Since I was sworn-in just six months ago, I have made it a priority to advance policies that will benefit our farmers, students, main street business owners, and veterans. A number of efforts that I helped lead have passed the House — including legislation that expands STEM education programs, protects American research, bolsters research and development in farm technology, provides mental health services to veterans in rural areas, and more.
Recently, the House passed two critical pieces of legislation that I ushered through the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The first aims to prevent intellectual property theft by barring government-funded researchers from participating in projects that are run by malign countries like China and North Korea. One report published by the National Bureau of Asian Research found that Chinese intellectual property theft costs American taxpayers up to $600 billion per year. By taking necessary steps to protect our copyrights, patents, and trademarks, my proposal also saves your hard-earned tax dollars.
The other piece of legislation that I led in a bipartisan manner seeks to advance precision agriculture technology. Ag producers are increasingly utilizing innovative technologies when applying fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and for a wide array of other purposes like autosteer equipment. By bolstering research and development in precision farming practices, producers will soon be able to further improve efficiency and increase their bottom lines. Both are now included in the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act. This bill passed the House with bipartisan support at the end of June.
My Iowa colleagues and I also introduced and advocated for the Sergeant Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act, which was recently signed into law by President Biden. This bill is named in honor of Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, an Iowan and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tragically, Sgt. Ketchum took his own life after failing to receive the mental health care he needed from the VA. Our veterans deserve the best care and attention — including when it comes to treating unseen wounds. Our bill will help provide veterans in rural areas with more reliable mental health services.
In May, a bill I cosponsored to expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs and to bolster broadband access in rural areas passed the House with bipartisan support. The Rural STEM Education Act recognizes STEM programs and quality broadband are critical to the future success and revitalization of rural America. Among other priorities, this bill will help identify the technological and logistical challenges we still must overcome to provide broadband to every last acre of land. This is also important for further implementation of precision agriculture technology.
Additionally, I successfully led an effort to provide students in mentorship programs with more employment opportunities by incorporating these programs into the national apprenticeship system. Now included in the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, this commonsense proposal will give many students another chance to receive the guidance and support they need.
I am committed to being an effective voice for the 4th District, and it is an honor to fight on your behalf each and every day. I know the most important part of my job is to listen to your concerns and take them directly to Washington. That is why I am visiting all 39 counties in the district at least twice a year, and I have never missed a vote. With your input, we are making policy changes in Washington that will empower folks in our rural communities.
Randy Feenstra was born and raised in Hull, Iowa, where he has served as City Administrator, Sioux County Treasurer, and Iowa state Senator. In January, he began serving his first term in Congress, representing Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.