Hoeven Continuing Efforts to Help Farmers Maintain Operations, Empower Local Economic Growth, Ensure Veterans Have Access to Healthcare
Senator Updates Community Leaders in Bowbells, Mohall & Rugby on His Work in Washington, Seeks to Address Local Challenges
RUGBY, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today held a series of meetings with local leaders in Rugby, Mohall and Bowbells to update them on his efforts to help North Dakota farmers and ranchers, especially in light of low commodity prices; create a strong business climate for small business; and advance the energy industry in North Dakota. Hoeven also engaged the officials, from both public agencies and private industry, on challenges the communities are currently facing and ways the senator can support local efforts to grow the region’s economy.
“We are working on a wide range of issues to build a good business climate for our farmers, ranchers and other small businesses, help grow our local economies and improve our communities’ quality of life,” Hoeven said. “This is all about empowering our local leaders and residents as they work toward growing their communities and businesses.”
? SUPPORTING NORTH DAKOTA FARMERS AND RANCHERS
Helping Ag Producers Maintain their Operations – Hoeven recently introduced the Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The legislation:
• Helps producers weather low commodity prices by increasing the maximum loan amount that an individual farmer or rancher is able to receive under the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) loan and loan guarantee programs.
• Ensures farmers and ranchers have access to enough capital to continue their operations when revenue is limited.
• For example, it increases the FSA loan guarantee amount, which will now cover up to $2.5 million, up from $1.39 million, and doubles the amount on Direct Operating and Direct Farm Ownership Loans from $300,000 to $600,000.
Ensuring Access to Affordable Fertilizer –
• Hoeven successfully passed legislation preventing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from implementing a regulation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 that threatened to limit the supply of anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen fertilizer that is critically important to producers.
• The rule would have forced many retailers to stop selling the fertilizer, imposing increased costs and hardship for farmers.
• The senator has included similar language in the FY2017 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill to prevent the rule’s implementation next year as well.
? CREATING A GOOD BUSINESS CLIMATE
Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) –
• Preserved the general ag exemption under the Clean Water Act for farmers/ ranchers by securing a provision in the FY2016 funding bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing the WOTUS Interpretive Rule.
• As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven included language in the FY2017 Interior and Environment funding bill to prevent the implementation of the WOTUS rule in FY2017.
• Called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to comply with the nationwide stay on implementing the WOTUS rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Helped Secure More Than $680 Billion in Tax Relief – The FY 2016 funding bill:
• Permanently extended Section 179 with the $500,000 limitation, a provision of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code that allows farmers, ranchers and other small businesses to expense the purchase of equipment they need to run their operations.
• Extended the bonus depreciation allowance for five years.
? ADVANCING THE ENERGY INDUSTRY IN NORTH DAKOTA
Lifted the Ban on Oil Exports – Hoeven, who serves on the Energy Committee, cosponsored bipartisan legislation lifting the ban and worked to include it in the year-end funding bill.
The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 – The measure, which has passed both chambers and is now in conference committee, includes the following Hoeven-sponsored provisions:
• Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Spacing Act – The legislation directs BLM to establish a pilot program wherein a federal permit is not required when 25 percent or less of the minerals are owned or held in trust by the federal government and there is no federal surface land.
• All-of-the-Above Federal Building Energy Act – Improves the energy efficiency of federal buildings by allowing the continued use of efficient fuels like natural gas, which would otherwise be phased out.
• Homeowners Furnace Flexibility Act – Allows newly installed gas furnaces to be vented through a chimney, rather than a wall, as required by a rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The new rule would have increased the cost of purchasing a new furnace by $350 and the cost of installing a new furnace by $1,500 to $2,200. This legislation will save homeowners that additional expense.
• Non-Profit Energy Efficiency – Introduced by Hoeven and Senator Amy Klobuchar, this bill creates a new pilot program at the DOE to provide matching grants up to $200,000 to non-profit organizations to help make buildings they own and operate more energy efficient.
? HELPING VETERANS GET ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE
• Resolving scheduling issues with third party administrators: Earlier this year, the senator hosted a roundtable in Fargo with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Health Net, which resulted in an agreement to develop and start to implement a pilot project at the Fargo VA Medical Center to resolve scheduling delays. To date, 96 percent of the scheduling backlog has been resolved. The VA is planning to implement this concept on a national level in roughly 18 months.
• Facilitating greater health care services for veterans in both rural and urban communities by allowing veterans to see local health care providers and use local nursing homes.
• Working to pass the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act, legislation Hoeven is cosponsoring that will allow the Indian Health Service (IHS) to cover the cost of copayments for Native Americans receiving medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Patients must have a referral from IHS to the VA in order to have the copayment costs covered.
? ADDRESSING THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC
Removing Loopholes for Synthetic Drugs – This week, Hoeven unveiled The Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016, legislation he authored to keep harmful and addictive synthetic drugs from being sold in the United States.
• The bill, which he recently introduced with Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), closes a loophole in current law that enables companies to circumvent the law and sell synthetic variations of drugs, like the powerful drug fentanyl, by labeling the products as “not for human consumption.”
• Laboratories, many of which are found in China, are altering the molecular structure of fentanyl, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, and other controlled drugs to make substances that are technically different, but with the same dangerous risks as the original drug. These chemically altered substances are known as analogues. Companies are then able to sell the variations, or analogues, under a “not for human consumption” label
• The Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016 closes that loophole.
• The measure has been endorsed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
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