Chuck Grassley

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R) speaks during a stop in Belle Plaine as part of his 99 county tour. Senator Grassley distanced himself during the meeting to speak without a mask.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley visited the Belle Plaine Community Center on Wednesday as part of his 99 county tour, fielding questions from city officials and business leaders in an open forum setting.

Among the topics brought up early in the hour-long meeting was the inconsistency the City of Belle Plaine had dealt with when working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) related to the August 10 derecho and cleanup. Belle Plaine Mayor Dave Fish stated that FEMA initially asked for photos of all damaged trees for funds before changing their mind and then doubling back, leading to confusion for the city. Grassley’s office will be in contact with FEMA to address this issue.

“Every one of these concerns brought up were legitimate concerns, particularly as it relates to people still having problems with FEMA,” Grassley said. “People are not getting answers or getting ridiculous orders changed time to time. Our constituents ought to have some consistency. FEMA cannot change their stance every week, month or when personnel change.”

Derecho assistance information and links to resources are available on grassley.senate.gov and Benton County residents are encouraged to begin seeking information there.

Chad Straight, Superintendent of Belle Plaine and Tri-County School Districts, asked if COVID-19 vaccination, which may begin for teachers and school staff as early as February, will be required like other vaccinations are to attend schools. Grassley replied he did not believe vaccinations would be required under Iowa law. A staff member noted that the Iowa Department of Public Health is in charge of administration and would be a source of more information.

Grassley stated his priorities for this year will be to see drug prices for pharmaceuticals drop and work with the incoming Biden administration on this priority. The senator is also pushing a bill to help cattlemen and pork producers get a “fair share” of profit on their livestock kill at meatpacking plants, noting that most producers in today’s agriculture world are owned by corporations.

“Because about 80 percent of the slaughter comes from either company owned cattle or contractors, the producer usually ends up getting lower price and sometimes doesn’t get a fair share,” Grassley said.

Few questions were asked by attendees outside of organizers, but City Administrator Steve Beck noted people were indeed listening and he left Wednesday’s meeting “with a sense of hopefulness” for the country to move forward.

“I feel like all the questions were answered decently enough and people were warm to his answers,” Beck said. “His staff can give us the right pathway to get where we need to go with this frustrating FEMA process.”

Senator Grassley continued his tour that day to Victor. Questions for Senator Grassley may be directed to his website at grassley.senate.gov or to his regional office in Cedar Rapids at (319) 363-6832.