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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  March 18, 2016 5:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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of the people. i go to church with him sometimes and the way they pray i feel like when they pray to aipac and please come your or give me whatever you want. it's painful and the democrats this time to travel around the world and to see millions of people standing in the street standing in algeria and people willing to die for the principle of democracy and equal what you because they feel like they were born as free men and women and this is the kind of model that they look up to and what they see on television is aipac basically squeezing pardon my language the balls of these people and they are saying yes please, more again.
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>> we did have a lot of major media that came into this event and this room has been bursting through the seams. when you go back to the newsroom please insist your editors like you do their job. [applause] thank you for coming we have a special treat for you. those red tickets, those are for a complimentary beverage that are served over at the bar. appear they should have been here, seek them out and talk to them. the important part of the
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conference is about to begin and we want to remind you the audio of all of these presentations will be available on that website. thank you so much for coming. [applause] one more thing i would like to thank the washington report publisher who's been sitting here and his whole generation of leaders, ralph nader who is here come the harriet fulbright and others in this room and the many students that came to. audience members, exhibitors and advertisers we couldn't have had this without your help. thank you. enjoy your drinks. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] republican presidential candidate ed ed cruise is set to speak with the media ahead of an event later this evening in arizona. we will have his news conference
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at 5:45 on c-span. and a look at what you will see tonight at 8:00 eastern across the c-span networks the secretary ashton carter sitting down with politico mike allen for a conversation on the military and national security on c-span. meanwhile on c-span to be naacp president talks about voting rights in the upcoming election
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to benefit employees and employers. the next 10 p.m., after words mac with professor john yoo that examines the growth of the federal government and presidential power during the obama administration. he's interviewed by victoria the former deputy assistant attorney general. >> it seems obvious the government can't regulate the money that you would use to participate in a constitutional life. so since it simply says since you have the right to free speech particularly as you said during politics when the framers want to protect the right of speech but you can't spend money on the speech using your constitutional right. >> it chronicles the lives of afghan women in the book with me are afghan women mrs. bush wrote
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the introduction which was put out by the george w. bush institute. go to booktv.org for the schedule. now a look at implementation including recommendations for improving fraud protection, the senate finance committee hearing included testimony from an inspector an inspector general with the health and human service department and an official from the government accountability office. this is just over an hour >> we have a lot on our plate. it's a pleasure to welcome everyone here this morning. today we will be talking with
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representatives from the office office in the department of health office and the department of health and human services and from the government accountability office about the work with respect to health care .gov and enrollment in the federal health insurance marketplace. we acknowledge the contribution to help the committee perform more accurate and timely oversight. it is no secret i've never been a fan of the so-called affordable care act. and as we approach the sixth anniversary and look closely looks closely at how it is working and being implemented, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that i and many others that opposed the law from the beginning have been right all along the facts speak for themselves. since the hhs and the gao have raised six dozen reports
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detailing various automation implementation issues demonstrating the areas where the law is falling short they are specific and focused on key operational areas like enrollment controls in the systems issues some of which we hear more about today so let's keep in mind they are not enemies. they are independent watchdogs tasked with the responsibility of objectively assessing what is and what is not working in the federal programs. there is no better record of showing how this has happened and the reports that we've received from these offices. today we are going to discuss the operation issues related to health care .gov and problems in the federal insurance marketplace otherwise known as the federal exchange.
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let's start with the health care .gov launch taken within the deployment of of care .gov and when trying to create accounts and enroll in health plans after numerous inquiries and reports we all know what ultimately caused these performance issues. for example an adequate capacity planning. the centers for medicare and medicaid services cut corners and didn't plan for adequate capacity to maintain health care -- healthcare.gov and there were problems in the software that were entirely avoidable. the contractors identified the coding in the website but didn't adequately correct them prior to the launch. we saw that they didn't
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adequately prepare the necessary systems and functions on the website and the supporting systems prior to the initial launch. they also failed to ply and recognize best practices for the system development which contributed to the problems admittedly since the launch of a taken steps to address the problems including requiring additional software quality and awarding a new contract to complete the development to improve the functionality of the key systems. however, many of the problems couldn't have been entirely resolved and continue to cause frustration especially for consumers trying to obtain health insurance. i wish we could play all of this down in the problems to the functions of the website. indeed if this was just an it problem, all of our jobs would be a lot easier.
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however, the problem with obamacare and federal insurance marketplace in particular the go much deeper. many of them remain unaddressed. we know that the enrollment controls in the federal marketplace have been an adequate during undercover testing by the gao the federal marketplace approved insurance coverage with taxpayer-funded subsidies for 11 out of 12 fictitious phone or online applicants. in 2,014th of the gao applicants, which once again were fake, makeup made up of people with a total of $30,000 of annual advanced premium tax credits plus eligibility for the were insurance costs at the time of the service. these fictitious enrollees maintain subsidized coverage throughout the year even though the gao said very clearly the
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fabricated documents were no documents at all to resolve the document in the consistencies. one of the subsidies including those in 'vicious applicants that have paid to the healthcare insurers they nevertheless represent the benefit to consumers for the cost of the government. they did find a cms relies on a contractor charged with document processing to basically uncover and report possible instances of fraud, get gao also found the agency does not require that the contractor has any fraud detection capabilities and according to the gao, they haven't performed a single comprehensive risk assessment in the recommended best practice of the obamacare and enrollment
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eligibility process. until such assessment is completed, cms is unlikely to deliver the existing control activities are designed and implemented to reduce the inherent risk to an acceptable level in other words, cms isn't even sure that the fraud prevention systems are designed correctly or if they are effective. while it isn't the focus that will be covered by the testimony today, another batter that we have been tracking closely is the oversight of the healthcare. we had a hearing on this topic where we examined a number of financial and oversight explanations for the carrier of the program. today's report describes the efforts to deal with financial or operations issues including the use of the plan for the
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co-ops with problems that may require corrective actions on the oversight. as of november, 2015, they had enough problems that they had to submit to the escalation plan including nine that have discontinued operations. just last week we heard that yet another one was on the verge of the financial insolvency despite the fact that it had been on a mandated escalation plan. in other words they appear to have failed like every other element of the program. to adequately implement the program is well documented here on the committee and elsewhere and house with so many other parts of obamacare, the highlight of highlighted rhetoric is falling short of reality with nearly half now
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closed, the failed experiment has wasted dollars and forced them to pay for new insurance with so many now in financial jeopardy i believe cms should work with and not against the states to safeguard the taxpayer dollars. so as always we have a lot to discuss and i look forward from hearing from the officials today so with that, i will turn to the senator for his opening remarks. >> it is old news that the initial rollout of healthcare.gov three years ago was botched. it is news that the inspector general of the health and human services department recently said, and i want to quote here.
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they cover the website for the high consumer youth within two months and adopted more effective organizational practices. that's what the inspector general said that the department recovered the website for high consumer use within two months. they are looking back at 2013 and 2014 the finance committee will be presented with today. after the launch went badly, some of the best minds in technology were brought in and scrambled to overhaul the system and the exchange was soon up and running at the center for the service is now following up on each of the inspector general's recommendations. in the most recent enrollment.
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for the nearly 10 million americans used healthcare.gov to sign up for a plan or enroll on dramatically. in my home state which had its own problems close to 150,000 used the website to sign-up for the plan as of january 302001. that is up by more than 30% compared to last year. the committee will hear an update from the government accountability office on what has been called the secret shopper investigation. the general accountability office about the study brought the study before the committee in july of last year. on this side of the aisle we don't take a backseat to anybody in fighting fraud and protecting taxpayer dollars. it remains true today. this investigation has not
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uncovered one single shred of real world of fraud in the market place was built on fictitious characters and with specially created identities, not real consumers or fraudsters. it's true the government accountability office found there are sometimes differences between the information on some of these insurance applications and tax forms in the citizenship records, but when it comes to these inconsistencies in people's data it can't differentiate between fraud and a typo. they do not look the other way when it fights the red flags. the year of the investigation the center of medicaid and medicare services] 100,000 insurance policies because documents didn't match or the mortgage provide. they were nearly 100,000 households. in 2013 the health and human services closed more of these
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and adjusted tax credits. they might take a different view but there is no basis whatsoever for them to ignore problems in their records or leave the door open to fraud. rather than rehashing old news we ought to be looking at the facts and talking in a bipartisan way about how to move forward together. insurance is at or near its point in half a century. they get their insurance from their employer, colleagues, premiums climbed. let me repeat that, for 160 million people get their insurance declined only 4%.
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working age americans and organizations with the existing conditions, 80 million people or more can no longer be denied insurance. we ought to be pulling on the rope and solving some problems. we look at ways that we can provide even more competition and bring costs down for consumers and a lot in the room look with me at that issue for some time. the real question is whether the healthcare system is going to be able to afford them. here's senator grassley has worked very closely with me to put together a bipartisan case study which looked at one blockbuster drug involving hepatitis solving the cost of the blockbuster growth is going to take a lot of hard work.
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i want to express my appreciation both sides of the aisle to be able to make real progress on a huge opportunity for older people in the country and that is protecting the medicare guarantee. while updating the program to look at the great new challenge which is chronic illness i want to thank senator bennett who was out in front of this issue for some time. is something we didn't know until about an hour ago is the matter of the co-op. what we have said is that we
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want to work in a bipartisan way to improve a variety of sections in the affordable care act. the new material which either i or no one on the side do anything about what's available from an hour ago we intend to look at it on a bipartisan basis going forward but my work ought to come back to this idea of making health care policy more healthcare policy more accessible and more affordable and for now, and i certainly haven't seen this report. i'm not going to be participating in any celebration of people suffering because they were tight ebony congress congress generally induced economic straitjacket. thank you mr. chairman. >> we are going to introduce today's witnesses, the assistant inspector inspector general for
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the evaluation and inspections for the inspector general. your career began in the year 2000. she started as an analyst for the evaluation and inspections and later went on to serve as a senior adviser where she provided management advice and analysis to the inspector general and other senior executives on the priorities and internal policies and operations afterwards she worked from the 2009 to 2014 as the director of external affairs ended the relationship and in the relationship management with the administration. she received her bachelor's degree from the university of notre dame and from the
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university of chicago. the second witness is the director for the audit services from the forensics audits and investigations of this team. turning the gao he served in a variety of positions including the relations and assistant director for homeland security and justice. he also served on the congressional details. we are going to see you back here again. he's also had a number of positions in the private sector including more recently focusing on the political risk in the homeland security.
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he received his bachelor's degree in international relations and economics from claremont and in nba from pepperdine university. we want to thank you for coming. we will hear the witness testimony in the order that they were produced. please proceed with your five-minute statement. good morning chairman and other distinguished members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the office of inspector general's case study which examines the management of healthcare.gov. this is the website consumers use to apply for health insurance in the federal marketplace. as it is well known on october 1, 2013, the healthcare.gov website failed almost immediately upon the launch yet within two months cms have substantially improved the
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safe performance. how to do such did such a high priority project to start so poorly and held how did the cms turned the website around? the study provides insights into these questions and lessons learned to help healthcare.gov and other federal projects work better. we believe the assessment of the intersection of technology, policy and management can benefit a broad range of federal projects and programs. our report chronicles the breakdown and turnaround over a five-year period. this morning i will summarize the highlights. from the outset, the healthcare.gov project faced a higher risk of failure. hi risk of failure. it was technically complex with a fixed deadline and many uncertainties. so hhs and cms made many missteps in its implementation. most critical was the absence of leadership and overall product
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responsibility that had a ripple effect. policy decisions were delayed effecting the decisions and policy and technical staff were in silos and not well coordinated and contract management was destroying type. the changes were not well documented and progress not adequately monitored. this coleman aided and not fully communicating or acting upon many warnings of problems before the launch cms failed to grasp the status of the bill and one reason was going how they fit together. they raised the leadership institute always go to the staff working on the bill and the staff didn't always over to the leadership to the front lines. cms was optimistic. last-minute attempts were insufficient and in the two months before the launch, cms
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added twice this half to the project and cut many of the functions and 72 hours ahead, cms asked the contractor to double the capacity. even in these efforts, the healthcare.gov website experienced major problems within hours of its launch. they received five times the number of expected users but the problems went beyond capacity. the tool worked poorly and the defects caused reflections. the the contractors didn't have coordinated tools to diagnose the problems however, cms pivoted quickly to make the corrections to the website and they brought additional staff and expertise from across the government and private sector. one key was creating a culture where federal employees and contractors worked together as a team. the designated the it is updated at the leadership and integrated
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policy and technical staff and develop redundant systems to avoid future website problems. they also took a more realistic approach to building website functions. they were focusing on the most critical functions like enrollment and be laying other features. they measured the progress and monitor the problems to respond or quickly and effectively. these factors contributed to an improved website and an important organizational change. looking ahead, they continued continue to face challenges in improving healthcare.gov and managing the federal marketplace. this includes addressing more than 30 recommendations from the other federal marketplace reports. we will continue to monitor the actions and response to the recommendations and its overall management of this and other programs.
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thank you again for inviting the team to speak with the committee today and i will be happy to answer your questions. >> good morning chairman, ranking member and members of the committee. i'm happy to be here today to discuss results from february 2016 report on enrollment and verification controls for the health-care coverage obtained through the federal marketplace during the 2014 < period. the results are based on extensive friends again ... of data from cms and other agencies such as the dhs involving originally the entire 2014 applicant and emily universe in the independent of the undercover work that we performed for the period. a central feature of the enrollment control than the federal data service which is the primary vehicle for cms to initially check information provided by applicants against
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various federal data sources. in addition they established a process to resolve inconsistencies which applicant information doesn't match that from the marketplace sources. in terms of context, the work and the federal marketplace is a significant expenditure for federal government. current levels involve millions of the novel he is about 85% receive subsidies. they've had subsidy costs about $880 billion for fiscal year 2016 through 2025. i would note while subsidies are paid to the insurers and not directly the enrollees they nevertheless represent a financial benefit to them. as i stressed before, the program of this scope and scale remains inherently at-risk for errors in coding and proper
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fraud. including it as a central but effective enrollment controls are in place to help narrow the window of opportunity for such risk and safeguard the government investment. against this backdrop i will discuss the principled analytical results. first we found that cms doesn't track or analyze aggregate outcomes of data inquiries either the extent to which the agency delivers information responsive to the request or whether the agency reports that information is not available. in this regard for example, we found that fsa couldn't match 4.3 million related to the names, dates of birth or social security numbers and 8.2 million related to citizenship claims. irs couldn't match those involving about 31 million people related to income and family size and within this,
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1.3 million people had id theft issues. and finally, they couldn't match-for the 10,000 related to citizenship immigration status. accordingly, they forgo opportunities for gaining valuable insights about significant program integrity issues including vulnerabilities and information useful for enhancing overall program management. second, we found that they didn't have an effective process for resolving inconsistencies with applicants using the federal marketplace. for example we found about 431,000 applications with about $1.7 billion event associated subsidy still had about 679,000 inconsistencies unresolved as of april 2015. that's four months after the close of the 2014 coverage.
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they didn't result social security number inconsistencies are about 35,000 applications with about 154 million associated the subsidies or incarceration inconsistencies for 22,000 applications with about 68 million associated subsidies. by moving inconsistencies cms risks of granting eligibility to and making subsidy payments on behalf of individuals who are in eligible to enroll in qualified health plans. one important example after this point according to the irs accurate fsn is vital for the compliance and the reconciliation of advanced premium tax credits through filing tax returns which is the key backend control under the aca. "-end-quotes in the work today collectively shows that cms assumed a generally they generally passive approach to managing fraud risks and
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beginning the program's integrity. accordingly, we underscore, we continue to_cms needs to make the program integrity a priority and implement effective controls to help reduce improper payment fraud risks and precluded them from being embedded early in the program's lifecycle. in this regard he regard we made recommendations in our february report which are intended to help mitigate the vulnerabilities and risks be identified. while the agency agreed with the recommendations it is incumbent to implement them in a timely fashion and achieve and sustain measurable results. this concludes my statement and i look forward to the questions and appreciate the indulgence for an extra 30 seconds. >> happy to give you that extra time. >> in the previous reports the office of the inspector general criticized the healthcare.gov
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and the marketplace describing important problems with controls such as inadequate procedures for checking the ineligibility of the enrollees. how does the case study differ from the previous reports of the office of the inspector general in the same topic? >> thank you for the question. the case study is one of a dozen reports that they've issued on the federal marketplace is. most of those were more targeted audits or evaluations examining aspects of eligibility controls, payment accuracy, contracting and security information. the case study with a different approach passed a wide lens at the management of the project in its entirety for multiple perspectives and over one period of time in order to glean the lessons learned about what's went wrong and right in the effort to help improve the healthcare.gov project and other federal projects moving forward.
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>> your report pointed out by the data services which is the electronic clearinghouse for checking information against federal databases you said cms needs to make better use of this control process. could you explain that a little bit? >> i would be happy to. it is the key if you will in the overall control of the environment. it's upfront, it processes a lot of inquiries for the information. a lot of those, all of them are in fact not captured for future analysis. we believe such capture and analysis for the provided them with a lot of insight into potential indicators of improper payments as well as fraud so
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comprehensive control systems would theoretically enable that sort of analysis for the long-term and we do have a recommendation to that effect. >> we have been long told by cms don't worry. even if there are issues, everything gets fixed when people saw their income taxes. but the gao sound practices in the compliance. am i right about that? >> a member of the inconsistencies we identified out of the 431,000 i believe we had about 35,000 that involved tax or fsn inconsistencies and with those that we discussed at length, they told us this wasn't only important for tax compliance purposes but also for
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the tax reconciliation process to reconcile the premium tax credits and at the end of this is the third main backend control in the setup so without that information that's accurate and reliable, they pointed out that their job is made much more difficult to not only do the tax return but also the subsidies comes with a long-term problem if it's not addressed. >> what are the most important lessons learned from the healthcare.gov administration and do you think the lessons learned apply to other large programs and projects whether they rely on the other government agencies. >> we certainly do. the intersection between policy,
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technology and management is not only essential for healthcare.gov but we believe that they will apply to other federal projects and programs. there are ten lessons learned and i will highlight the most significant. first is establishing the clear leadership. we found about the lack of leadership and overall responsibility and lines of delegation had ripple effects that caused a number of problems across the project and made the problem resolution were difficult. we also found the disconnect between those working on the policymaking decisions and those working on the technical aspects of the problem to be project created problems on both sides and delays on the decision-making compress the time frame for achieving the technical build successfully so better integration across lines of business policy and technical
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as well as a cost of government contractors through this culture are some of the keys we thought of as correction success and then finally taking the poster of continuous learning which means being flexible and adaptable especially with a startup project we found that cms got stuck on the path and it was too late before they realized they tried to make changes so keeping that continuous learning posture, being innovative and flexible and monitoring for problems to adjust plans where needed. thank you. senator stabenow, people turn to you. thank you mr. chairman. welcome and thank you to both of you. i'm wondering, just a yes or no question, based on the case study, do you think the healthcare.gov website should be
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taken down and completely a new website we don't? >> no. >> okay, thank you. like many of my colleagues, we are very frustrated about what happened in the past. you laid out the problems with the launch and i think everyone agrees that there were serious problems in the launch of healthcare.gov and it created a lot of difficulties certainly for people to get coverage in 2013. but that's six years ago and we are now in year number three in the affordable care act operations so when we look at the report is moving backwards and we can agree, problems. the question is moving forward how do we address the fact that over 20 million people have received health care coverage because of the affordable care act and literally saving people's lives not just a rhetorical statement that i've
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talked to people who would appeal to get surgery or that they've been able to get what they've never received before and save lives and that is a good part of things when we talk about the numbers and real-life experiences of people the uninsured rate is the lowest that it's ever been and medicaid expansion has resulted in literally millions of the most vulnerable families have seen in the care that they deserve so given the fact that it's the law of the land and it's our responsibility to make it a better iraq it better i want to say first i hope all of us will work on how do we make it better and that's why i appreciate your work in a nation as we look forward not just on this particular website and process but others as well the question is how do we make it better. we want to make sure the quality
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access for every american whether it is medicare, medicaid, the children's health program and so on and so on. so, with that in mind, let me ask about any other recommendation from the standpoint that you haven't spoken about today on how to make things better because frankly, i want the over 20 million people that have health insurance today that didn't have it before to have the peace of mind going to bed at night knowing they can take their children to a doctor if they get sick i want to know that and so i'm hopeful we can even get as close to zero as possible in terms of the number of people that don't have access or that do have access to health care that we can get to the number of people that don't. i'm interested in your recommendations on how we go forward to work together to make the system work better.
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>> thank you for the question senator stabenow. as you mentioned county operate under the premise that this is the law on the books and my charges to help make it work as intended. with that in mind it makes specific recommendations and we try not to be too prescriptive to allow some latitude to have strong options however the key recommendation is for cms to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the entire program sort of top to bottom and identify the controlled vulnerabilities and risks for improper payments and fraud and in that regard the gao issued in july of 2015 it's framework for managing the risk and the federal programs, so that is a comprehensive practice compilation from dot private and public sectors that would
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provide the agency with a solid roadmap so everything should flow from that assessment in the times of the policy changes, controlled improvements and so forth. >> and are you working with them and are they objecting to that? >> i think i should give them credit that they accept that all eight recommendations including this one. they need to execute and doing so successfully that achieve results and sustained them all in the long term. it's not a one and done proposition by any means. >> you've made the recommendations and they are in the process of doing them. >> we've had informal discussions as well as the formal letter responding to the recommendations. >> thank you mr. chairman.
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>> i want to thank the two witnesses. lord knows where we would be we'd be if we didn't have the gao and inspector generals. the alarming malfeasance and incompetence of the rollout of the plan is just stunning and here we are we can't just simply brush it off and say this is a bad start but everything is going great now for the cost of the taxpayer we will probably never know but think us we have your organizations providing information and spurring the seamless bureaucratic nightmare that exists within the federal government and anybody that does this would have been bankrupt. they would have lost all their money.
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it's just stunning to continue to continue to observe what it takes to get the agencies. i think the well intended in terms of the complexity of getting this done. i go to the floor of the senate and -- [inaudible] did i pronounced that right? a reference to your name not as part of the problem but as part of the solution and the information that you provided here for me continues to stun people when they hear about some of the incompetencies. i was particularly interested because i think it speaks to a bigger problem of what was called the secret shopper, where you deliberately made
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applications as a test he made applications for compliance in the affordable care act and received subsidies and 11 out of the 12, if my numbers are right, everything you submitted this fraudulent 11 of the 12 were accepted and even after it was revealed that it was accepted, the follow-up phone calls pretending to be that person who was given notice that they were not eligible were accepted. that percentage is pretty high and if you multiply that out it makes you wonder if this whole thing wasn't so intent on
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providing numbers to make it look successful that we really were not getting the information , the verification that he needed. we needed. then there was the question at one point releasing a statement we are not in the verification business. i think basically what you just said they are not taking a different stand on that but i wonder if you can respond to where we are in the verification capacity so that we don't have this fraudulent and wasteful situation, either one of you or both of you if you could address that. but the social security it just seems easy come and evaluation of social security numbers to
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determine their validity would make it fairly easy to make the determination as to whether they qualify or didn't qualify. but where is cms in terms of putting that process in place and what is the success today? >> if i need to get first make it a first crack on that. first, i appreciate the plug on the floor, senator, and -- [inaudible] in terms of where cms is, we have the controlled environment which is designed to verify information and the potential indicators of fraud and so forth as the indicated work for 2014 and 2015 where we were equally successful there is a semblance of control that places -- a semblance of control, some basic things in place like identity
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proofing the reconciliation process to the clear inconsistencies for example, that in each case we were able to work around those easily and obtain coverage both for 2014 and 2015. so the vulnerabilities are still in place. with the recommendations we made in this report in late february when they made recommendations as i explained to the senator, the big one is to perform a comprehensive risk assessment. that's going to take time for cms to absorb the results and then craft appropriate solutions for the future so this is a long-term proposition for the future and won't be easily fixed. >> so everything got a bad start but is going great right now? everything is not going great
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right now. this is going to take a long-term effort to try to put these verification procedures in place and try to be able to say that we are successfully avoiding fraud and waste and inefficiencies and the taxpayer cost level is absolutely astounding so with due respect to my colleagues, to tout this as something that has happened in the past but is corrected now i think we have a lot of work to do. thanks mr. chairman. >> i want to again say that we said the initial rollout was botched and appreciated the inspector general making it clear that a couple months in their first serious progress, so you reported that after the first open enrollment you said
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the agency demonstrated a strong sense of urgency to take action, accepted new work processes and a day in approved the healthcare.gov website substantially within two months. i think it would be helpful if you could tell us two things. what were the operational and strategic changes that were made after that first open enrollment and are they better equipped to deal with the challenge now? >> thank you ranking member for that question. as we discussed on the case study some of the strategic and operational changes that were made as a part of the correction were to number one, establish a clear leadership and to designate those responsibilities and this time they did it in a way that brought together the staff and contractors across all of the important business lines that were effected and needed to
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be involved in the collection that included the policy people, the technical committee communications and contractors all coming together with the influx of experts from across government and the private sector there was a potential that it could have become more chaotic but we saw that the reverse was true. it was well-organized, folks were working together as a team and there was better communication and better measurement and monitoring of problems and progress in order to apply solutions more quickly and effectively. >> so after the first few months which everybody has acknowledged, they were not ideal in the characterization was essentially well-organized. >> it was much better organized. >> i am probably the biggest user of the gao products here in
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the congress with my other professionalism and the agency i think you heard me take a backseat to anybody when it comes to cracking down on actual real-world fraud, and my question to you is isn't it correct that when you testified before the committee you stated that the secret shopper investigation failed to uncover a single real-world example of fraud. >> that's what i said, senator, and i've also coached at very carefully for you and the committee. the intent of that investigation was not to uncover fraud to flag the vulnerabilities as well as identify the indicators of potential fraud, which i think we did quite successfully so my
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charge it is determined through a separate criminal proceeding and imports to definitively determine that so my job again is to look for vulnerabilities and controls as well as identify indicators of potential fraud or improper payments. >> so but then go from last year when there was not one single example of fraud to where we are now is it correct to say that the entire investigation failed to identify any actual fraud clicks the >> again i would refer you to answer that was not our intent safe i'm not looking for fraud i'm not going to find it but i am looking for is portability and controls such as the inconsistencies with the social security numbers as well as in the case of the irs 1.3 million
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people having potential issues which is a significant red flag. >> and i think as it is always the case you are right to talk about the various issues that are part of the debate. people are saying this is fraud, and i appreciate you taking us through this and i think a better balanced view. >> you all do audits. have you uncovered any confirmed cases? >> no, we haven't had any cases that resulted in criminal convictions or civil settlements to date. we do have a few investigations are ongoing and i cannot predict
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what those outcomes will be. >> i don't know how many times i said in this committee that when they are big important issues in the affordable care act at the top we need to work in a bipartisan fashion and there isn't a program anywhere in the government that you can't find opportunities to work together and be bipartisan. i kicked off a number on what i think is the future of the medicare program that is product care. we are finishing what we think is a blockbuster study that raises the question of when we have a cure, will people be able to afford them coming and, and i think what is important is that to bipartisan work, we have to move away from the first the act, because everybody has acknowledged that the first few months were botched.
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how many times can you say it?
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>> that is not. as inspector general. accurate there with respect to the uninsured rate or anything of that nature? >> as an independent oversight agency we don't take positions on whether particular program should exist. >> the question was about the facts and what i think again is, this is a hard fact that is not in dispute. the uninsured rate is at or near the lowest level recorded across five decades of data, about 20 million previously uninsured americans getting coverage
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since the provisions window fact. i will keep the record open so that if you are your agency has any information i would like to know about it. >> ii have no information suggesting that. >> wonderful. >> thank you. >> do you have any information suggesting those numbers are right? >> i cannot validate those numbers. >> but you have no indication. >> i have no basis. >> another 30 million. >> i don't have a basis for validating that number. >> our ranking member asked to several questions about fraud. i understand and appreciate my so many americans look at this process and become disenchanted. your objective was never to
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figure out how much is in the system. your objective appears to be to show us how it would be. >> is that accurate? >> essentially you are correct. the bench -- big picture, the vulnerabilities that are in place and freddie indicators of potential fraud, for example, our ability for, during our undercover work. we repeated that experience in 2015. like you joking not. >> that is just the data set we use to continue our work in this area.
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>> thank you very much. >> without any question for a number of reasons i am a fan of neither the website or the actual policy, the legislation. i think of the independent advisory board which some have referred to as the death penalty. this is a classic example of why so few americans have the same appreciation that others have talked about of the aca and the fact that we are talking about taxing americans comeau whether income or profits another reason why so few americans have the same, but the whole notion of how the healthcare law is going to regulate the posting calories a pizza parlors, grocery stores all over the place talk about
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the impact so many losing. aca. we can see why is so many americans have found themselves frustrated. it is not old news. referred so many different numbers. the real dollars for struggling americans who cannot afford the health
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insurance. not only of the premiums higher but the deductibles a higher. out-of-pocket expenses. the only thing that is lower of the doctors to choose from the hospitals to go to. we have seen a catastrophic occurrence under this healthcare law. even if the most recent democratic townhall's, young lady, supporter of president obama supports the healthcare law said that her periods have doubled and tripled. the young man created an account on healthcare .gov. i guy named justin hatley. created an account.
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information from mr. google. he called hhs, could i give any assistance. we were able to get that situation solved. cancan you guarantee me that situation is no longer occurring? >> i cannot guarantee that. >> eligibility verification comeau working properly. but we have concerns about flaws or weaknesses. and i cannot make that guarantee.
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i will note a new trillion dollar program. the shattering. the letter i had said previously. >> do you agree increasing utilization of existing taxes did -- data sources is one easy way.
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>> you have any idea. >> well i say that before, they have accepted recommendations. they are on record, in writing. and as ii said, it is incumbent on the agency to take action it is not short-term fix. >> you covered in your opening statement. already under contract.
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>> they are available. >> thank you. i want to thank our witnesses for hearing today. it is very important to this committee. both the hhs and gal for assisting us in policymaking and oversight efforts. i also want to thank my colleagues for this. i think the hearing has been insightful. this further revealed that we are only now getting to the water level above the iceberg. as premiums continue to skyrocket and insurance options become more and more limited an increasing number come over the past year we had a reasonable number of consensus.
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hopefully -- hoping things will finally start working out. and insurance premiums and health care costs continue to rise. it is high time to put partisan politicking and bickering aside. workable, bipartisan solutions. there is more that we can do and more we simply have to do. obviously i believe that we can do it. the american people deserve better and more importantly than what they are about to have the next few years. his -- it is very important.
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i would ask the written questions for the record be submitted by thursday march 31 of this year. with that come of this hearing is adjourned. thank you for being here. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> 2012 republican presidential nominee mitt romney sissy will be voting for ted cruz. he has been outspoken about not letting donald trump become the nominee. he continued that sentiment today and posting on his facebook page saying, the only path remaining to nominate a republican besides donald trump is for an open convention.
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the only way for that is for senator cruz to be successful in as many as possible. stop short of giving he or any candidate a full endorsement. the kasich campaign released a statement saying in part, it is unfortunate to see that mitt romney is giving bad political device. this is just the old establishment try again to gain -- game the political system. ♪ >> as the director of military and veteran affairs many veterans have come to my office to tell me who they want to vote for. it is your civic duty to get out of vote. many things are at stake with this election.
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get out of vote for the candidate that best supports your causes. >> hello, my name is kyle from the state of ohio. the most vibrant alternative to the mainstream politics. i love you. [inaudible] that for what --
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>> she seems more knowledgeable and has been in the environment before. secretary of state and is already seen the inner workings of the white house and how the game goes. ♪ >> when i tune in on the weekends usually it is authors with the new releases. >> book tv weekends author after author after author it's like fascinating people. >> i'm a c-span fan. >> agriculture secretary tom bosak recently testified.
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>> listen $25 billion in spending.
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[inaudible conversations] >> i pretended to care about the senator's arrival. we appreciate the secretary joining us once again. the administration fiscal year 2017 budget request in addition to secretary filled sac we welcome doctor
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johansson. mr. young, thank you very much for your presence today. agricultural sports 16 million jobs nationwide. we know farmers are facing a dramatic reduction in commodity prices and falling revenues. net farm income fell 54%. 54%.54 percent. in these times it is critical our nation's safety net performs well and allows them to continue to grow the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world.
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even though we had a grassroots effort that successfully reverse a reaction, that pales in comparison to this year's proposal in the budget request. as the subcommittee works to craft the appropriations bill my priorities will be supporting agricultural producers in the rural communities in which they live. alec forward to discussing these issues and others at today's hearing and when the sen. arrivessenator arrives will give him the opportunity to make any statements you would like. then we will turn to the secretary. >> secretary comeau we will begin with your testimony. thank you very much. >> thank you very much.
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thank you for the opportunity to be here today. i thought i would take this opportunity to point out that budgets are often times about numbers, but behind each their individuals and people we care deeply about. i thought i would take my time to discuss the people who will benefit the agricultural budget. the budget we submitted to the senate and house will support 43,000 farm homes. we have provided 239,000 farmers with the credit they need to be able to corral port -- cooperate and down their farm. 80 percent of those resources going to those beginning. this project will continue to support our systems efforts. every dollar we invest generous 35 in activity. we are excited about the possibility of doing the last seven years which reaching nearly a trillion dollars in agricultural exports which
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is a record. this budget provides adequate coverage for the 92 billion$92 billion crop that will be grown and raised this year and proviso we estimate to be an 18 percent return on investment for the companies. they will provide enough resources that 44 million acres to an already record number. we are particularly pleased with the reaction and response which is now averaging nearly $2 for every dollar we are investing. in addition to providing opportunities for credit we will continue to administer the farm bill safety net program. last year we provided 900,000 producers. irc or prc payments, our expectation is that amount will increase this year to provide the necessary bridge to better times. at the same time we are going to make sure we create more innovation and opportunity in rural america. the budget will support
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55,000 new jobs added to the 450,000 jobs saved or created as a result of investments in over 100,000 businesses in the last seven years. this budget will finance 167,000 home loans which will allow us to exceed a million home loans in the last seven years, finance nearly a thousand community facilities, provide safer and better water for 1.5 million rural americans which will reach nearly 20 million who have benefited from over 5,000 water and wastewater projects financed by usda since i have been secretary. i budget proposes a threefold increase in broad red -- broad brand to broadband grants. critically important in rural america we are to make sure he actors are well prepared for a competitive futurecompetitive future and we are able to deal with the
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opioid issue. this budget will also fully fund our research initiative , meaning the going was set when the national institute of food and agriculture was 1st established. there has never been a more important time for additional research. we have already noted 429 patents 953 inventions and 714 knew plant varieties the time i have been secretary and will continue to support and provide through the agricultural research service within usda. this budget will support a .1 million wic participants with expanded access to school lunch and school breakfast, particularly interested in hopeful that
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we were able to see an expansion of the summer feeding program. the president proposed an approach which will allow a million youngsters the access to food during the summer months providing an opportunity to focus on senior citizens and access. only. only 41 percent are currently receiving the benefits and we would like to see that increase. >> expansion of local and regional food systems. we wondered what we have done in the past. hopefully this is year congress gets a serious
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amount of fire suppression. a budget that is 1.8 million less. but we have done this through the administrative services process the process improvement program which has saved over 200 thousand hours of time and 55 million to constituents and customers we serve in an effort to continue to try to do better and more with less. >> we appreciate your presence. i am grateful for the working relationship we have. let me ask a couple of questions: that we will moved to my colleagues quickly. let me start with the snap issue as you recall this is
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an issue would what you are on the air quality, air -- there is no grocery store. one of the sole providers of food cross rural america and i would be interested in hearing your thoughts. would you entertained positively the idea of the longer comment period in the 60 days you are currently posing. >> obviously we will respect your request and take a look at what extension would make sense.
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we want to take a look at the comments and find out what people think and feel, but we want to give people appropriate time to comment. this is an important issue in terms of access to good, wholesome food as we deal with this obesity crisis. part of the challenges the folks who do live in a rural areas do not have access to the wide array and diversity of food that others are fortunate to have command we believe it is not asking much for them to provide a broader array of resources and choices for people who are snap beneficiaries. that is the purpose. there is also the belief that we can partner with convenience stores in an effort to increase and enhance the nutritional value of what is being sold. >> i appreciate what i took
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is a positive comment. extending the comment period. >> another rule on monday you indicated in conversations in front of an organization in washington dc your anticipated there would be revised rules and expected them to be finalized before you leave office. given the overwhelming congressional opposition to the previously proposed rules what changes do you plan to make and what discussions and outreach of you had? >> that process is still ongoing. no commitments have been made. congress lifted the restriction, our ability to work on these issues. we continue to look and to
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determine whether or not that is still making sense in today's market and i will i will be more than happy when that process is completed to provide you additional information. treated fairly. >> we have had examples where folks have been dealt a serious and difficult blow the avian influenza situation was a reminder about the importance of that relationship particularly as we did identification payments. not all were going to the producers who are economically suffering.
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that is the purpose of our review. >> what do you expect the timeframe to be? >> ii would say i suspect some of these rules may well be finalized and some may be proposed. i would hope i would have a process is expedited so that we are in a position toa position to provide information specifically to the public for comment and review and any adjustments can be made and we know what the rules will be.
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>> is there something if you bring us up-to-date on what has transpired in other countries regard to exports. >> we have learned a great deal. making earlier and quicker determinations. we would like to be able to make determinations within 24 to 48 hour time period.
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they have an awareness and understanding of how disposal will be handled. we have learned our identification systems into be offered -- alter that. we were cleaning up as opposed to the specific cause a problem with avian influenza. the difference between finding the owner and some kind of equitable ratio between owner and producer so that we can keep them in business. we have learned the necessity of constantly researching because it is mutating and evolving and the necessity of having a pre- positioned vaccine
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initially banned all sales beginning to understand from an international rules standpoint the need to look at this regionally. very specific to the county or counties. we have seen an expansion of opportunity, 77 percent of exports are currently in the right place. we are still working with friends in china. but for the most part they are taking the right approach. >> it seems as if you have learned a lot. better prepared for another occurrence. legislative changes that are
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required to help you accomplish a greater, better response. >> i would only say that i think the research aspect needs to continue to be beefed up, but i, but i do not know that we need a legislative change. we are happy to get information to you. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. we are well along in this journey now. and eight year journey serving president obama. the starting line and is still with us. i assume planning to go across the finish line. i know that you wrote a lot. so many different issues. you mentioned food, water, shelter, everything from
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snapto water purification to housing which reflects on the essential functions your department has for millions. i just wanted to note your march 7 speech where you talked about -- called upon congress to pass mandatory gym or labeling. we have a different definition of what that would look like, but i stand with you shoulder to shoulder. >> i wanted to turn to the housing component. one issue we had last year is under rental assistance we had a situation where essentially we ran out of money to pay this share of the rent that we were responsible for is the
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federal government which appears to have been fully addressed in the budget, but i wanted to raise it and ask the people across the country involved in providing project -based housing to rest assured that we have got it covered this time. >> senator, i think we do. we appreciate the work of yourself and members of this committee to resolve that aspect. we have the other issue of maturing mortgages and loan payoffs which will result potentially endless we deal with this. in a lot of these coming out of the program.program. they will be looking for housing and not be up to afford it. >> we have been able to get some data from the department maturing mortgages and organs, but it is important that across the nation we know when
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mortgages are maturing so that nonprofits can attempt to buy them in a place where they were young go much higher market rate. i just want to emphasize the affordable portfolio. years ago i worked on a program called low income housing. we have this in rural settings. anything that i can do -- and i am sure many would say the same to assist the department in making sure we identify the projects and do everything possible to preserve, certainly i would like to see an outcome. >> 75 percent of these loans will be paid off in the next ten years.
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you know, one thing that you may want to think about is the ability of voucher during those folks were in a position where there unit gets out of the program. another way we are looking at it is extending the mortgages and refinancing we need to get focused on this. >> i look forward to exploring the possibilities. this is important to housing stock in america. i would like to turn to the rural energy savings program. the concept was that we could create jobs people could take loans and replace windows or at insulation and put people to work.
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plus virtually all of these products are made in america. we get more bang for the buck, local construction contractor employed and create jobs and american manufacturing. some serious learning curves the statewide initiative, creating a template. the proposal you were the leader on comeau we expected
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it to stand up sometime this spring. an interest for your zero interest loan program. i think we will see more projects because it is popular and there is a great deal of potential. this will be the case across the country. it is a win-win program. >> helpless fix the situation. >> thank you, chairman. secretary, i want to join the senators and appreciating service and really how much you bring to this job. every year more than the one before it is amazing how much there is to learn and i am impressed by how much you
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have dedicated yourself. i continue to hear from our friends in our culture, the desire for streamlining in the reporting process, good friend, chairman of the missouri farm bureau, go into the fsa office and file his report on prop insurance.
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we implemented fsa plus allowing 1st access records at home in this year we started with a pilot project to test market how we would have better coordination. we then extended that to a number of other states and are prepared to go nationwide. the concerns that have expressed comeau much happier than he has been and will be able to access records, maps, information. >> been out there all the time. frustrated and challenging. now, you will remember, my mom and dad are dairy farmers. my own personal point of you, but i believe there are significant parts of the country where packaged
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bottled water is being offered as a substitute for milk in school cafeterias. historically usda recommended schoolchildren consume two to three servings of milk ordinary everyday because of potassium and vitamin d and calcium. my two questions are, that is not accurate statement, packaged bottled water a reimbursable items? >> i believe that it is, but i do not know that. we can check. i know that we are encouraging more dairy products. greek yogurt is a protein substitute. you're trying to be responsive to what districts are asking us to provide them with.
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i will check. >> i am not a big advocate. funds being used.used. do you think that is to the national school lunch program? >> i will check with you. i will check on that. >> we wrote a letter recently. our concern is the remaining funds available, critically important rural constituents all over our letter, specifically focused on missouri the same access to fiber optics has their urban counterparts at a comparable price. >> angry and we have conveyed those sentiments to the chairman.
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as us. >> it is a complicated problem. we have to have more subscribers trained and the appropriate prescription of pain medication. reasonable expectations on the parts of patients as well. it will be important for 1st responders to have access to the overdose reverse drugs that are available. knowing if a loved one is in trouble will be necessary to look at ways in which we can
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encourage states and specifically the state of missouri to have a better to cover better monitoring program. wewe have many states with these programs, but they do not communicate. it will be important to look at ways in which we can increase support and not just limited to physicians are not. a way of providing services that a brick-and-mortar investment. we need to make sure people understand that it is covered by insurance. there's a lack of understanding about that, and we need to engage the entire community and making
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recovery support efforts for readily available. i know my mother struggled. she would never have been able to recover but for aa and some of the support she got from people similarly situated. faith-based organizations have a particularly interesting role. takes a broad approach the administration likes forward to working with you and others. it is a horrendous problem. >> thank you for your leadership. thank you for the time. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you for allowing me to speak. it is good to have you here. i will start out parochial
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with the station in sydney. and i do not know the information about it because it was pointed out by a producer, it is being repurposed potentially taken a step toward closure. i just want to get some input from you on what is going on. these guys do incredible research. an incredible facility. research on soft like, other kinds of -- you know the issues that have shown up in montana. these facilities are important. can you give me an idea what the plans are? >> the bridget -- the budget proposes an increase targeted toward the facility that you mentioned. it currently supports 41 scientists, andcommand i know of no plan to reduce that number.
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research projects coming, some get concluded, and new ones being. i am not sure that is repurposed thing, but perhaps there is a different focus. i don't know of any desire to closer reduce the importance. >> you answer that well. the research is flat at 3244 respectively. these are very, very important. the use has flattened out. tell me was. >> it is a combination of having an overall number for a budget and the challenge in our budget where
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suppression than food safety eat up 50 percent of the budget. often times it increases and affects the other 50 percent. we are trying to look at the competitive grant programs ultimately help the support university. it is a balance. >> i think you have done some positive things. you know how important researches. moving forward, you are in office for another ten months. >> for another day for sure. >> one never knows. i stand corrected. >> are you confident those are on research.
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>> we have addressed short-term and long-term nontraditional challenges. this is an incredibly complex and changing world for farmers are living in command we have figured out a way in which we can provide the assistance and help. >> i want to talk about rural development, water infrastructure, critically important in rural america as you well know, 244 million, trickling of funding the broadband. there is a reduction. if you look around the country, these systems are
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for the most part worn out. why the reaction? >> in the past several years we reduced the business and industry loan programs, not adequately funded. we are looking for leveraged opportunities, trying to get the private sector more engaged and their finding that there is interest. pension plans, the private investment that we have been cultivating. now seeing a three or 4 percent payment of 30 year loan is quite attractive. we are working at our own portfolio to invest hundreds of millions, if not billions. doesn't mean less work will get done but that we have to you create.
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>> we appreciate the creativity. i just want to talk about and one of the things going on his depopulation. we are seeing communities dry up. a faster rate than we have seen in my lifetime. the last 40 years, two thirds smaller than it was. and another is big equipment out. we have more technology. when i was where i live my
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thousand acres, average farm , folks around me the farm 20,000 and north of that. is this something that will continue, or other things that we can do to encourage smaller farms or more people moving in. all sorts of social problems the cost money. >> american agriculture has increased productivity 170 percent. 26 percent less land. in the past we did not create a companion economy that was part and parcel. we now have a companion economy. infrastructure investments supporting 162,000 producers. beginning to see that prosper, seeing conservation
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, howard buffett came to our forum and talked about the need for people to understand conservation can be profitable. he is proving and his operation. the ability to transfer and produce a multitude of materials and chemicals in fabrics and fibers from a bio -based system. heading in the right direction, to date of payments. in rural america, coming down faster than any other. we are not going to get out of the 60 you mentioned overnight, but we are headed in the right direction and i am hopeful this companion economy you have helped to support continues. >> thank you. >> the senator from montana. >> montana and montana. >> thank you for being here today.
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agriculture is a montana's number one industry. last year i was pleased to be able to work with the green standard act to ensure farmers are protecting disruption, like what happened at the port of vancouver. i had ai had farmers jumping off the combine in the middle of harvest and i'm glad to see we got it resolved. thank you for your help. >> i want to shift here. i live about one hour north of yellowstone national park there is a significant bison herd within yellowstone national park. how is your department and aphis in particular coordinating and cooperating with state agencies like the fish wildlife and parks
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department of livestock on disease management efforts particularly regarding brucellosis. .. >> >> and other animals. i'll be happy to get you more detail but i know we have been working to laverty with folks on this senate speaking of collaboration in prior years there was extensive collaborative effort with better state and federal m private groups the
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greater yellowstone energy committee to bring together the staplers i did tell -- idaho wyoming usda in the interior crossing borders improving to indication for sound science and disease management. unfortunately this effort last 10 years ago i have heard concerns talking to stakeholders it is a deterioration of communication between the agencies federal state and private groups regarding disease management with a greater ecosystem. castle are they supportive to establish the agency or something similar? >> i appreciate you bringing this up maya understanding
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is we were in the process of a focused collaborative effort but if that isn't the case of alaska our team to figure at a way to be more collaborative if it is a working group or whatever it is we have been trying to stress collaboration every level and that isn't happening we need to make that happen. >> to bring those groups together again it really was valuable. shifting gears to talk about gm no and biotech. last weekend at a commodity conference stating i'm here to unequivocably say they are safe for consumers with that in mind as a topic of discussion are there any
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safety concerns to warrant the mandatory labeling of the ceos? >> -- gmo. >> no. but that isn't the issue but those in the state's have made decisions on referendums to create labeling systems that our applicable within the state border sentries circumstances that you know, where we will have a hodgepodge and chaotic circumstances individual states are companies will make their own decision to put on the package. it will create confusion and additional expense and the bit access to voter increase the costs it will not have to be this way and it is no way to respect the consumer's right to know if they have an interest the production process by which has been produced but doesn't compromise the safety of the food.
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>> mandatory verses a voluntary decision for mandatory labeling is not based on safety concerns but on other factors? >> it is based on balancing the desire of the growing amount of concern open dash consumers. obviously the customer is always right doing it in a way that doesn't send the wrong message. with caloric content which is why i suggested the establishment of this march label process but not to convey a false impression. >>. >> in with voluntary
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programs to meet market demands with that usda priority to make a determination based on sound science with the safety of the biotech products not a marketing or mandatory labeling it has no bearing on food safety. >> i am trying to avoid a chaotic circumstances. >>. >> we are pleased to have the chairman of the full committee. >> with that request that we have for funding of various activities. and one of the bright spots
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had trouble to be administered and contributing to the deficit the what we found out the dependent one does the department of agriculture of the domestically produced farm fish and did the united states to be mislabeled or suggested to be superior. thank you for the good strong support to help consumers an opportunity in
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their choose a to buy america and that is encouraging. in so many areas of agriculture. end of my speech to. [laughter] >> the senator from new mexico. >> faq senator for your service to. >> ims secretary. end you were a governor before that and you like to get things done. [laughter] secretary vilsack thank you for your service and being your. just a couple of things to ask your support you were sent a letter of the navajo promise own application
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submitted by the technical university and the navajo nation in extremely high priority for me in that the navajo nation faces is a significant challenge i poverty and among other things the unemployment is near 50 percent in the equally large percentage of the population is below the poverty level. and to make steady progress in economic development in this would make the difference and as part of the president's efforts it will help the navajo nation in tackle the issues outlined in their application. and i simply urge you to give consideration to their
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request for:in with those extremely difficult conditions that we see. >> it is one of the reasons i already included data area in the strike force initiative you are right it would extend that approach to all federal agencies. >> could you tell us about the strike force effort? >> fact in the reality is 85% and well we found early in the administration and was we were each doing enough work in those areas to basically to apply for the programs they could get in to go to communities across the country with
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consistent poverty work with the community building organization with the ec could address with the usda programs and is now operating in 21 states and travel areas and the result is reinvested $26.3 billion in 190,000 investments thigh would imagine a significant percentage would not have been made by for the attention of the work relationship we have created now working with building organizations and partners in it has been a successful endeavor. with that place based initiatives. and many communities in my state bin yet to be resolved
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to communities in new mexico you are familiar with that term to the neighborhoods are communities because of the formula for usda to determine their rule community based on proximity to a municipality. because of that proximity to all pass of texas with a city or county they are not in the same state these communities have higher
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poverty rates separated by 40 miles from the nearest city. with those economic development funding or infrastructure improvements to see increasing traffic that is positive and underscores the need for infrastructure. using for similar situations in the past isn't within your authority if to not fall to the? to make eligible for rural development assistance. >> as you outlined your request and i turned to my staff announced what weavers were available and we will work with you and your team to figure out if they are. how to use them if not we
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could do to provide as part of the strike force initiative so obviously we are cognizant of the challenges of that particular area so we're happy to find a creative solution. >> the key very much i could not think of a better person to be secretary of agriculture because you served as governor from a rural state and you no rural communities and i appreciate this effort with the strike force and look forward to working with you. i yield back. >> you have no time deal back but thanks for the effort. [laughter] >> senator from north dakota >> good to see you mr. secretary you want to make the farm bill as farmer friendly as possible that is important with low commodity prices we're seeing the
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stress out there in the agriculture world on the part of the farmers and ranchers with a low commodity prices. where we can help to make sure the bill is far more friendly with the national agricultural statistics data i believe your already working on this with your director but in some cases that data, because there isn't enough survey form sent in for some counties counties, we're getting a bad result is a unique for north dakota also ayatollah i dunno about kansas but a number of states where counties since she -- so we're using risk-management agency information and
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getting a bad result. i need to take counties in north dakota and compare them to similar counties with the average for corn, for the year if you use the data excuse me if we don't have the data to use rna, and getting a result that doesn't correlate with the like counties of those that have typically about the same yieldthey get a payment the because the art and a data is so why does call-up -- disqualify is those encore there are other examples around the country so we have asked to allow us to work with the efficacy director -- fsa director
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choose comparable data without a skew results that is very important to the farmers of low commodity prices. what can you tell me of your willingness to provide this flexibility? i know you're doing the interagency analysis were steady but what can you do to help your secretaries to get this fixed? >> congress made the decision to county program rather in individual and probably did that because of the cost to generate savings. so we have to do with the county program and have some type of process by which we can try to treat as the several thousand counties is fairly and equitably as we cancer we do have a proposal the you dress which is put get the data first of their inadequate numbers of
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surveys and refocus to get farmers to respond. to have if we don't we get rma if we're not satisfied that it is correct, then we have the power to look and provide direction. so we think we have some degree of predictability and consistency without creating a circumstance and i am more than happy to go back to the team to make sure we're in a position to explain to make more decisions. >> with this interagency review and if it is empowered to make a decision to make sure you get that
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discretion. >> that is key we don't necessarily want to create a circumstance and then to create a very confusing circumstances by statute are directed to have a county program. there is balance. i am happy to be flexible but we need a system. and then to have good data just of that state committee is empowered to say this is a nonsensical result. i don't think we have gotten that response back still doing the interagency review
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and i'm asking for your help to get an answer. >> you deserve an answer we will try to get you one quickly. to be concerned about any reductions with crop insurance is the number one risk management tool and you're probably not surprised to hear me say that we had this discussion before but a teenager we included language to make sure that did not happen. into appreciate the support you have provided i think that research area is impractical for our farmers and ranchers.
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>> briefly on crop insurance there are two areas, the inspector general and said gao is critical of the way the program operates it is appropriate to be responsive to those criticisms on the price harvests loss with a slate arrangement with the insurance company we think it is fair cheer taxpayers to be the 50/50 partnership. >> with $12 billion of 12 million has been taken out of crop insurance support or you will not have
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enough competition. >> that's true the projection in the return on investment is 18%. >> they have to cover all of their cost. >> not all of that but there is the initial resource. >> if they cannot make enough money to have fewer agencies there is not a robust market insurance group out there. >> i am not sure either one impacts the issue that you raised by an insensitive to the fact why we continually look at return on investment sec more profitability with the operation and 13% last year.
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>> i can understand your point of view but i want to emphasize that since 2008 there is a lot of programs through the federal government that has not contributed as much. >> you don't have to tell me about reductions. of our operating budget is less than 2010. >> turning to a piece of the picture is friday and. into the success of the rural communities as sanders
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stand it usda recently rewrote the program regulations and there really has just gotten going meanwhile the grant program is distinctively different programs serving those for unconnected communities in fiscal year 15 was five communities. so to be a sacrifice of a large expanse of a small number of communities and whether or not that reflects the demand and there is probably a better chance to explain that. >> i appreciate that and what we have found it is not
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impossible for companies to secure loans to the extent they can't get a grant funds and that makes it much more likely for improvements of expansions. listening to what we believe the industry is telling us with pride the end in more places what the sec is attempting to do to make it work prof won dash properly with more resources of expansion that is why we propose an increase of the grant program to generate more activity than simply a loan program.
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>> thanks for your explanation afford to tracking that my colleague from wisconsin in has arrived and we will turn this over to her. and there is any more questions i have for the record but i don't need to address them at this point. >> the intention is for her to ask her questions i have a few follow-up. >> in wisconsin water issues are on everyone's mind facing many challenges and in particular in the north
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eastern region to have nitrate and bacteria contamination in their groundwater testing shows more and more private wells are contaminated. local stakeholder groups are working with the state department to talk about what will they remain without immediate solutions? mr. secretary ever leave your department can help but will take some really hard work has already use the the usda play a role in these communities in wisconsin and do you help to work with the
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local communities with those solutions in the state and country? >> you know, that population of the two communities? greater or less than 10,000? >> i think both would be greater but it would be close. >> they are sparsely populated. >> the first line of response is to the extent of the infrastructure can be modernized by the usda water waste water treatment programs we also have a partnership with other
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agencies to provide infrastructure loans usda can do or won't do or don't have the resources to do. where we will find half of the project making a $10 billion commitment across the united states. the third alternative is to work with us to identify potentially private sector investors were willing to provide financing to provide those systems so they are three basic avenues to finance infrastructure we're happy to work with you with those counties in those areas. you asked for a short-term solution but long term is to work with conservation programs to prevent the problem from getting worse and reversing it.
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wisconsin has it where regulated industries to pay farmers for conservation with a regulation looking from the social responsibility and with chevrolet on carbon credits so we will create more opportunities and that it will allow us to measure and quantify those results and with that agreement we had used in the past to help create a measurement and qualification system. . .
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filtering of contaminants. there is a body of steps, short-term and long-term to try to address. >> the good local collaboration. dnr. a real interest in these collaborations on the long-term federal level. i will state many have private wealth, and they therefore have an immediate need for clean drinking water. i hope we can follow up this with ways in which the usda could cover immediate and
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need -- immediate needs. >> what we were able to do, part involves comeau we were able to take aa look at whether they were adjoining or area municipal wells or municipal systems that could potentially be extended to private homes serviced by a private well. >> i appreciate your commitment to work with me. i had one other question i wanted to address. in addition to being america's wetlands we produce specialty crops have a vibrant and rapidly going organic sector 2nd only to the state of california and the number of organic farms. the specialty crop and organic farmers have a great
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need for new varieties that are adapted easily and respond to growing markets. in response to the subcommittee's work with this committee also directed the agency to create competition for breeding so that proposals for a specific type of research compete against the other and not against other different. we have yet to see progress, and for wisconsin farmers is not about the academic petition but have varieties
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right on the farm to help get through tough years. i hope that you commit to resolving this issue pushing for that specific competition. >> i will take a look and tell you that there is an intent and interest and we are investing more time and energy and making sure our own seed banks are available in the event that there is a situation we don't have seat in the past. the combination of preserving the past and preparing for never. they are involved and engaged. there is a good balance between genomic information
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that we don't. >> the chairman and ranking member, thank you for your leniency in watching the clock. >> let me editorialize for a moment, agricultural research our fy 2016 agricultural appropriation bill provided 350 million, $25 million increase of the highest funding level of the program. we worked hard on the allegation that we had to provide additional support. my editorial comment is that we cannot compete with the administration's budget when these mandatory spending as the solution the funding this and many other
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programs, not just in your budget but across the federal government, federal government wide. and again this is a budgetary issue beyond her scope but it is important that the administration recognize that when they make a budget request us we do not have the ability to provide funding and mandatory spending. i think they know that. if that's a bar, perhaps posturing, to suggest that the administration is more interested in agricultural funding than we are. when we come to provide support for aagricultural research, in my view comeau we have been there. you have been kind enough to attempt to include me a visit to cuba. i appreciate that invitation. i have been a longtime advocate for lifting the
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embargo, particularly as it relates to commodities to cuba. your budget includes changes , funding for changes that may occur in our relationship. >> the appropriations process maybe a controversial request. even if it is not this process takes a long time. [laughter] >> well, the embargo statute
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, the department of agriculture from using any market assisting programming money. they cannot director promote we would not be prepared to do everything, retaining market share that we have lost because we want to know the people to be able to effectuate. that is a reason we asked for personnel. the embargo is listed here in a position to move expeditiously.
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>> i do not know off the top of my head the amount of dollars that are requested. the point you are making is, that is not to assist directly in support, subsidization is sales to cuba or a marketing program. directly related to the ability to have us personnel in cuba developing relationships with potential customers. our relationship becomes more bilateral. you know, the commodity groups are quite interested in doing business down there. we have not taken full advantage. and they are asking us to explore ways in which they themselves comeau we can do. we are looking for ways in which we can find a way.
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>> my understanding of the current state of law is that we can so hire cultural commodities to cuba for cash and so commodity groups -- >> the question is whether or not any resources would be used by the commodity groups. it's nuts we don't have more of a market share.
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>> significant uptick. >> 80 percent of cuban food is imported. we should be doing 50 percent. >> we have seen an improvement. regulations were altered about the point in time and money have received. those are regulatory issues that perhaps are and will be addressed. this issue will be one of broad interest in congress. it has its opponents.
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let me return to a topic i visited last year in the same setting. i encourage do you and you indicated that you do and would continue your conversations with the federal communications commission. i have expressed an ongoing concern about the ability for particularly rural telephone companies to repay the loans based upon decisions the fcc has and is continuing to make highlight this issue. they assume we allow those to expand and you may have the default rate of significant magnitude if the fcc makes decisions that would have consequences.
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>> well, we are cognizant and i can assure you we indicate to the fcc concern. wewe are keeping an eye on it. and we have advised them of your concern and our concern. >> on the same topic i am an advocate for expansion of opportunities in places that are unserved. and worried from time to time. provided loans and subsidization to compete.
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[inaudible conversations] mostly focused on unserved and underserved areas, not creating a circumstance where there is conflict. i don't believe we are creating circumstances where we are encouraging competition. >> you used a few words that caused me to ask you to confirm that. >> i am not trying to be evasive. pain reasonably certain our focus is on the under served areas. >> i would say we may be in aa situation where we are trying to upgrade the service that is being provided. that, i don't know if that falls within the scope of
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your question because it is not about competition. >> i know of circumstances. but in order to make that financially possible it include areas that already had service. they got competition. they sit economically more liable. the government program is a subsidy. areas that don't have
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service. >> you deserve a more detailed answer. >> i appreciate that. we would say. [inaudible conversations] how would you spend the money that people view? >> available marion -- it may very well be that as you well know, the program is designed take over the
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responsibility. actively involved in providing assistance for extended period of time, to basically pick up that may be a consequence. there is not a circumstance where we will cut off her out people that are currently receiving service without some substitute.
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happy to give you a more detailed response, but it points out the challenge. we focus on individual programs, but the reality is , it is all about choices. if we did not have a finite number it creates more flexibility in the budget. >> is their another
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the greater the interest will be. to the extent we can spread our tentacles, that will be helpful. 70 percent of worlds farmers are when and an increasingly greater interest to participate requiring outreach, time, access to information and providing an easy way to get information. that is the purpose of this. a great proponent of this. and her work has been successful. you will see an increase in female farmers.
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gary lagrange, retired military in my hometown has created opportunities for veterans returning with traumatic injuries to enter farming. legislation that i havei have introduced and has passed the small business community to create an opportunity for veterans to use their g.i. bill. i welcome my colleagues who are sure to join us using there bill to get education, training to become farmers or other business men and women to become entrepreneurs. we look forward to working with the department to accomplish that. i would be less than polite.
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i hope that they say no. >> thank you. since you offered, i want to address the fire bawling. we have been working with the senator and chief advocates, working hard to persuade the administration to back this plan. it is not in the subcommittee's jurisdiction command i hope you will be talking about it. we made a significant change , that firefighting was funded at 100 percent of the previous parts -- plus a $600 million buffer. given the impact of the pacific blob and this change , there is a chance there will be more involved.
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but you are absolutely right. should be treated as the natural disasters that they are. constantly rob fire, health, and hazardous waste but we have constantly rob that. people say why do you go to the back end at the point of disaster. thank you for your advocacy. please continue. we have all suffered and are grateful. >> i appreciate those comments. i will not authorize transfers. >> not from this committee to another.
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>> that takes everyone off the hook. >> thank you. at the risk of not saying now, i wish to add my words of agreement with tackling the fire bawling issue, certainly wisconsin is not a state where we have many forest fires, but we have a significant part of the northwoods with an active timber industry and small businesses dependent upon sustainable management, and we must tackle this. i just want to say how pleased i am to be on the subcommittee and how much i
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like forward to working on a number of issues with you over the appropriations season. i wish to call attention. promoting agricultural innovation through value added producer grant program and everything that we can do to help new producers get there start in addition to the ones the chairman and secretary -- i am a big fan. >> we appreciate your participation and presence. we look forward to working with you on that and other issues. you have been complemented by members of this committee on both sides of the aisle.
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this is only the 2nd year i have chaired this committee. the time that i havei have had the most opportunity to get acquainted. mostly in this setting. i am impressed, pleased about the level of knowledge for the amount of detail you know. there is something about experience. i should not assume that this is your last opportunity to appear in a budget hearing. perhaps -- perhaps it is, but i think you for being a secretary who knows what is going on to a large extent. and that is pleasing and we will do everything i can to become comparable in the level of knowledge so that i can have a full and complete understanding.
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i want to be knowledgeable as well. i thank you for your public service. >> it has been an honor. i feel blessed that i get to work with incredibly dedicated people, and we all work for an amazing group of people who live, raise their families in rural areas. so i appreciate this privilege i have and consider it a deep honor. >> magic words must be said. any question you would like to submit should be turned into staff within one week
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wednesday, march the 16th. we appreciate it if you could have responses back within four weeks. i think the gentleman who accompanied you today command i believe that concludes our hearing. [inaudible conversations] >> joining american history tv on c-span three saturday. starting at 9:00 a.m. eastern sidney blumenthal, the political life of abraham lincoln, lincoln and emancipation. lincoln's last speech. a crisis of reunion. ..
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from cornell brooks. then a discussion on israel's influence on the u.s. and later the israeli defense ministers talks about u.s.-israel relations and this concerns of the iran nuclear agreement at an event in washington, dc. >> cornell brocks discussed the water contamination in ft., michigan. from the national press club,

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