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Economy Important to Iowa Voters, Despite Healthy Farm Industry


Republican presidential candidates are spending millions of dollars in Iowa trying to win voters. The infusion of campaign cash comes while the Midwestern state is also benefiting from several years of good crop growth. Because of its healthy farm industry, Iowa is suffering less from the slow economic growth and high unemployment seen nationwide. But there are still concerns on the campaign trail.

It’s been a good year for the Machine Shed in suburban Des Moines, Iowa.

Presidential candidates use manager Alan Ruden’s farm-themed restaurant as a place to meet voters ahead of the Iowa presidential caucuses every four years.

“We get a lot of traffic from candidates and people asking about candidates. You have to come to the Machine Shed, and it’s well recognized as a place for a stop on their tour. The candidates know that,” Ruden said.

Texas Governor Rick Perry among them.

The sign above the entrance says “Farming is everyone’s bread and butter” and retired farmer Dean Kleckner says Iowa’s farms have had good years.

“The finances of Iowa is pretty good right now, mainly because agriculture is pretty good right now. And that ripples through the economy, whether you’re farming or not, you’re spending money because the economy is good,” Kleckner said.

The Des Moines visitors bureau says the 2008 presidential campaign brought about $100 million into Iowa. But there are fewer candidates this year, so even with strong spending by contenders such as Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, this year's figure is expected to be lower.

Even so, Republican presidential hopefuls spent about $10 million on advertising alone in December.

But Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says the campaign’s effect on the state’s overall economy is minimal.

“I’ve seen studies that said it’s significant. I’ve seen other studies that in comparison to, you know, we have a 25 or 30 billion dollar agriculture economy. It’s not a huge proportion of the state economy, but we love having it here,” Northey said.

Campaign money has not created many jobs and Northey remains concerned about the state’s unemployment rate of 5.7 percent.

“We still have higher unemployment than we’d like. We’re lower than the national average, but still would like to generate more jobs and competitiveness than in other places,” Northey said.

Machine Shed manager Alan Ruden isn’t concerned about his job, but he still worries about the economy. A bad farm year means fewer customers.

So far, none of the Republican candidates, including Rick Santorum, has won his support

“I’ve made up my mind twice, and both of those candidates dropped out of the race,” Ruden said.

Ruden says this will be his first caucus, and he’s waiting until the last minute to make up his mind on who he will support.

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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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