Editor’s note: This is the final part of a series on rural population decline in Iowa.
Members of the Iowa federal delegation, mostly Republicans, expressed bipartisan support for helping rural Iowa counties, which are facing declining populations according to the 2020 U.S. Census report.
The delegation wants to provide federal funds to revitalize rural areas. However, they disagree on a few partisan points on a predominantly bipartisan issue.
Iowa’s population has grown 4.7% overall since the 2010 census, according to the US Census Bureau. But Iowa’s 38 rural counties have seen a net population loss since the 2010 census.
Rural population decline has become a campaign issue in several key midterm races around Iowa, including the race for the U.S. Senate and Iowa’s 2nd congressional district.
Democratic challengers slam Iowa objections to bipartisan infrastructure
State Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, candidate for Iowa’s 1st congressional district, said in a written statement to The Iowan Daily his opponent and Republican incumbent Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, does not work for rural Iowans.
“She voted against just about every bill that will help small towns and rural communities,” Bohannan wrote. “She voted against a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would fix and rebuild our roads and bridges.”
Miller-Meeks voted against the INVEST in America Act in 2021, more commonly known as the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Other Iowa lawmakers who voted no for the bill included Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa and Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, voted in favor of the bill.
However, Miller-Meeks co-sponsored the Improving Credit Opportunity in Rural America Act with Feenstra in 2021. It introduces programs that would make it easier for rural farmers to access credit. The bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives and referred to the Ways and Means Committee, where it currently sits.
Miller-Meeks wrote in a statement to ID that she will continue to work for rural Iowans if reelected to Congress in November.
“Rural communities are home to so many Iowans, and it’s crucial that these areas receive the same level of support as urban areas,” Miller-Meeks wrote. “Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have fought to protect rural areas by securing funding for community projects and co-sponsoring legislation to loosen outlandish regulations imposed on farmers and small business owners.”
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Bohannan wrote that she will focus on serving rural Iowans by increasing access to health care in rural communities, supporting rural schools and bringing jobs back to small towns.
“I would also advocate leveling the playing field for small businesses so they can compete with big business and bring well-paying manufacturing jobs back to our small towns,” she wrote.
U.S. Senate candidates agree to make rural Iowa a priority
Grassley, a longtime Iowa delegation holder, has been a supporter of legislation that aims to help rural America.
Grassley, who sits on the Senate agriculture committee, met with rural farmers as part of his 99-county tour to hear their feedback on the 2023 farm bill that needs reauthorization.
“By allowing farmers to sit at the table to discuss issues that matter to them, I can learn more about their priorities and contribute to discussions about the Farm Bill in DC,” Grassley said in a press release. September 1. A family farmer and a strong advocate for agriculture, I know the hard work farmers and producers do every day to feed and power our country and the world.
Grassley supported the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which already funds rural Iowa. The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System — which is responsible for providing rural water to communities in northwest Iowa like Rock Rapids, Hull and Sioux Center — received $75.5 million from the bill. infrastructure.
“Iowans rely on strong infrastructure to move our agricultural products and manufactured goods, as well as to connect with family, business partners and essential service providers,” Grassley said. “But like much of the country, Iowa’s aging infrastructure risks slowing economic growth and eroding everyday comfort and convenience. This bipartisan bill fixes potholes, rebuilds bridges, improves water systems and brings broadband to rural corners of our state. Investing in Iowa’s infrastructure will pay dividends for decades to come.
Grassley and Ernst recently introduced the Rural Prosperity Act, which would add the Office of Rural Prosperity to White House operations to coordinate federal programs supporting rural communities.
“While my office is always ready to help as much as possible, the Rural Prosperity Act will help Iowans identify and use relevant programs to overcome the challenges they face,” Grassley said in a statement. Press release.
The bill was recently passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support from committee members.
Admiral Michael Franken, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, said at a campaign event in early September that rural Iowa is not where it needs to be.
“The rural Iowa aspects are not what we wanted them to be economically. And I’m sorry the truth hurts so much. You need to identify the problem before proceeding with a solution,” Franken said. “I have ideas on how to resculpt things, recreate them. I see Iowa has the cheapest, most redundant, most sustainable power grid, and a net negative carbon footprint.
In a campaign ad directed at Franken, Grassley criticized Franken for calling rural Iowa “depressing.” Franken said the quote was taken out of context and criticized.
The Franken campaign did not respond when contacted for further comment on this issue.
Key issues such as access to rural hospitals, economic development, and aid for small towns and farmers are the key points the Iowa federal delegation seeks to address as the midterms of the November 8.