    • The 13 elementary students are: Maria Martinez-Hernandez, Alexis Willey, Kennedy Bromley, Carolyn Wehr, Juan Aguilera, Rachel Stanley, Margaret Thompson, Zane Nelson, Livvie Lyman, Cameron Johnson, Rachel Powell, Caleb Schnell and Joshua Schnell.

    • The fund was started in honor and memory of Hazel F. Van Arsdale to perpetuate the importance of music in elementary and secondary education.  The fund supports two types of annual awards.  One award is given to selected elementary students, and one scholarship is given to a high school senior.  The 13 elementary students were chosen by an individual school committee made up of teachers and music professionals through The Moline Foundation.  Each will receive a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.

    • Hazel Van Arsdale was a public school teacher for 36 years.  She was known for her strict, but fun, manner of bringing music into the classroom.  She made sure all of her students knew every verse of all of our patriotic hymns, and wanted them to strengthen their music interest beyond elementary school.  A fund was established and is now administered through The Moline Foundation's scholarship program.

    • Founded in 1953, The Moline Foundation is a community-based, non-profit organization which provides grants to health, human services, education, community development, the arts, and other charitable organizations which benefit the citizens of the Quad City region. The Moline Foundation receives and administers charitable gifts and has a current endowment fund of approximately $14 million.  For more information contact Executive Director Joy Boruff at (309) 736-3800 or visit The Moline Foundation Web site at www.molinefoundation.org.

    • -30-

Davenport, IA - Russell Construction is proud to announce that for the third year in a row, our safety program was recognized as a third place finalist for the Association of General Contractors National Safety Excellence Award.

Every year, the Association of General Contractors (AGC) recognizes companies from all across the country, that have developed and implemented premier safety and loss prevention programs and showcases companies that have achieved continuous improvements and maintenance of their safety and health management systems. The AGC Construction Safety Excellence Award is our industry's top recognition.

To become eligible for this award, companies had to compete at the state level and receive a letter of nomination from their home AGC chapter. The submission included application forms, a two page description of a company's Safety & Health Program and a one page description of why they should receive the award. This year, there were 128 finalist nominations that were passed on to the national judging committee, of those 48 finalists were selected; Russell Construction was among this group. The final step was to give a five minute presentation to a panel of safety experts along with a 10 minute question and answer session after the presentation.

In addition, each company was judged upon an overview of company safety program, increased employee involvement in safety, new programs,  procedures or resources used to promote safety, management's commitment to safety and specific unique activities the company does or provides to promote safety.

As a company dedicated to safety excellence, Russell Construction has accomplished several notable safety achievements over the last two years, including surpassing 1,100,000 hours without a single lost time incident. Additionally, in 2009, Russell was awarded the Saxies Safety Program of the Year, by the online safety organization SafetyXChange.

As a Midwest leader in Construction Management, Design/Build and General Contracting services, Russell is dedicated to supporting the local Quad Cities economy through competitive and efficient construction services. For more information on Russell, please visit their corporate website at www.russellco.com.

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Select assortment discount grocer ALDI to close Brady Street store in Davenport April 3; reopens fall 2010

Nearby stores remain open

Dwight, Ill. (March 30, 2010) - Beginning April 3, ALDI will close its Brady Street store location in Davenport.  The select assortment discount grocer will reopen with a replacement store in the same location this fall.  ALDI continues to offer Davenport grocery shoppers a smarter alternative at its other Davenport stores, located at 5266 Elmore Ave. and 2825 Rockingham Road.  Known for its premium ALDI select brands, ALDI is able to offer high quality grocery items at unbeatable prices.

"As many loyal Davenport shoppers know, our Brady Street location has been in operation since 1976," said Heather Moore, ALDI Dwight division vice president. "We look forward to giving our customers a new, modern shopping experience.  In the interim, we have two nearby locations that will continue to provide customers with high quality products at unbeatable prices."

Customers can expect to find more than 1,400 of the most frequently purchased items sold under its select brands for prices up to 50 percent less than traditional supermarkets.  A model of efficiency, ALDI eliminates overhead costs by offering smart and efficient practices including a cart deposit system where shoppers insert a quarter to release a cart and get the quarter back upon the cart's return.  Other cost-saving practices include a smaller store footprint, open carton displays and encouraging customers to bring their own shopping bags.

ALDI also saves consumers money by keeping stores open during prime shopping times - typically from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

A grocery retailer that has grown without merger or acquisition, ALDI opened 80 new stores across the United States in 2009 and plans to open another 80 U.S. stores in 2010, including 30 new stores in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas.

About ALDI Inc.

A leader in the grocery retailing industry since 1976, ALDI has more than 1,000 U.S. stores located in 31 states primarily from Kansas to the East Coast serving more than 20 million customers each month.  Beginning in the spring of 2010, ALDI will enter the Texas market with approximately 30 new stores planned for the Dallas/Ft. Worth region.  A select assortment discount grocer featuring its own ALDI select brands, ALDI applies smart and efficient operational and business practices to save customers up to 50 percent on their grocery bill.  ALDI, named 2009 Retailer of the Year by PL Buyer, sells more than 1,400 of the most frequently purchased grocery and household items in manageable, non-bulk packaging.  For more information about ALDI, go to www.aldi.us.

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WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today cited a new report by the Office of the Inspector General at the Social Security Administration as further evidence that the federal government's charge card program continues to be ripe for fraud and abuse.  The report found many of the same deficiencies that have been found in other agencies, such as a lack of documentation to support transactions.

"This is more evidence as to why the House should take up and pass my legislation.  With the amount of money coming in and going out of the federal bureaucracy, it's more important than ever to ensure that the taxpayers' dollars are accounted for," Grassley said.

Grassley introduced legislation in April 2009 to require federal agencies to establish safeguards and controls for government charge card programs.  The bill also requires agencies to set penalties for violations.  Grassley said he hopes the House of Representatives will act quickly on this common-sense legislation.  The bill cleared the full Senate in October and now awaits House approval.

Grassley has done extensive oversight with the Government Accountability Office to determine how federal government employees are using government charge cards to make purchases for personal use.  He first began looking into the issue in 2001, starting at the Department of Defense.  Since then, abuses have been documented at the Departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and others.

The Government Accountability Office reports identified an inadequate and inconsistent control environment across numerous federal agencies with respect to both government purchase cards and government travel cards.

Grassley said the lack of controls have led to millions of dollars in taxpayers' money wasted.  The reports outlined purchases that were fraudulent, of questionable need, or were unnecessarily expensive, including kitchen appliances, sapphire rings, gambling, cruises, gentlemen=s clubs and legalized brothels.

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SPRINGFIELD - March 24, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today issued a statement on the passage of Senate Bill 1946 by the House of Representatives:
"I applaud the Illinois House of Representatives for voting in favor of public pension reform. I am a longtime advocate for pension reform and believe it is crucial for our state to get its public pension costs under control to help save Illinois taxpayers' money now and in the future. The proposed pension reform will stabilize the system, protect current state employees and provide attractive pension benefits to future state workers.  I look forward to the Illinois Senate taking up this important issue and making pension reform a reality in Illinois."
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Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over taxes, has worked to hold tax-exempt hospitals accountable for the federal tax benefits they receive.  The health care legislation signed into law yesterday includes provisions Grassley co-authored to impose standards for the tax exemption of charitable hospitals for the first time.  The bill requires that a hospital complete a community needs assessment once every three years and adopt and publicize a financial assistance policy; prohibits billing those who qualify for financial assistance the top rates; and prohibits a hospital from taking extraordinary collection actions if the hospital has not made reasonable efforts to notify patients of its financial assistance policy.   The bill also requires the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of each hospital every three years; requires Treasury and Health and Human Services to submit an annual report to Congress on the level of charity care, bad debt expenses and the unreimbursed costs of means-tested and non-means-tested government programs; and requires Treasury and HHS to provide a report in five years on the trends on the items reported on an annual basis.  Grassley made the following comment on the advancement of these provisions.

"Tax-exempt hospitals don't have many measures of accountability for their special status. The law hasn't given them much direction, and so they've defined standards for themselves.  Sometimes that's resulted in providing very little charitable patient care or other community benefits, failing to publicize charitable care to patients, charging indigent, uninsured patients more than insured patients, and using very aggressive collection practices.  The Government Accountability Office and others, including the former IRS commissioner, have said for a long time that there is often no discernible difference between the operations of taxable and tax-exempt hospitals. These new provisions are modeled after principles and polices that the Catholic Health Association has had in place for years.  I appreciate the association's willingness to have honest, forthright conversations about charitable hospitals' activities. The provisions take steps to differentiate tax-exempt hospitals from for-profit hospitals and provide further transparency about tax-exempt hospitals' fulfilling their charitable mission.  Congress, the IRS, and the public will now have additional tools and information to ensure that charitable hospitals act charitably." 

 

The provisions enacted in the new health care law are the result of Grassley's leadership on tax-exempt organizations' accountability and transparency, including hospitals.   In 2005, he sent letters of inquiry to some of the nation's largest tax-exempt hospitals.  In 2006, he convened a hearing and released a summary of the hospitals' responses.  In 2007, he released a staff discussion draft of potential legislative reforms and convened a roundtable of experts to discuss the potential reforms.  In 2008, he followed up with letters of inquiry to more hospitals and received a report he'd requested from the Government Accountability Office.  In 2009, he drafted legislative reforms and succeeded in persuading the Democratic majority to include several of the reforms in the new health care law.

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