It’s not all about what the president has done; some of his success is in what he has undone or cleaned up. Last May, Mr. Biden ended the ill-conceived Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which was intended to get provisions to families. Some families benefited, but it was unfortunately, at the height of the pandemic, a boondoggle. A new supply chain had to get the boxes from farmers to food banks that competed directly with local grocery stores. The program was mismanaged and used for political gain.
It would have been much more cost-efficient to expand SNAP payments, which the Biden administration did. A report from the Department of Agriculture shows that federal food benefits have more than twice the impact on rural communities as they do in urban areas.
It was largely overlooked at the time, but Mr. Trump’s trade wars and tariffs inflicted a lot of damage in some rural areas reliant on food exports — so much so that the government made payouts to farmers of about $46 billion. He actually told farmers that they were better off with government payouts, which cost more than the government spends each year on the State Department or children’s health insurance, than selling overseas.
Every farmer I know would rather have markets than payments. Record high commodity prices under President Biden have weaned farmers off government support. The Biden administration has reduced some tariffs, though many farmers would like it to be more aggressive, especially with China and other countries in the Indo-Pacific.
And the Biden administration recently said that it intends to provide $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to help independent meat producers be more competitive. This will help make our food supply more resilient, addressing problems exposed at the height of the pandemic.
So will what President Biden has done for so many rural Americans improve the electoral fortunes of Democrats in places like Iowa? When it comes to the midterms, the problem is not really about Mr. Biden himself but about long-running trends, and the only way to alter those trends is to change the perception of Democrats on the national level.
This year, much of it will depend on what Democrats do before November, and how they engage. As I said, they should celebrate victories — like the American Rescue Plan, which supported a wave of spending on construction projects and programs across America. Too often, Democrats leave it to Republicans to set the agenda and frame issues, or blame conservative media.