Toomey advocates for agriculture industry

Senator pays Friday visit to Lewistown

Sentinel photo by ERIN THOMPSON
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) visits The Sentinel Friday during a stop in Lewistown.

LEWISTOWN — Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said recent efforts of Congress have benefited the agriculture industry and a new piece of legislation could reduce the influx of fentanyl to the United States.

Toomey made a stop made a stop in Lewistown Friday, where he met with The Sentinel’s editorial board to discuss a range of issues.

In the latest tax reform passed by Congress, Toomey said farmers were allotted full expensing of capital investments, such as equipment, which would enable their income to be in a lower tax bracket, and recent discussions with Mexico protected importing cheese to the country by negotiating against European branding standards. Toomey said the legislature also rolled back the changes made to the Clean Water Act which extended the definition of navigational waters, which was a significant concern in the agricultural industry.

In a related matter, Toomey said he opposes the House-passed Farm Bill, which reauthorizes farm an nutrition assistance programs, noting that the Bill “lacks accountability.”

In the fight against the national opioid crisis, Toomey said legislation was passed that requires a person’s opioid overdose history to be included in the prescription drug monitoring information program as well as gave authority to Medicare to restrict prescriptions of opioids to people who frequently see multiple providers and visit multiple pharmacies for the drug.

“This has been an ongoing priority,” Toomey said.

Most recently, Toomey said he and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) are working on a bill — the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act — to reduce the inundation of fentanyl into the U.S. by adding the drug to the list of Schedule 1 substances, which includes heroin, LSD, marijuana, peyote, ecstasy, quaalude and methemphetamines. Additionally, the bill will impose severe penalties to countries who either manufacture fentanyl or are documented as a major transit area for the drug. According to a news release issued by Toomey, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data indicates that “China is the principal source country of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds in the United States, including both scheduled and non-scheduled substances.”

The Act proposed by Toomey will require China to establish an Emergency Scheduling Law, prosecute individuals caught with the illegal drug and “regulate the ownership of pill presses, which are used to produce counterfeit narcotics,” according to the news release.

Toomey also addressed his efforts to combat the negative impact of the tariffs imposed on China.

“I’m trying to unwind these tariffs as quickly as I can,” Toomey said.

Toomey is advocating for several items which are produced by China and necessary to U.S. businesses be excluded from the “retaliation list” of section 301 in the Trade Act. According to www.trade.gov, “Section 301 of the Trade Act … provides the United States with the authority to enforce trade agreements, resolve trade disputes, and open foreign markets to U.S. goods and services … When negotiations to remove the offending trade practice fail, the United States may take action to raise import duties on the foreign country’s products as a means to rebalance lost concessions. The list of products on which the United States raises import duties is called a ‘retaliation list.’ Products included on a retaliation list are carefully selected to minimize the adverse impact on U.S. consumers, firms, and workers.”

Furthermore, Toomey said he believes the U.S. economy is in strong shape, with unemployment at nearly a record low, and commented that, despite the rocky start to the current term of Congress, the legislative branch has, overall, made significant progress. Toomey said the positive efforts of Congress include the confirmation of several district court and circuit court judges, two Supreme Court justices, “effectively repealing” the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, a massive tax reform and the introduction of the Energy Production & Project Delivery Act, which will release drilling in a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

“It’s been a very productive Congress,” Toomey said.

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