Q&A w/ U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley: 99 County Meetings
Q: Why do you hold meetings with Iowans in every county, every year?
A: Dialogue is the essence of representative government. The people of Iowa place their trust in me to represent their views and values at the policymaking tables in Washington, D.C. By definition, that means I have a responsibility to keep in touch and find out what’s on their minds. I’m one-half of representative government and Iowans are the other half. That’s why I ask Iowans to share their views by writing a letter, sending an email or making a phone call to my office and to expect an answer from me addressing their concerns. In addition, I make it a priority to go to Iowans and meet face-to-face, no matter where they live, in every corner of the state. For 43 years in a row, I’ve held at least one Q&A with Iowans in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. The location may change, but the format stays the same. Iowans set the agenda regardless if I’m holding an open town meeting at the community building, touring a manufacturing facility, visiting a local hospital or meeting at an independent pharmacy. Over the years, I’ve held county meetings in a variety of settings, locations and times of day to reach a cross-section of people, from workers on the factory floor, to local chambers of commerce and civic club leaders at early bird coffees, students and teachers during the school day, older Iowans to talk about Social Security, health care providers and educators, and leaders of community food banks. I’ve also led issue-specific forums to have in-depth conversations with Iowans to collaborate on solving problems and shaping public policy on farm bill priorities, child care shortages, drug overdose deaths, crime and natural disasters. Sometimes I bring Congress to Iowa by holding field hearings on issues such as the fentanyl crisis and flood control and river management. Continuing my annual tradition to hold at least one meeting in every county, every year isn’t a promise I made to Iowans when I first ran for the U.S. Senate. It’s something I wanted to do for representative government.
Q: What’s top of mind for Iowans in 2023 that you’re bringing to the policy tables in Congress?
A: The five-year Farm Bill is up for renewal, so agriculture policies are among the highest priorities for Iowans across the state. From federal nutrition assistance to crop insurance and conservation programs, the Farm Bill has a significant impact on Iowa’s economy and the livelihoods of farm families and workers along the farm-to-fork and farm-to-fuel supply chain. In April, I held meetings in Story, Greene and Guthrie counties with Sen. Joni Ernst and the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas to hear directly from Iowans. Iowa producers still are reeling from high input costs due to historic inflation and gaps in supply chains from the pandemic, and facing uncertainty from the drought across the state that likely will eat into yields this harvest season. Keeping and expanding access to markets is essential to the bottom lines of Iowa farmers, that’s why I’m working to ensure Mexico sticks to the principles of the USMCA trade agreement and removes its proposed ban on GMO corn and to stop California from dictating how Iowa farmers tend their sows and piglets to be able to sell pork to California consumers. I’ll also be turning up the volume about foreign ownership of U.S. farmland to ensure Iowans’ concerns are heard loud and clear in Washington. In meetings with manufacturers across the state, I consistently hear from employers about the need to boost training to expand the local workforce. That’s why I’m supporting legislation that would allow students to use federal Pell grants to pay for short-term training programs, such as welding and electrician programs. In Burlington and elsewhere, I hear from Iowans concerned about bipartisanship and frequently get asked “why lawmakers can’t get along and get something done” in Washington. I learned a long time ago the best way to get something accomplished is by building consensus and working across the aisle. That’s how I operate on behalf of Iowans. My efforts to lower prescription drug costs, fix the broken organ transplant system to help patients get off the waiting lists and on the road to recovery, and deliver highway, bridge and broadband funding to our state are a few recent examples. In August, I wrapped up my annual 99 county meetings in Ida County, but my work isn’t done. I’ll continue to listen and travel the state so that my work on behalf of Iowans represents their views, reflects their needs and addresses their problems.