Thursday, August 08, 2019

Gillibrand is latest candidate to release a rural policy plan as the Iowa State Fair opens, putting focus on rural vote

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
The Democratic contest for rural votes is heating up, as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, like presidential-nomination rivals Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, released a plan for revitalizing rural America yesterday. The timing is no coincidence; the Iowa State Fair starts today, and an appearance is a must for any serious presidential candidate.

"The focus on rural Iowa is a mainstay of presidential politics, sending candidates on a sometimes-awkward pilgrimage to the far corners of the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses," Alexandra Jaffe and Elana Schor report for The Associated Press. "But Democrats say the chase for the heartland is especially urgent this year as the party tries to win back some voters who supported Trump in 2016. A strong showing in Iowa, they say, could prove a candidate's ability to make inroads in other rural communities across the country." Iowa voted for Trump, but twice for Barack Obama and once for George W. Bush.

Gillibrand's plan "would create a $50 billion fund at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the agency to distribute as block grants," Linh Ta reports for the Des Moines Register. Rural communities and tribal nations could get the flexible grants to address issues like rebuilding water lines, housing, building roads, railroads, disaster recover, entrepreneurship and job training."

Gillibrand says she would put $60 billion into rural-broadband buildout, $750 million for a rural technology skills program, $250 million for arts, food and cultural amenities to make rural areas more attractive to young people, and increase funding for the Rural Cooperative Development Program.

She would also increase funding for telehealth services and "give farmers support from the USDA to develop new practices to put carbon back into the ground while working to limit nutrient loss. It would also offer new insurance protections and energy infrastructure for farms," Ta reports.

Some other candidates, like Bernie Sanders, John Hickenlooper and John Delaney have released comprehensive rural plans, while others have released plans for specific rural issues. "Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), is releasing draft legislation today that would encourage sustainable agriculture and other “nature-based” strategies for combating climate change," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture. "The bill would include billions of dollars to encourage climate-friendly farm practices and support renewable energy projects for farmers and rural businesses."

The Rural Blog reports major statements by presidential candidates about rural policy.

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