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The Iowa State Fair: Our hits, misses and lessons learned
Political Theater, Episode 88

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, says a quick hello to her son, Gunnar, as he works at a corn dog booth at the Iowa State Fair on Monday August 12, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

DES MOINES, Iowa — For all its quaintness and fun, the Iowa State Fair does a pretty good job of approximating politics at the national level, be it questions about electability and charisma or trade and agricultural policy.

“The debate within the party that is happening right now, is happening right in front of me at the Iowa State Fair between these two people,” CQ Roll Call senior politics writer Bridget Bowman says, recounting a conversation between a couple after hearing South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox on Aug. 13. The couple, both of whom told Bridget they were impressed with Buttigieg, were torn between what was more important for a Democratic candidate: offering bold ideas or being more likely to beat President Donald Trump.

The Iowa State Fair: Why do you have to come here to be president?
Political Theater, Episode 87

Iowa State Fair mascots walk by the Administration Building at the Iowa State Fair on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Iowa plays a big role in presidential politics because of its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Even by that standard, though, the Hawkeye State this time feels busier, more significant.

There are more than 20 Democrats running for president, and unlike in previous years, no one is writing the state off. There are also several competitive congressional races here. That means a very busy Iowa State Fair, because all these politicians want to meet voters, make their case at The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, flip pork chops at the pork tent and eat.

The Iowa State Fair: A day in the deep-fried life
Political Theater, Episode 86

People wait in the rain Sunday to hear Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor, speak at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Yes, there are a lot of politicians who attend the Iowa State Fair to court voters. But there is so much else to this unique event, from the almost 70 fried foods on a stick, to giant slides, sea lions, butter cows and butter Big Birds; even arm-wrestling. A day in the life of the Iowa State Fair with Political Theater. 

‘Embrace it and take it all in’: Former Rep. David Young on the Iowa State Fair

Former Rep. David Young and Sen. Michael Bennet work the grill at the Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on August 11, 2019 (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call).

Jamba smoothie chain coming to the House
Smoothie joint will join cafeteria options in the Longworth building

Photo courtesy of Jamba

A deal to bring the Jamba smoothie chain to the House side of the Capitol is “in the works,” according to the Office of the House Administrative Officer.

At an all-staff meeting Wednesday, Darnell Lee, deputy chief of human resources at the CAO, told the agency’s workforce that the smoothie chain would join the growing number of brand-name food offerings in the House.

Trump turns dour on trade pact because Chinese leaders 'don’t come through'
President says Beijing is reneging on promise to buy U.S. farm goods. China says vow never happened

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of China Xi Jinping (C), look to the photographers while U.S. President Donald Trump looks down before Angela Merkel opens the first working session of the G20 Nations Summit. Trump pivoted away from optimistic promises of a sweeping trade deal with China Tuesday on Twitter. (Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

In a notable pivot away from his optimistic promises of a sweeping trade deal, President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized Chinese leaders for reneging on handshake agreements like one to purchase more U.S. farm products.

“China is doing very badly, worst year in 27 - was supposed to start buying our agricultural product now - no signs that they are doing so. That is the problem with China, they just don’t come through,” the U.S. leader tweeted Tuesday morning. The social media post was perhaps Trump’s most dismal description of years-old trade talks with Beijing yet.

Trade Office works through tariff exclusions as requests mount
Rejection rate on the 10,829 exclusion requests on first tranche of imports was 62 percent

The office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has processed approximately 700 requests for exclusions on the first $34 billion tranche of imports. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s process for doling out exclusions to Section 301 tariffs on imports from China has slowed to a painful crawl.

Only approximately 700 requests for exclusions on the first $34 billion tranche of imports were decided over the past month, with half of those denied over concerns that product characteristics were not sufficiently narrow to prevent unrelated products from slipping through customs. The overall rejection rate on the 10,829 exclusion requests on the tranche increased to 62 percent.

USDA seeks to narrow eligibility for food stamps
Proposal looks to tighten eligibility for people who receive noncash benefits

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the draft rule will close a loophole that allows people with gross incomes above 130 percent of the poverty level to become eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and potentially qualify for food stamps. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration will push ahead with a proposal to tighten food stamp eligibility for people who receive certain noncash benefits from a federal welfare program, a move that could end aid for up to 3 million people.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the draft rule published in Tuesday’s Federal Register will end what he and congressional Republicans say is a loophole that allows people with gross incomes above 130 percent of the poverty level to become eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and potentially qualify for food stamps through the program.

USDA official says agencies can find new staff after they move to Kansas City
Research chief also disputes reports that USDA is burying climate science research

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced new homes for the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A top Agriculture Department research official told a Senate committee that two agencies slated for a contested move out of Washington can recover from an exodus of employees and denied media reports the department has hidden agency documents on climate change.

Scott Hutchins, deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics, said Thursday that many employees eligible to move to the Kansas City metropolitan area with either the Economic Research Service or National Institute of Food and Agriculture have notified USDA that they will stay in Washington. Employees who have agreed to move have until Sept. 30 to make the trek west, where the agencies will operate out of a temporary space until USDA finds a long-term landlord.

EPA approves use of bee-killing pesticide
Agency also suspends study of bee populations

Award winning bees at the Iowa 2018 State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa.  The EPA said Friday it was permitting the broader use of the pesticide sulfoxaflor. (Tom Williams/Roll Call file photo)

Just days after another federal agency suspended its periodical study of honey bee populations, the EPA greenlighted the wider use of a pesticide that environmental activists warn could further decimate the pollinators.

A major conservation group says it will take the agency to court over the decision.