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Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Collins says FDA's proposed new cheese rules stink

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today is blasting a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will significantly hurt the local cheese industry. The FDA is contemplating banning cheese makers from the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. This process is commonplace among artisan cheese makers operating across New York’s 27th Congressional District.

“This is just the latest example of a federal government hell-bent on regulating everything it can get its hands on,” Congressman Collins said. “The process of aging cheese on wood boards is older than the federal government itself. Once again, the bureaucrats in Washington who are totally out of touch with the real world are arbitrarily introducing new rules and regulations that will hurt local economies, cost people their jobs, and stall business growth.”

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the cheese made by Yancey's Fancy in Pembroke, NY, (Genesee County) is aged on wooden boards. The company recently announced a major expansion aimed at increasing production of the very cheeses aged through the process targeted by the FDA. The company currently employs 120 people.

“The proposal that FDA has made to ban the use of wood for curing cheese will negatively impact our plans to grow the natural side of our specialty cheese business,” said Brian Bailey, VP of Operations for Yancey's Fancy. “My understanding is that the rule was going forward without any discussion with the cheese industry, and apparently without any consideration to the impact that such a ruling would have.

"There is a far greater tonnage of cheese imported into the United States that is cured on wood than what is made in the United States, yet I haven’t heard of any ruling to address that issue either. There is plenty of science that supports wood as a safe material for curing cheese but I’ve seen no evidence to date that science has been considered...Producing safe, quality food is as much our mission and goal as it is FDA’s. Our existence depends on it.”

Congressman Collins is sending a letter to the FDA encouraging them to abandon this proposal immediately. A significant amount of cheese imported from abroad is aged on wood boards and currently not subject to FDA’s scrutiny of this particular aging process. In reacting to the proposal, American cheese makers said the FDA was not acting on sound science or law.

Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Collins lauds selection of Pembroke for location of new veterans cemetery

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, pembroke, veterans

Press release:

"For too long, Western New York's veterans have been denied the honor of being laid to rest among their fellow heroes right here in our community," Congressman Chris Collins said. "Today's announcement of a veterans’ cemetery in Pembroke finally rights that wrong. This location will allow veterans from all around our region to be properly and locally honored for their service to this country."

Background: The VA has selected a 132-acre parcel on Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke (Genesee County) as home for the long-anticipated Western New York Veterans’ Cemetery. Currently, the closest veterans’ cemetery is located in Bath, approximately 100 miles away.  

Press release from Sen. Charles Schumer's office after the jump:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Collins assists Cornell extension in getting tax exempt status back

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) helped the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Genesee County regain its tax-exempt status, something it should have never had revoked in the first place. The CCE of Genesee County contacted Congressman Collins’ office after it was notified by the IRS that its tax-exempt status was being revoked without an explanation.

After months of back and forth, Collins’ office determined that the IRS mistakenly placed CCE of Genesee County on an "Auto-Revocation" list. The issue has now been resolved and the agency’s tax-exempt status has been restored.

“On behalf of CCE Genesee, I am extremely thankful and grateful for the persistent and timely support, and active intervention with the IRS in resolving the erroneous revocation of our tax-exempt status,” said Beverly Mancuso, executive director of CCE Genesee. “Attempts to resolve this were unsuccessful until I reached out to Congressman Collins’ office. I am extremely relieved to have this matter successfully addressed and behind us, hopefully once and for all. I cannot even imagine how much time and effort was required on the part of the Congressman’s office, but our association is more than thankful.”

“Unfortunately, the IRS is an example of big government bureaucracy at its worst, and I am grateful my office was able to help Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County get out of a mess it never should have been in,” Collins said. “Our office is always available to constituents and local agencies who are having a trouble navigating the federal government to get an answer or resolve a problem.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Collins critical of FCC's net neutrality decision

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

"The internet has revolutionized the way we live and obtain information largely because it has been readily accessible and free from unnecessary government regulation. Today's ruling by the FCC paves the way for Internet 'fast lanes' which will create one Internet for the haves and one Internet for the have-nots. I am hopeful there will be enough public and Congressional backlash to block this proposal to help ensure that the Internet remains easily accessible and a tool to build economic opportunity."

Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Photos: Congressional art show reception at GCC

post by Howard B. Owens in art, chris collins, GCC, NY-27

Congressman Chris Collins met with some of the 81 students from the 27th District who submitted original works of art in the annual House of Representatives art contest. The reception was held at Genesee Community College in the lobby of the Genesee Center for Arts. Above, Collins with Melanie Perkins, of Warsaw, and below, Makennah Aquino, of Batavia.

The winners are:

  • First place: Hailey Kilian from Iroquois HS
  • Second place: Jacob Weed from Kendall HS
  • Honorable mentions: Siena Pullinzi from Batavia HS and Alphonso Butlak from Lake Shore HS.

Friday, April 18, 2014 at 8:01 am

Collins encourages applications for new specialty crop grants

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced the availability of approximately $1.4 million in grant funding to support Specialty Crop programs in New York. The funding is a part of the Farm Bill passed by Congress earlier this year.

“Specialty Crop farming is a large part of the agricultural community in New York’s 27th Congressional District,” said Congressman Collins, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “This grant program will help our fruit and vegetable farmers, along with their partners, develop new ways to bring products to the market, helping farms grow and increase profits.”

The federal block grant funding provided through the Farm Bill is allocated directed to each state. Congressman Collins encourages interested applicants to apply directly to the New York State Department of Agriculture. Grant applications are due in early May.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Collins standing up for farmers in fight with EPA over 'navigable waters' rule change

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, chris collins, NY-27

A proposed rule change by the EPA regarding "navigable waters" could have a serious impact on agriculture and local taxpayers, Chris Collins said today during a press conference at Stein Farms in Le Roy.

He was joined by Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, Dale Stein, owner of Stein Farms, and County Legislator Shelly Stein.

Norton said farmers have been fighting the proposed rule changes for years; and years ago even won a court case on what Congress intended when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress was very specific at that time on what navigable water was," Norton said. "If you can run a canoe down it, if you can have commerce effected on that water, then it's navigable. A pothole is not navigable. A pond is not navigable. The puddle out there in the drive way is not navigable."

The proposed rule change -- being pushed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers -- would redefine "navigable water" as any body of water that stands for at least four days and could eventually drain into a navigable waterway.

"If Dale Stein wanted to regrade his driveway to make it level and get rid of the puddles, he would have to call the Army Corps of Engineers and get a permit," Collins said. "That would probably cost him $250."

Norton said the EPA is using a scientific study to back its position that hasn't even been peer reviewed.

If the proposed rule changes go through, then any agriculture work affecting what the EPA has classified as navigable waters would have to be approved and reviewed, at great cost and delay to farmers.

The same rules would apply to cities, villages, towns and counties.

"(The rule change) is also going to effect everyone who is a taxpayer and I think they're (the Administration) going to find they're on the wrong side of the issue," Norton said.

Dale Stein said he's already going through a similar issue with land the farm leases from another property owner. Because some government official signed the wrong piece of paperwork 29 years ago, Stein is unable to open some irrigation ditches needed to properly, in an environmentally sound manner, farm the land.

"Now we're in the process of trying to get through all that so we can farm it correctly," Stein said. "It's just another giant bureaucracy to try and get the proper permit, and if somebody makes a mistake along the line, our children 30 years from now could be paying for it."

The proposed rule change could put farmers out of business, Shelly Stein said.

"Should the EPA be successful in gaining this rule change to classify each temporary puddle as navigable water, our daily farm operation activity would stop," she said.

The good news is public pressure works, Collins said.

He's already received bipartisan support for a letter he's drafted to the EPA and the Corps of Engineers opposing the rule change. More than 160 members of Congress have signed on and he believes, with public support, more will follow.

"There's no doubt that when you can raise the awareness on any issue, the chances of stopping the absurdity of it dead in its tracks is improved," Collins said. "I've got at least a level of optimism that we an get them to re-look at this rule."

Friday, April 11, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Collins votes to protect Medicare Advantage from future cuts

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, Health Care, Medicare, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins voted today in support of the House Republican Budget, including a provision that he secured to protect Medicare Advantage from future cuts.

“I was proud to vote for a budget that makes necessary reforms and structural changes to Medicare in 2024 to strengthen the current program and sustain it for future generations,” said Congressman Collins. “To protect Medicare Advantage, I personally fought for a provision to prevent cuts to this program so many WNY seniors rely on.”

The Republican House Budget balances in 10 years, saves taxpayers $5 trillion by shrinking big government and cutting wasteful spending, and reduces the country’s historic debt.

"The House Republican Budget does what so few Washington budget proposals do – it actually balances,” Congressman Collins said. “The American people understand we cannot keep borrowing money from China to pay our bills, bankrupting our children and grandchildren’s future in the process.”

In an effort to get the economy moving and leave taxpayers with more of their hard-earned money, the House Republican Budget also includes significant tax reform, including lowering the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25 percent, and eliminating special-interest tax loopholes and the Alternative Minimum Tax. The Budget also protects Americans who have been hurt by ObamaCare.

“The GOP Budget includes tax reform to bring down rates and level the playing field for small businesses and hard working families,” Congressman Collins said. “And it relieves the burdens of ObamaCare for the countless Americans who have seen their premiums skyrocket, their coverage dropped, or their hours cut.”

“Those opposed to the GOP Budget will demonize it and suggest Congress continue to kick the can down the road. The American people want Washington to get its head out of the sand and deal with our out-of-control spending and staggering debt. The House Republican Budget does just that," continued Collins.

The House Republican Budget was passed by a vote of 219 to 205.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Chris Collins statement on the passing of Ralph Wilson

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

"The people of Buffalo and Western New York have lost a true gentleman and friend. While not a local resident, Ralph Wilson keenly understood what it meant to be a Western New Yorker and how much the team he built means to our community. It was my great honor as a Member of Congress and as the former Erie County Executive to work with him, and I am deeply saddened by his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the entire Buffalo Bills organization during this time."

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Hawley and Collins knock Cuomo's proposal to fund college for criminals

post by Howard B. Owens in Andrew Cuomo, chris collins, NY-27, steve hawley

Press release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced his opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s plan to give free college degrees to people in prison. The governor’s plan reflects the misplaced priorities of Downstaters who continue to ignore the needs of hard-working Western New York families. Instead of rewarding criminals, Hawley says the state should help the families who are taking on overwhelming debt to put their kids through college.

“The governor’s plan to give free college to convicts is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard during my tenure as an assemblyman. It’s insulting to middle-class Western New Yorkers who are taking on debts over $50,000 to go to college,” Hawley said. “This plan punishes law-abiding citizens while rewarding criminals. Not only is this idea wrong in principle, but it may cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. We should never ask taxpayers to pay for the college education of convicts while they are taking on debt to pay for their own.”

Press release Congressman Chris Collins:

“The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals with New Yorkers’ tax dollars is an insult to law-abiding citizens all across our state who are struggling to pay for higher education or find employment in this stagnant economy. This plan is just the latest sign that for a state that is the highest taxed and ranks among the worst in job creation, Albany has its priorities all screwed up.”

The Wall Street Journal: New Gov. Cuomo Initiative Will Fund College Classes in Prisons

UPDATE -- from Chris Collins:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) will introduce legislation to prohibit the use of federal taxpayer dollars to provide a college education to convicted criminals. The pending legislation is in response to Governor Cuomo’s announced plan to use taxpayer dollars to fund college degree programs for convicted criminals in New York State prisons.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons provides states with funding for educational and other programs at state prisons and correctional facilities. Collins’ legislation would ban states from using the federal taxpayer dollars to fund college degree programs for convicted criminals.

“We hear over and over again from politicians concerned about the growing cost of higher education and the amount of student debt our young people are sacked with after earning their degree," Collins said. "Strangely, many of these same politicians think tax dollars should be spent to give convicted criminals a free college degree.”

According to The Project on Student Debt, 60 percent of college graduates in New York State carry student debt. The average amount of student debt for New Yorkers is $25,537.  

Congressman Collins will formally introduce the legislation in the coming days. As the House moves forward with the Appropriations process later this year, Collins will also introduce a limiting rider to ensure no appropriated funds in a particular bill are used to fund college courses for convicted criminals. Collins’ bill would not ban states from using federal dollars to support GED or work training programs in prisons and correctional facilities.

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