The Leahy Letter - August 25, 2010

Senator Patrick Leahy's Update From The Nation's Capital

Vermont Senators Introduce Dairy Market Stabilization Act

Last month, with the Ethan Allen Farm as a backdrop, Senator Leahy joined Senator Sanders to unveil legislation to stabilize dairy prices and preserve the family farms that have been a fixture of Vermont's economy and culture for centuries. Over the last 20 years, dairy boom and bust cycles have seen the price per hundredweight soar to $19.30 in 2004 before crashing to $11.90 in 2006. Prices recovered in 2007 to $21.80 before plummeting to $11.30 in 2009. The sudden price drops have devastated Vermont dairy farmers who need about $18 per hundredweight to break even.

The Dairy Market Stabilization Act - which reflects ideas from Vermont dairy producers - proposes a board of farmers working with the Secretary of Agriculture to determine how much dairy production can be boosted each year to allow for the growth and addition of new farms, but avoid overproduction. A counterpart House bill has been co-sponsored by Congressman Welch.

Senator Leahy Nets $10 Million For Lake Champlain Work

Senator Leahy raised the bar in his ongoing work to protect Lake Champlain as he secured well over $10,000,000 this year for water quality and ecosystem restoration work. This is the largest increase in the history of Lake Champlain funding and will allow new projects to clean up polluted runoff from agricultural and urban landscapes, and to expand work on invasive species and fisheries.

Nearly $1 million is being made available immediately as competitive grants (up to $25,000 each) available to municipalities and local groups working to improve the lake. The grant application period is underway and those seeking more information or wishing to apply should contact the Lake Champlain Basin Program or click here.

Senate Votes To Upgrade School Lunch And Child Nutrition Programs

On August 5th Senator Leahy celebrated the Senate's bipartisan passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, to renew and retool child nutrition programs like the school lunch program. At $4.5 billion, this legislation makes the single largest investment in the country's child nutrition programs, setting nutritional standards that ensure healthier foods are served in cafeterias and lifting school reimbursement rates. As the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senator Leahy pushed to make sure the bill reached the Senate Floor, amid a crowded schedule, for the vote that children and families deserved.

The bill includes dedicated funding for Leahy's Farm to School program, which encourages community-based efforts to link local farms to school lunchrooms. This initiative will connect schools with local small and medium-sized farms to facilitate efficient and cost-effective purchases of locally produced foods for school lunchrooms. The program will offer competitive grants for technical help to schools and local agencies working to expand links between farms and schools.

Detailed summaries of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act are available here.

Vermont's Long-Sought Broadband Expansion Shifts Into High Gear With $168 Million In Economic Recovery Investments

Vermont marked a communications milestone over the last two months as Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders,and Congressman Welch announced more than $168 million in new federal funding from the federal economic recovery plan for the development of broadband in Vermont. In late July, the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) awarded the Vermont Telecommunications Authority a $33.4 million grant to build the Vermont Fiber Link, a statewide network that will reduce costs to consumers across the board. NTIA awarded the Vermont Telephone Company (VTel) a $13.7 million grant to create an open network to schools, colleges, and public facilities throughout Vermont.

Then in early August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service approved $116 million in new federal funds for VTel - $81 million in grants bolstered by an additional $35 million in loans. With this considerable support, VTel plans to build a wireless network to extend to nearly all of Vermont's unserved homes and businesses. This hefty new investment is expected to create more than 1,800 jobs around the state as VTel works to implement its Wireless Open World.

Most recently, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom received $5.5 million in broadband funding, also under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These economic stimulus dollars come in the form of a $3.891 million grant and a $1.668 million loan and will be used to extend state-of-the-art high-speed internet service to some of the most rural areas in the Mad River and Champlain Valleys. Senator Leahy compares this surge in broadband infrastructure development to the rural electrification investments that dramatically opened new doors of opportunity to tens of millions of rural Americans in the last century. A modern and wide-reaching fiber-optic network will benefit Vermont families and businesses statewide in many ways

Senator Leahy's Postcards From Home Project Connects Vermont National Guardsmen With Their Loved Ones And Neighbors

On July 19, Senator Leahy hosted former Secretary of State General Colin Powell as he recorded a video message for the ongoing Postcards From Home project on Senator Leahy's YouTube page. General Powell commended the hard work and dedication of Vermonters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and sent his best wishes for their safe return. The project, which Senator Leahy launched in April, is available to any and all Vermonters interested in sending words of support or thanks to the men and women currently overseas with the Vermont National Guard or other branches of the armed services. To participate in the project, please visit Senator Leahy's website.

News You Can Use

Checkmark IconIRS One-Time Special Filing Relief Program For Small Charities

Senator Leahy encourages Vermonters to make sure that nonprofit organizations in their communities are in compliance with IRS rules. In July, the IRS published a list of 1,180 Vermont organizations that are at risk of losing their tax exempt status for failure to comply with a new filing requirement enacted in 2006.

Many of these organizations are still operating, but the IRS may not have current contact information. To give these organizations one more chance, the IRS has extended the filing deadline to October 15, 2010. For more information - and to see if your favorite charity is on the list of affected organizations please click here, or call Senator Leahy's Burlington office.

Checkmark IconU.S. Senate Youth Program Application Process Now Open

The United States Senate Youth Program, which will take place in March of 2011, is now accepting applications. The program provides high school students from across the country with an in-depth look at the workings of the federal government. Each of the 104 delegates selected will receive a $5,000 college scholarship toward their undergraduate education and will have the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill, the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Supreme Court.

Two outstanding high school students will be selected from Vermont. The selection deadline is October 8, 2010. For more information on the U.S. Senate Youth Program, please click here or visit Senator Leahy's Resources for Parents and Students web page.

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693