The Leahy Letter -- February 14, 2012

Postal Service Misfires With ‘Reforms’ That Would Degrade Service By Closing Processing Centers Like The Facility At White River Junction

As legislation to reform the nation’s postal system moves closer to decisions in Congress, Vermont’s Congressional Delegation – Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch – continue to press for solutions that will prepare the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to successfully adapt to a changing marketplace, while upholding its special constitutional role in the lives of Americans and their communities.  Vermont’s lawmakers believe that slashing services to its customers – such as closing the processing facility at White River Junction – would put USPS on exactly the wrong path.

Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch made their case at a community meeting in White River Junction in January, attended by more than 500 people, in which they were joined by Governor Peter Shumlin, state legislators and community leaders.  Senator Sanders and Senator Leahy this week took the fight to Capitol Hill, where they are pressing for reforms that respect the importance of efficient postal service to all Americans, and especially for rural communities. Senator Sanders and Senator Leahy have introduced legislation in the Senate to re-order the Postal Service’s priorities and to keep the White River Junction facility open. 

Click here to read Senator Leahy’s opening statement at a news conference that Senator Sanders and Senator Leahy convened in the U.S. Capitol on February 6.

New Food Venture Center Is A Boon To Vermont’s Agricultural Economy

Hardwick is home to the newly opened Vermont Food Venture Center, a partnership between the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the Northeastern Vermont Development Association and Northern Enterprises, a nonprofit organization. The Food Venture Center will offer Vermont’s innovators and entrepreneurs the tools they need to convert crops and dairy products into value-added foods. The facility is available for hourly or contract lease to Vermont entrepreneurs interested in making commercial quality recipes or processing agricultural products.

Senator Leahy helped to establish the original Vermont Food Venture Center back in 1996 in Fairfax. Beginning in 2007, Northern Enterprises began building the capital needed to expand the Center and build the new facility. Senator Leahy secured $450,000 in federal funds to support the project, a significant contribution to the approximately $3 million in total funding that was needed to build the Center.

Senator Leahy said, “The Vermont Food Venture Center is a model for farmers and economic development professionals across the state and a generator of agricultural innovation. This kitchen incubator is a critical piece of infrastructure that will help enable Vermont’s agricultural renaissance.”

To learn more about the Vermont Food Venture Center, please click here

Foreign Capital Fuels Local Development:
The Vermont EB-5 Regional Center Program
Boosts DR Power Equipment

Senator Leahy saw firsthand the great potential for leveraging foreign capital investments to create Vermont jobs when he visited DR Power Equipment in Winooski on January 18. The company, which has attracted more than 20 foreign investors who will contribute more than $10 million in capital to the firm, participates in the EB-5 Regional Center Program.

The EB-5 program serves Vermont’s and the nation’s economy by encouraging foreign investors seeking legal permanent residency to invest in projects and companies within approved regional centers. The Vermont EB-5 Regional Center program assists Vermont businesses in attracting foreign investors and obtaining capital. The Vermont EB-5 program has incentivized hundreds of millions of dollars on investment in Vermont and created thousands of jobs. Unlike most regional center programs across the country the Vermont Regional Center Program benefits from the State of Vermont reviewing projects rather than private entities. Vermont’s EB-5 Program is administered by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

DR Power Equipment is the site of production of the Country Home Products DR Rapid Fire Log Splitter. Country Home Products is the first manufacturer to complete an EB-5 effort in Vermomt. While visiting the company, Senator Leahy tried his hand at the new mechanized log splitter and said, “The new influx of capital as a result of the EB-5 program could help Country Home Products create an even faster log splitter, or a better trimmer or brush hog. Most importantly to Vermont, it means jobs, supporting the retention of the 200 Vermonters who work at Country Home Products. One day this investment could even add more jobs. All at a cost of zero to the taxpayer.”

Senator Leahy has been the leading champion of the EB-5 foreign investor visa program in Congress for more than a decade. The Regional Center Program is set to expire in September of 2012. Senator Leahy has introduced legislation for a permanent extension of the program.

Updated Estimates, Showing Five-Fold Rise In Bat Fatalities,
Reveal ‘Deepening Wildlife Crisis'

Prodded by Senator Leahy to update earlier estimates, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) now calculates that white-nose syndrome (WNS) has killed five times the number of bats the agency first projected.

Heading efforts in Congress to address the crisis, Senator Leahy had pressed for a more accurate snapshot of the spread of the disease, which was first discovered in Albany in 2006 and since then has spread exponentially to Vermont, 15 other states and four Canadian provinces.

The spread of white-nose syndrome is widely considered a wildlife crisis of unprecedented scale. Since 2009, the FWS has indicated that “over one million bats” had been killed by the disease. In mid-January, the agency updated that figure and issued a new estimate: as few as 5.7 million and as many as 6.7 million bats have been lost to WNS in North America.

Senator Leahy said, “These numbers make clear that we haven’t yet seen the bottom of this deepening wildlife crisis. Targeted research and urgency are vital to this effort, and accurate data is an essential component.”

In Vermont, some caves have lost 95 percent or more of their resident hibernating bat populations. The little brown bat, once the most common bat in the Eastern United States, has virtually disappeared from its core range, suffering mortality rates of more than 90 percent. Senator Leahy has long led efforts in the Senate Appropriations Committee for research funding to counter the spread of WNS.

Second Anniversary of Citizens United Reveals Its Harm To U.S. Democracy, Elections

Marking the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Senator Leahy outlined the corrosive effects of the ruling upon the American electoral process. In 2010, Leahy chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the implications of the law.

He said, “I know that the people of Vermont, like all Americans, take seriously their civic duty to choose wisely on Election Day.  Vermonters cherish their critical role in the democratic process and are staunch believers in the First Amendment.  Vermont refused to ratify the Constitution until the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791.   The rights of Vermonters and all Americans to speak to each other and to be heard should not be undercut by corporate spending.”

Click here to read Senator Leahy’s full statement.

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693