Sam Landstra—Co-Chief Editor
When the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a Tornado Warning for Northwest Iowa, the staff at Fieldcrest Assisted Living Community alert their residents, knocking on doors, transporting a number of residents to the basement.
Rep. Randy Feenstra wants to expedite the facility’s minutes-long emergency protocol system.
Last April, the Republican representative for Iowa’s 4th congressional district introduced the National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act.
While the government agency previously used NWS Chat to disseminate information to broadcasters, emergency managers, and the general public, the legislation requires the NWS to replace their “outdated communications network.”
“How can we make it more efficient, more functional?” Feenstra said, advocating for the NWS to use an off-the-shelf, private alternative.
Two years ago, in 2020, the state senator turned U.S. representative succeeded long-time Republican congressman Steve King. Prior to politics, Feenstra worked as a sales manager for Hull’s Foreign Candy Company.
During that time, though, Feenstra’s job-related travel prompted his wife to say to him, “I have to be a dad. I have to be a husband.”
So, Feenstra swapped the Red Vines of the candy company for the red tape of government: “We have to further God’s kingdom, every square inch of society, including government, including the public square.”
During his stint as a city administrator, the lifelong resident of Hull, Iowa “blew the sirens” during severe weather, urging the town’s residents to seek shelter. So, Feenstra says his NWS bill “hits home,” especially after tornadoes killed seven Iowans this past March.
“As a kid, you get nervous, right?” Feenstra said, remembering how he’d hunkered in his basement as a child when tornadoes swept through Northwest Iowa.
A few days after proposing the legislation, Feenstra traveled to Sheldon, Iowa and mentioned the bill to the residents and staff at Fieldcrest: “We’re all doing what we can for Iowa to make Iowa a better place.”
Also, during the thirty-minute question and answer session, Senior Executive Director Cal Diekmann mentioned the affects of COVID-19 on the assisted living facility: “We really need to know someone’s helping us,”
Then, Feenstra mentioned declining COVID-19 cases, “protecting ourselves” through vaccination, and the federal government’s support of local, businesses affected by COVID-19.
“We put a lot of money in the system,” Feenstra said. “We gave dollars to businesses so they could survive.”
Notably, Feenstra voted against the “wasteful” American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed in response to the pandemic’s effects on the American economy.
Last year, Feenstra’s District 4 received $145 million from the American Rescue Plan. Specifically, O’Brien County, where Fieldcrest is located, pocketed $2.6 million.
For the congressman, a “philosophical problem” motivated his disapproval: “You also have to protect the institution, the government, our dollar.”
Cindy Axne, Democratic representative for Iowa’s 3rd district, criticized Feenstra’s vote.
“First and foremost, I think it’s our responsibility to ensure that Americans have what it takes to put food on their table and keep their lights on,” Axne said. “And so, it’s painful to hear Republicans just say, ‘Oh, it costs too much.’ Tell that to the unemployed mother who’s trying to feed her child.”
After the thirty-minute session at Fieldcrest, Feenstra tripped to Ashton, Iowa. Since 2021, he’s bi-annually visited the 39 counties in the district. In Ashton, he spoke with employees at POET Bioprocessing, an ethanol production company.
“If you want to do something for energy independence and a cleaner climate, biofuels play a critical role,” Feenstra said.
For weeks, Feenstra, a member on the science, space, and technology committee, had denounced President Joe Biden’s management of rising fuel prices across the country: “Crickets. Nothing. Zero.”
That morning, though, at a POET ethanol plant in Menlo, Iowa, the president extended the availability of E15, an ethanol-based fuel, throughout the summer.
“Wonderful,” Feenstra said about Biden’s extension. “I would like to see it extended year-round.”
Feenstra plans to conclude his 39-county tour on May 8. Currently, he says he’s “building support to provide the general public with accurate and time sensitive information” through the NWS bill.