Congratulations to the Keystone All-Stars!

Congratulations to the Keystone All-Stars from Clinton County - Pennsylvania Little League Champions. As of this morning, they are the Mid-Atlantic Champions with a perfect record. Their win grants them one of the coveted spots representing the USA at the annual Little League World Series where they will compete against teams from around the world. This young team played great baseball and were supported by thousands of fans from Clinton County and around the Central Pennsylvania region. Sunday’s soggy rain delay didn’t dampen the spirits of the players or the hundreds of supporters who made their way to Connecticut to watch the game.

Best wishes for continued success to players Talon Falls and Wyatt Koch of Beech Creek; Cole Reeder and Alex Garbrick of Mill Hall; Ethan Watkins of March Creek; Michael Keibler of Blanchard; Mitchell Smith and Trebor Nicodemus of Loganton; Landon Breon and Brandon Miller of Castanea; and, Tyler McCloskey of Monument.

Supporting Older Pennsylvanians

Over the past several weeks, I have heard from many Pennsylvanians concerned about protecting Medicare so it continues to help beneficiaries today while remaining strong for beneficiaries tomorrow.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that prescription drug premiums will not increase in 2012. HHS also announced that 900,000 older citizens who hit the prescription drug donut hole, including over 67,000 Pennsylvanians, received a 50% discount off their prescription drugs. I am also happy to announce that over 684,000 older Pennsylvanians have taken advantage of free preventive services now offered to beneficiaries because of the Affordable Care Act. This includes the 27,457 Pennsylvanians who have taken advantage of the new annual wellness visits.

While we have made great progress in ensuring that our older citizens have the care that they need, we still must work to guarantee that Medicare remains affordable for all of Pennsylvania’s older citizens. As the debate over Medicare continues, I look forward to working with my colleagues to protect Medicare for all beneficiaries. 

Our older citizens need and deserve quality and coordinated health care as they age.  We must ensure that the generation that fought our wars, worked in our factories and taught our children is cared for.

Thirty Years of the NASA Shuttle Program

Today the crew of the final mission of the United States Space Shuttle Program will visit the White House. As we honor the brave crew, we can take the time to reflect on over 135 space shuttle flights over the 30 years of the NASA shuttle program and look with hope to America’s continued leadership in space exploration.

On this historic mission, the crew of STS-135 delivered parts, equipment, and supplies to the International Space Station.  While this mission marked the end of the space shuttle program, it does not mean the end for American innovation and leadership in space.

Just as we once dreamed of landing on the moon and watched in awe one small step for man in space, our goals and hopes to further space exploration have not declined. This country now has hopes of sending Americans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s. While this is a time of great change in space research, it also provides a tremendous opportunity. A public/private partnership will strengthen our ability to explore space and ensure that America continues to lead the world in exploration.

I congratulate shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson and his crew on a successful mission, and welcome what will most certainly be another giant leap for mankind in space exploration.

Protecting Our Forests

Implementing beneficial conservation practices in our great forests is very important to me.  Not only do forests provide spaces for outdoor recreation and tourism, they also create thousands of jobs and a variety of economic opportunities.  I believe that in Pennsylvania, once known as “Penn’s Woods” for its lush and beautiful forests, we have an opportunity to strengthen and develop our forestry conservation programs.  That is why I sent a letter to Chief Dave White of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today regarding forest conservation in Pennsylvania.  In this letter, I highlighted a few ideas aimed at making participation in forestry conservation programs easier for Pennsylvanians.  By enhancing its collaboration with the State forestry agency staff and through streamlining its technical service provider (TSP) certification process, NRCS can increase Pennsylvanians’ access to forestry expertise.  As the 2012 Farm Bill process moves forward, I will continue to keep the interests of Pennsylvanian foresters in mind. 

Helping Pennsylvanian Farmers

Today’s Agriculture Committee hearing on the importance of specialty crops and organics in the Farm Bill is a good way to focus attention in Washington on the needs of Pennsylvanian farmers and to demonstrate their positive impact on the economy.  In Pennsylvania, specialty crops, in addition to dairy, represent the majority of agricultural production.  Nationally, organics currently constitute 4% of all food sales, and organic fruits and vegetables make up 12% of U.S. fruit and vegetable sales.  The organics industry is growing at a rate of over 8% a year and creating jobs at four times the rate of the national average.  Due to the increasing popularity of specialty crops and organic products, these industries are having a significant and positive economic impact in Pennsylvania. 

The 2008 Farm Bill recognized specialty crops and organics as a crucial part of America’s agricultural industry for the first time.  As Congress considers the 2012 Farm Bill, we must continue to build upon the successful investments in specialty crops and organics.  I was grateful to have Kim Tait, owner of Tait Farm Foods in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, testify before the Committee on the importance of the Farm Bill programs which support specialty crops and organics.  Tait Farm Foods not only produces a wide range of certified organic fruits, vegetables and greenhouse products, but it also features a community-supported agriculture project, a value added facility, an on-farm retail store and several educational and research partnerships.  Mrs. Tait’s operation is exemplary of the exciting and progressive farming happening all throughout the Commonwealth. 

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