Government

Rural issues at fore of presidential forum in Iowa

Minnesota Senator and U.S. Presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar greets parade goers the 44th annual SaPaDaSo parade in downtown Cedar Rapids on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2019. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
Minnesota Senator and U.S. Presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar greets parade goers the 44th annual SaPaDaSo parade in downtown Cedar Rapids on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2019. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)

DES MOINES — Farm and rural community issues will be at the forefront when five Democratic presidential candidates participate in a public forum this weekend in northwest Iowa.

The Heartland Forum, scheduled for Saturday at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, is being hosted by the Iowa Farmers Union and Open Markets Action, plus media partners the Storm Lake Times and Huffington Post.

Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro and John Delaney accepted invitations and are scheduled to participate, as is Tim Ryan, who is considering a run.

Iowa Farmers Union President Aaron Lehman said the forum is crucial as rural Iowans consider which presidential candidate to support at a time when farm income and crop prices are down.

“Our farmers are anxious to hear the candidates and what their positions are on rural issues, and how they can connect with rural voters,” Lehman said. “We think it’s important to have events that concentrate on farm and rural issues.”

Lehman said farm incomes, corporate agriculture consolidation and climate change are among the topics Iowa Farmers Union members hope to hear the candidates discuss.

Each candidate will be interviewed separately, fielding questions from local and national reporters. Questions also will be taken from the audience, organizers said.

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“The idea was to draw candidates and force candidates to talk about rural issues, which so often get ignored,” said Art Cullen, the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the Storm Lake Times.

The challenge for the candidates is to make themselves stand out without taking policy positions that stray too far to the political left, said Brad Best, a political-science professor at Buena Vista University.

Candidates also will attempt to show at the event how they can stand out among a crowded field, especially since all the scheduled participants trail front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in polls on the race in Iowa.

“People who will attend this from the community, they want to know something about what a candidate envisions the future of rural America being,” Best said. “So whoever can speak, I think, with the most specificity and most plausibly to those concerns is going to resonate well.”

Heartland Forum

• When: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Schaller Memorial Chapel, Buena Vista University, 610 W. Fourth St., Storm Lake

• Candidates scheduled to attend: Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tim Ryan

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