D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers push for aid to contract swine growers

Iowans also took stands on taxes, spending, telehealth and the Field of Dreams

By: - August 13, 2021 10:35 am

Iowa lawmakers urged the USDA to get pandemic assistance to contract swine growers. (Photo by Diego San via Unsplash)

This week in Washington, D.C., the members of the Iowa delegation penned a letter to get pandemic relief to contract swine growers. They also introduced amendments to the Senate’s budget blueprint and co-sponsored bills on telemedicine.

Pandemic relief for contract swine growers

Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst joined Democratic Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The letter urges the Department of Agriculture to “support all of our hardworking farmers and provide the much needed financial relief that was promised to them.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law in December 2020, promised livestock and poultry contract growers payments from the USDA — money these growers have yet to receive. 

In plans the USDA announced in June, the department focused on poultry growers. The letter voiced the four senators’ concerns about swine growers being left out of the payments. Grassley, Ernst, Klobuchar, and Smith all urged the USDA to use its resources to contact swine growers who are eligible for emergency funds to ensure they are aware of the assistance. 

Grassley, Ernst, Feenstra rail against spending bill

Senate Democrats began their push to expand the nation’s social safety nets on Monday when they revealed a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that looks to expand health care, child care, and elder care among other programs. The proposal would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, corporations, and those with large inheritances.

In a press release Wednesday, Ernst called the move a “reckless spending spree” that will hurt working families and small businesses. 

“Our families are already feeling the pinch from the rising costs of goods and services, and the last thing they want is higher taxes and higher prices,” she said. “Washington Democrats are moving forward with their reckless, multi trillion dollar tax-and-spending spree to pass their progressive agenda at the expense of Iowa families, farmers, and businesses.”

Grassley voiced similar concerns to Ernst’s and voted against the budget proposal. He said the budget was partisan and reckless in a press release

“It’s a shame that right after completing work on our bipartisan infrastructure bill, Senate Democrats opted to revert back to a partisan agenda, setting the table for massive new taxes and massive new spending,” he said. “Their budget, passed in the dark of night, will lead to growing deficits and growing dependence on Washington. At a time when Iowans are already coping with rising inflation, this reckless budget proposal is the last thing we need.”

Grassley voted for the infrastructure bill, while Ernst voted against the package. 

Grassley proposed an amendment to the proposal to prevent the lifting of the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction cap. He said the move would give a tax break to the wealthiest Americans while leaving middle- and low-income households without a tax break. The amendment failed 48-51. 

Ernst also introduced another amendment to block new federal methane requirements for farmers and ranchers. The “no cow tax” amendment passed after receiving votes from more than a dozen Democrats.

Rep. Randy Feenstra said in a press release that the proposed tax hikes would “disproportionately harm rural America.” As the former chair of the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee, he said he knows the economic benefits of cutting taxes. 

“Moving forward, they (the Biden administration) should work towards solutions that help family farmers transition operations and bolster investments in our rural communities — not create huge tax liabilities for our family farms and main street businesses,” he said. 

Supporting telehealth

Rep. Cindy Axne supported two bills that could preserve telemedicine options. The Telehealth Modernization Act and the CONNECT for Health Act look to maintain and expand telehealth options. 

Axne has previously introduced legislation to ensure telehealth continues to be a viable option for health care providers. 

“COVID-19 forced us all to adapt our lives at a moment’s notice, and I’ve seen firsthand just how quickly patients and providers have embraced telehealth as a new option to receive and deliver high-quality health care,” she said. “Telehealth isn’t just cutting down on face-to-face visits and preventing the spread of COVID-19, it’s also cutting back on travel times to and from appointments, supporting Iowans who may lack regular access to transportation.”

Field of Dreams MLB game

Rep. Ashley Hinson celebrated the first Major League Baseball game held where the “Field of Dreams” movie was filmed. The location near Dyersville is in the 1st District, which Hinson represents.

She wrote in a column published in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald the game allowed many baseball fans to see the value of Iowa, alongside an economic boom for the state.

“Hotels are booked within an 80-mile radius of the field, and local shops and restaurants are ready to welcome customers from across the state and country,” Hinson wrote. “After the COVID-19 pandemic hit our tourism economy hard last year, I don’t need to explain how important this boost will be for local spots.” 

Hinson wrote that she was excited to celebrate Iowa and see the economic benefits of the long-awaited game. 

On the campaign trail

In the race for one of Iowa’s U.S. Senate seats, Democratic candidate Abby Finkenauer received an endorsement from the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters on Thursday.

This is the first endorsement from a union in the race. General President of the United Association, Mark McManus, said he trusts Finkenauer’s previous voting record and her values. 

“Finkenauer knows our values because she lives them,” he said. “As the daughter of a UA Local 601 member, Abby saw firsthand the grit, determination, and hard work each of our members bring to work every day – and Abby will bring that same grit to the Senate fighting for Iowans. In Congress, Abby went to work with one simple goal: to make life better for working families.”

Nicole Hasso, a Republican candidate for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District received an endorsment from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday. Cruz called Hasso a “strong leader” in a tweet.

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Eleanor Hildebrandt
Eleanor Hildebrandt

Eleanor Hildebrandt is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication and global health studies, with a minor in German. She is a managing editor at the university newspaper, the Daily Iowan, and has served as an reporter intern at Iowa Capital Dispatch.