Hillary Clinton announced a multi-step plan on Wednesday to grow the economy and local services in rural areas, marking the latest effort for the Democratic frontrunner to firm up support for her candidacy in Iowa and broaden her appeal outside major metropolitan areas.
The proposal, which Clinton will officially announce Wednesday in Iowa, calls for increased investment in rural areas through a series of public-private partnerships that increase federal capital in rural areas.
"America’s rural communities lie at the heart of what makes this country great," says Clinton's white paper, provided to reporters. "The affordability of our food, the independence and sophistication of our energy supply, and the strength of our small communities all depend on a vibrant rural America. Despite their critical role in our economy, too many rural communities are not sharing in our nation’s economic gains."
Several parts of Clinton's rural agenda have already been announced in other plans, including the creation of an infrastructure bank, her goal of increasing the number of solar panels to more than 500 million in five years, as well as comprehensive immigration reform.
But the plan also includes a pitch directly to Iowa farmers: She would doubling federal loan guarantees for bio processing plants and technologies, long a boon to rural Iowa's farming industry. Clinton also reiterated her support for strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard, which her policy paper said "drives the development of advanced cellulosic and other advanced biofuels."
She would also double federal funding for a program that educates beginning farmers, and build on Clinton's "Farm-to-Fork" initiative as New York Senator by doubling funding for farmers markets and direct food sales.
Clinton's proposal would increase the number of Rural Business Investment Companies—government-funded capital networks—that make investments in small rural businesses. She would expand the New Markets Tax Credit, which gives investors a federal tax credit for investments in businesses located in low-income areas. The program expired in 2014 but has bipartisan support in Congress.
The plan also calls for improving healthcare in rural areas by expanding telehealth and remote patient monitoring It also called for better prevention and treatment of substance abuse, noting that drug-associated deaths have grown fastest in rural areas.
Clinton has a strong lead in Iowa over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to recent polls showing her with 54% compared with Sanders' 20%. She's also earned major endorsements from key Iowa leaders in recent weeks, including former Senator from Iowa Tom Harkin, and Tuesday, from Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack.
"Her strong support for the Renewable Fuel Standard and bio-based manufacturing as important parts of a revitalized rural economy makes clear she will work hard to promote meaningful economic opportunity throughout the country," Vilsack wrote in an op-ed announcing his support.
In New Hampshire, the primary contest after Iowa, Clinton is trailing Sanders, according to recent polls.